The Witchcraft Trial of Jean Grenier

I Was A Real Teenage Werewolf: The Seventeenth Century Witchcraft Trial of Jean Grenier

Abstract

In 1603 the French teenager Jean Grenier was tried for assault, murder, cannibalism and witchcraft by the Parlement of Bordeaux. Despite the loss of the trial records, the case is known through the writing of Pierre de Lancre (1553?–1631), but was not translated into English until 2006. The case is of particular interest because it revolves around the competing narratives of the accused and the judiciary, and is unusual in this period for the leniency of the final sentence passed. The case is child-led and child-focused – both the accusers and the accused were children in today’s legal sense of the word – revealing the complex socio-psychological dynamics of the witchcraft trial process and the problematic involvement of children, and additionally forms a sub-set of witchcraft trials involving allegations of werewolf transformation. In addition to the official judicial procedures, there is also de Lancre’s judgement of the case, revealing another competing narrative and another layer of complexity. These factors identify this as an important case, for its historical nuancing, as well as its social psychological insight, which has for unknown reasons not yet been fully interpreted.

Key Words: Bordeaux, cannibalism, criminality, Devil, France, Jean Grenier, Pierre de Lancre, lycanthropy, murder, werewolves, witchcraft.

The complete article was originally published as ‘I was a Real Teenage Werewolf: The Seventeenth Century Witchcraft Trial of Jean Grenier’, in Leo Ruickbie and Simon Bacon (eds), Little Horrors: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Anomalous Children and the Construction of Monstrosity (Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2016); and republished in The Cultural Construction of Monstrous Children: Essays on Anomalous Children From 1595 to the Present Day (Anthem Press, 2020).