Does the Mothman have a rival, or is the Nain Rouge just another incarnation of the apocryphal winged man who foretells of doom?
The Nain Rouge –which translates from French as “The Red Dwarf” or “The Red Goblin”- is a little known legend originating from Normandy France in the mid to late 17th century. It is said that the Nain Rouge foretells of impending doom, though some accounts have this little devil taking an active part in the outcome of various disasters.
Its legend derives from the French fairy tale “Le Prince Lutin”, written in 1697 by Marie Catherine d’Aulnoy. In it she describes the Lutin –otherwise known as a brownie, elf, fairy, gnome, goblin, hobgoblin, imp, leprechaun, pixie, puck or sprite- as a gnome like creature with the power to travel anywhere, take multiple forms (including a saddled horse), and to be invisible/visible at will.
“You are invisible when you like it; you cross in one moment the vast space of the universe; you rise without having wings; you go through the ground without dying; you penetrate the abysses of the sea without drowning; you enter everywhere, though the windows and the doors are closed; and, when you decide to, you can let yourself be seen in your natural form.”
The list of disasters associated to or blamed on the Nain Rouge is long indeed, from famed attacks on the first settler of the Detroit region in 1701, to the frightening tales of the Battle of 1812, to a 1996 account from the Michigan Believer, where “two admittedly drunk nightclub patrons who claimed to both have heard a strange ‘cawing sound, similar to a crow,’ coming from a ‘small hunched-over man’ who was fleeing the scene of a car burglary. The creature was described as wearing ‘what looked like a really nasty torn fur coat.’”
The common theme among all Nain Rouge reports is the foretelling of disaster, whether man-made or natural, which is a similar Modus Operandi to the famed Mothman. Though instead of being feared, the little Lutin is being venerated as a city wide mascot in the annual Marche de Nain Rouge, a yearly costumed parade that seeks to take advantage of the long history of the Detroit Dwarf by bringing much needed tourism and foot traffic to the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighbourbood.
Though Detroit isn’t so lucky as to have an exclusive relationship with the Nain Rouge, accounts have been reported in Quebec, Canada, and there are stories that may connect it to the legend of Père Noël in Lapland, Sweden; making the “Red Dwarf” out to be one of Santa Claus’ elves.
Like any such legend, there are believers and there are sceptics, though it seems that both sides of that coin can enjoy the tales of Nain Rouge in the Detroit area. Cryptozoology can be big business, especially for regions that are under the financial stress that the city of Detroit has felt over the last few years. It seems that citizens may be taking advantage of the legend, much the way local leadership in Mexico have taken advantage of the Chupacabra legends in South America. But any way you slice it, there seems to be something strange going on in and around the Great Lakes of North America.