L’Abbe Bordelon’s ‘Monsieur Oufle’ on Radio 4 Extra

There is currently a radio adaptation of Abbe Laurent Bordelon’s A History of the Ridiculous Extravagancies of Monsieur Oufle (1710) on the BBC iPlayer. In the story, the eponymous M. Oufle, a believer in the supernatural and reader of works such as Jean Bodin and Henri Boguet (both of who wrote about lycanthropy), is so influenced by what he has read that he believes he has transformed into a wolf. Chantal Bourgault Du Coudray suggests in The Curse of the Werewolf; Fantasy, Horror and the Beast Within that the ‘principal message of Bordelon’s novel, then, is that all that is published is not necessarily true, and that the cultivation of an independent and critical approach to reading and learning is therefore essential’ (p. 13).This interpretation does not entirely encompass  the difficulties faced by Enlightenment scholars when reading earlier non-fiction accounts of lycanthropy, often by religious men. Bordelon embodies contemporary concerns regarding the relationship between fiction, non-fiction, subjective truth and imagination. His account of M. Oufle’s episode of lycanthropy, apparently brought on by an over-active imagination, makes early Medieval accounts of werewolves symbolic of the superstition of previous generations.

Bordelon’s tale is delightfully hilarious and it is possible to hear echoes of the character of M. Oufle in Richard Thomson’s ‘The Wehr-Wolf’ (1828), one of the earliest examples of the werewolf story in the English language.  The narrative contains the character of a pompous doctor who is scratched by a suspected werewolf and is convinced that he has become one himself.

 

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