Monday, November 24, 2014

REVIVAL OF THE LOUP-GAROU

During a recent visit with Helen and Rose Anne Raphael in their home here in New Iberia, I learned that "The Berry," as we often refer to New Iberia, Louisiana, would celebrate a "Blue Magic" Christmas. Main Street would be "going blue," a color honoring deceased "Blue Dog" artist and native son, George Rodrigue, followed by a "Blue Dog Comes Home" exhibit at the Bayou Teche Museum, Jan.15-April 11, 2015.

In anticipation of the exhibit, Rose Anne is reprinting The Loup-Garou of Cote Gelee, her deceased father's children's book that features some of Rodrigue's Blue Dog illustrations. Morris Raphael, her father, published this book in 1990, and it has been a steady seller since that time. The Loup-Garou is one of many books about Teche country and Louisiana that Raphael wrote during his long and productive life.

The story involves Ti-Maurice Mouton, an eleven-year old boy, who encounters a Loup-Garou (werewolf) named Jacques. The story is set in bayou country, 1859, and revolves around the fictional Moutons who struggle through drought, thievery, and the threat of losing their small farm. Jacques appears to Ti-Maurice in a cemetery on a moonlit night and becomes friends with the young boy. In 45 pages, Raphael weaves a story about bandits who attack the Mouton family, a confrontation with a pack of Loup-Garous, and a shoot-out that ends with the Loup-Garou becoming a watch dog for Ti-Maurice. 

I interviewed artist and illustrator George Rodrigue twice back in the 90's—once for an article in Acadiana Lifestyle, and, again, for a book that Rodrigue had been commissioned to write for Harper and Row. My job for the latter project was to interview and record enough narrative that Rodrigue could use for his book, and most of it centered on questions concerning his relationship with the Blue Dog, which he felt was a mystical one. He used the dog in the foreground of most of his pictures after the dog died and insisted that they continued a relationship even after Tiffany died. He seriously believed that the dog was attempting to return to his rightful place as a family member. I still have the manuscript for which Rodrigue paid me a handsome sum, but Harper and Row wanted a fantasy tale featuring the dog, rather than the story of Rodrigue and his relationship with the dog, and the interview was never published.

For those readers who don't know about Loup-Garous, in French the name means "werewolf," a mythical figure in legends told in France, French-speaking Canada, and in French Louisiana. Legends feature werewolves as living persons who have the power to change themselves into terrible beasts that consume human flesh. Some legends feature werewolves as witches who take the form of wolves so they can better roam the countryside terrorizing people. Cajun storytellers often relate that Loup-Garous ride the backs of giant bats when they travel from place to place.

Morris Raphael was a native of Natchez, Mississippi who became editor of the Franklin Banner-Tribune in Franklin, Louisiana, and worked as a project engineer for several engineering firms in the U.S. and Brazil. He loved history and Louisiana and was a past president of the Attakapas Historical Association, the Iberia Cultural Resources Association, served on the council of the Shadows on the Teche in New Iberia, on the board of St. Mary Chapter of Louisiana Landmarks, and was a member of the Louisiana Historical Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. His credits also include an award from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in recognition of his historical works and induction into the Second Wind Hall of Fame.

George Rodrigue, a native of New Iberia, was an internationally known artist with studios in New Orleans and Carmel, California. He received a gold medal award for outstanding creativity in Italy, and an honorary medal at the Le Salon Art exhibition in France. His paintings still sell in the six figure range, and he was received by both President Reagan and George H.W. Bush when he presented portraits of them painted during their tenures. The Blue Dog appears in the foreground of many of Rodrigue's paintings and was regarded as a talisman of good fortune for the artist.

The Blue Dog celebration is sponsored by the New Iberia Downtown Business Association and the George Rodrigue Foundation.

Copies of The Loup-Garou of Cote Gelee will be available in New Iberia and online within the next few months.



Post a Comment