The wild woman: a mystery of the Pyrenees

The wild woman of Vicdessos, also called the madwoman of Vicdessos, the madwoman of Montcalm, the naked woman of the Pyrenees, or the nuda (the naked one) is the heroine of a historical news item that took place in Ariège in 1807-1808, surrounded by mystery and which has given rise to many hypotheses and documentary or literary works.

 

A bit of History...

In 1807, two hunters on the slopes of the Montcalm, at the bottom of the Vicdessos valley in Ariège, saw a naked woman in the middle of a group of bears.

She is tall, thin, her skin is very sun-brown and her hair is blond.

She flees at a surprising speed, the hunters are unable to catch her. But after a long chase, she is finally caught. But she struggles energetically and insults her captors in French, which is surprising in this country where only Occitan is spoken.

Taken to the village of Suc, she manages to escape.

The investigation entrusted to the gendarmes reveals that this woman is known and that some people helped her by giving her food.

Taken back, she is brought to Foix.

It turns out, from the few words she says, that she is of aristocratic origin, that she and her husband fled the Revolution by winning Spain.

They tried to return, were attacked in the mountains by bandits, who killed the husband and raped the woman, who was left naked.

The unfortunate woman would have initially found refuge in the mountains of eastern Andorra.

It was only in the spring of 1801, after the snow melted, that she decided to cross the pass to find herself without knowing it in France, in the Vicdessos region.

We do not know how she managed to survive.

She would have been protected by bears, with whom she seemed to live in good harmony.

While waiting for instructions on her identity, which were requested in Paris, she is locked up in a hospice, where the nuns complain that she is stripping her clothes, and from where she manages to escape. She is finally locked up in the prison of the castle of Foix and it is there that she is said to have let herself die.

A burial permit was issued on 29 October 1808.

But there is no trace of the burial itself, nor of the grave.

 

The bear, the man and the woman...

The theme of the "wild woman", from this authentic news item attested by the report of the prefect and contemporary testimonies, is similar to other similar cases and has contributed to the many legends of wild men particularly widespread in the Pyrenees and of course to the myth of John the Bear, a creature born from the union of a bear with a woman, in line with a very ancient and universal belief in the kinship of bear and man, particularly in sexuality.


To go further....

La Femme sauvage

Click on the image

" Une femme nue au milieu des ours ! " Telle est la rumeur qui circule, en cet été 1807, dans la haute vallée ariégeoise. Au terme d'une enquête minutieuse, l'auteur Michel Gardère raconte et met en scène cette incroyable histoire.

En 1807, dans les Pyrénées ariégeoises, deux chasseurs aperçoivent et traquent une femme nue, accompagnée d'un ourson. Capturée, hurlant comme une démente ? on l'appellera désormais la Folle du Montcalm ?, elle est conduite chez le curé du village. L'inconnue ne prononce que ces mots : " Robespierre a tué ma famille ", et s'échappe dans la nuit. Elle passera encore deux années dans la montagne avant d'être reprise et jetée en prison, à Foix. Pour y mourir peu après. Qui était cette femme ? Comment a-t-elle pu survivre ? Est-elle vraiment morte en prison comme on l'a dit ? Pourquoi le redoutable Fouché, ministre de la Police de Napoléon, s'intéressa-t-il tant à elle ? Et pour quelles curieuses raisons le préfet de l'Ariège tenta de la sauver ?

C'est cette incroyable mais authentique histoire qu'a reconstituée Michel Gardère, secondé par Anne-Charlotte Delangle. Palpitant comme un polar et admirablement documenté, La Femme sauvage nous raconte une extraordinaire aventure humaine.
Femme sauvage

Click on the image

La Femme sauvage

Click on the image

Also to be seen in the department

Le Parc de la Préhistoire

placeTarascon-sur-Ariège – Ariège 
label Museums & Collections  

Le Musée de l'Affabuloscope, musée dédié à l'œuvre de Claudius de Cap Blanc

placeMas d'Azil - Ariège 
label Museums & Collections Amazing... isn't it?  
Saint-Antoine

Lézat: When Saint Anthony cured shingles

placeLézat-sur-Lèze – Ariège 
label Saints, healers and other miracles... Amazing... isn't it? Religious, mystical & pagan cults  

La bataille de l'ours des Pyrénées

placeAriège 
label Animals  

Discover the regions of the Great South