Bullfighting en Francais
Friend of IT Amanda MacEvitt, a producer for National Geographic Digital Media, writes about an unexpected highlight of her vacation in France.
During my recent trip to France, my historian brother and I had planned to visit the little town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Camargue in the south, right on the Mediterranean. It’s a sleepy little seaside town where the local French people came for vacation. Since my brother is a professor of religious studies at Dartmouth, our itinerary naturally included a stop to see the medieval church dedicated to several biblical Marys who are believed to have come to the town to evangelize after the death of Jesus Christ. The church was lovely, with a subterranean chapel dedicated to Saint Sarah, the patron saint of travelers. Later that day, we walked down toward the sea, and found a small bullring with posters of bulls and men in white shirts. Since the event was free, we wandered in.
French bullfighting turned out to be very different
from the better known Spanish style, in that it features neither
matadors nor blood. In France, a very feisty and un-bloody bull comes
into the ring and ten or so men dressed all in white take turns
provoking the bull to charge. Each of the razeteurs had what
looked like a knuckle duster in one hand with a curved comb jutting out
from it. Apparently the goal is to simultaneously stay away
from the horns, but run just close enough to the bull to brush the fur
between them with this comb. The escape from the bull’s charge was
quite athletic, and close encounters were the high point for the crowd,
judging by noise and applause.
After each razeteur approached the bull, they would dash off to the
side of the ring. There, what looked like a normal-size step wraps
along the inside of the bullring. A chest-high wall separates the
bullring from a narrow corridor circling the ring and ten feet above
that was the rail where the spectators sat. After making each dash
across the sands of the arena, the razeteurs would gracefully and
without losing speed, put one foot on the small step, opposite leg at
the top of the wall and then fling themselves to hang from the
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spectator rail. The bull’s horns appeared quite sharp and the razeteurs
had nothing to protect them but thin T-shirts and fast legs. The grace
and athleticism with which they flung themselves out of harms way was
quite extraordinary. The close calls were thrilling, but what was most
satisfying was that at the end of the day, the bull was lured from the
ring and survived to play another day.