By Rudyard Kipling
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Extra info for Actions and Reactions (Collected Works of Rudyard Kipling)
77 Why would local authorities and their peasant compaÂ�triÂ�ots ignore conventional wisdom regarding the dangers of wolves and embrace, however Â�provisionally, an emerging hypothesis about a mysterious creature—a monster—with fearsome abilities? The psychologically disorienting effect of living through a killing spree cannot be discounted, and the sense of anxiety prevailing among the beast’s opponents undoubtedly created a space where wild suspicions could flourÂ�ish. The absence of a fixed, reliable representation of the attacker or attackers not only encouraged the mind’s conflation of different incidents into one frightening phenomenon but also placed more weight on the terrified testimonies of individuals who had had fleeting encounters with a dangerous predator.
69 The eminently sensible Lafont remained open to the possibility that numerous wolves shared responsibility for the deaths in the Gévaudan. Nevertheless, in a letter writtenÂ€to the intendant at the end of October, he also expressed the emerging consensus. ”70 Most seem to have been prepared, or inclined, to believe that the cruelties visited on the Gévaudan were the work of a uniquely destructive malefactor. The beast’s refusal to go away quietly had heightened the sensitivities of peasants, curés, and local ofÂ�fiÂ�cials, preparing all to witness the unexpected and to account for the extraordinary.
To kill time, he and his comrades probed the interior of the country in search of wild game native to the region. Forbin got more than he bargained for when, “in the time it took to glance from one side to the other, I saw a monstrous monkey coming toward me. It advanced with sparkling eyes and an air of assurance that would have frightened me had I not been armed. ” The monkey had apparently achieved impressive dimensions. “This was a terrifying animal. Its tail was long, like a lion’s. ”58 The characteristics of Forbin’s monkey overlapped with the emerging profile of the beast—the tail, the elongated figÂ�ure, the “sparkling” eyes (the rich semantic field of the adjective étincelant clearly straddled the realms of natural hisÂ�tory and sorcery).