The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book III Chapter 36

During a long while, in the country of Damme and round about, there had been committed several abominable crimes. Lasses, young men, old men, who had been known to go forth carrying money in the direction of Bruges, Ghent, or some other town or village of Flanders, were found dead, naked as worms and bitten in the back of the neck by teeth so long and so sharp that they all had the bones of their necks broken.

Physicians and barber-surgeons declared that these were the teeth of a huge wolf. “Robbers,” said they, “had doubtless come up, after the wolf, and had stripped the victims.”

Despite all search, no man could ever discover who were the robbers. Soon the wolf was forgotten.

Several townsmen of note, who had proudly set forth on their way without an escort, disappeared without any one knowing what had become of them, save that at times some country fellow, going out in the morning to plough the earth, found wolf tracks in his field, while his dog, digging in the furrows with his paws, brought to light a poor dead corpse carrying the marks of the wolf’s teeth on the nape or under the ear, and oftentimes on the leg, too, and always behind. And always the neckbone and legbone were broken.

The peasant, affrighted, would go off at once to give information to the bailiff, who would come with the clerk of the court, two aldermen, and two surgeons to the place where lay the body of the murdered man. Having visited it diligently and carefully, having sometimes when the face was not eaten by worms recognized its quality, even its name and lineage, they were nevertheless always astonied that the wolf, a beast that kills for hunger, should not have carried off some part of the dead man.

And the folk of Damme were sore terrified, and no woman dared to go out by night without an escort.

Now it came that several valiant soldiers were sent out to look for the wolf, with orders to hunt for it day and night in the dunes, along by the sea.

They were then near Heyst, among the great dunes. Night had come. One of them, confident in his strength, wanted to leave them to go alone on the hunt, armed with a musket. The others allowed him, certain that, valiant and armed as he was, he would kill the wolf if he dared to show himself.

Their comrade having gone, they lit a fire and played at dice while drinking brandy out of their flasks.

And from time to time they called out:

“Now, then, comrade, come back; the wolf is afraid; come and drink!”

And he made no answer.

Suddenly, hearing a great cry as of a man that is at the point of death, they ran in the direction whence the cry came, saying:

“Hold on, we are coming to the rescue!”

But they were long before they found their comrade, for some said the cry came from the valley, others that it came from the highest dune.

At length, when they had well searched dune and valley with their lanterns, they found their comrade bitten in the leg and in the arm, from behind, and his neck broken like the other victims.

Lying on his back, he was holding his sword in his clenched fist; his musket was on the sand. By his side were three severed fingers, which they carried off, and which were not his fingers. His pouch had been taken.

They took up on their shoulders their comrade’s body, his good sword, and his gallant musket, and grieved and angry, they carried the corpse to the bailiff’s where the bailiff received them in the company of the clerk of the court, two aldermen, and two surgeons.

The severed fingers were examined and recognized as the fingers of an old man, who was no worker at any trade, for the fingers were long and tapering, and the nails were long as the nails of lawyers and churchmen.

Next day the bailiff, the aldermen, the clerk, the surgeons, and the soldiers went to the place where the poor slain man had been bitten, and saw that there were drops of blood upon the grass and footmarks that went as far as the sea, where they ceased.