THE LEGEND OF THE TARASQUE
The story of Tarasque continues since several generations on the edges of the Rhône, between Tarascon and Beaucaire. This story tells how, the local population was terrorized by an animal which haunted swamps between Arles and Avignon, and river, killing the passers-by and pouring the ships which dared to venture on this part of the Rhône. But who is Tarasque? Animal described as an animal at the middle-animal the middle-fish, goes out of dragon to six legs covered with a shell of tortoise, and endowed with a tail covered with scale ended with a sting of scorpion! That what to write it of beautiful legends! Here is the most known, written in the 1260s by Jacques de Voragine, in the Golden Legend.
Tarasque lived in a den situated on a rock, on which was then built the Tarascon Castle (Roy René Castle). The animal haunted the swamps and the Rhone, terrorizing the villagers, fishermen and other travellers. The villagers then decided to get rid of the creature. Several expeditions were conducted, leading to so many failures.
One day of the year 48, a young girl named Marthe, who came to evangelize Lower Provence, decided to face the Tarasque, after hearing the stories of the local population on a strange beast rodding in the vicinity. The villagers tried to convince her to renounce if she wanted to, but the young woman had made up her mind. Helped by her Christian liver, Martha approached the Tarasque, and tamed her by spraying her with holy water and showing her the cross, obtaining her submission. She managed to hand her a leash, and took it back to the villagers. The latter, still haunted by the stories of the creature, rushed to the beast, and killed her.
Of course, there are many other versions that differ, both on the legend and on the description of the Tarasque. The image of the Tarasque was found among other things on the coat of arms of the city, on the coins of the Counts of Provence, or on the entrances of the churches. Despite everything, there are some features: an amphibian dragon with a rocky body, a formidable mouth and a huge tail. Finally, we will leave the last word to Frédéric Mistral, who will describe the Tarasque in Mireio:
La bèstio a la co d’un coulobre, / The beast has the tail of a dragon,
d’iue mai rouge qu’un cinobre, / eyes redder than cinnabar,
Sus l’esquino a d’escaumo e d’àsti que fan paur ! / on the back of scales and darts that scare!
D’un gros leinoun porto lou mourre, / from a big lion she carries the muffle,
E sièis pèd d’ome pèr mies courre; / she has six human feet, to run better;
Dins sa caforno, souta un moure / in his cave, under a rock
Que doumino lou Rose, emporto ce que peu / that dominates the Rhone, she takes what she can.
This legend inspired the men, and in April 1474 the Roy René launched the first games of the Tarasque. Today, the Tarasque celebrations in Tarascon have been proclaimed as part of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO since 25 November 2005!