Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Legend of Nain Rouge--Detroit's Red Dwarf Demon


The yearly Detroit Marche Du Nain Rouge celebrates the liberation of Detroiters from Nain Rouge--the Red Dwarf. Legend has it that in 1701, Detroit's French founder Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was telling a fortune teller about a vision he had. Cadillac described a dwarfish creature with blazing red eyes and rotten teeth dressed in fur boots who was haunting his dreams.


The fortune teller interpreted this apparation to be the harbinger of the city's doom and the cause of Detroit's problems. The legend continues that Cadillac was walking one night when he confronted the Nain Rouge and drove him out of town with his cane--the Nain cursing Cadillac and his new city for an eternity.

Of course, there are no public accounts to support the folktale which first appeared in Legends of Le Detroit written in 1883 by Marie Caroline Watson Hamlin. She was a local folklorist who wanted to perserve French heritage in Detroit, where English had become the predominant spoken language. Since the Nain Rouge story, everytime Detroit was in trouble the Nain was spotted more than the Gnome in the Travelocity commercials. If there was a crisis, Blame It On The Nain.

Folklore has it that Nain Rouge reappeared on July 30, 1763 before the Battle of Bloody Run. Fifty-eight British soldiers were killed by Chief Pontiac's tribesmen. A tributary of the Detroit River turned red with blood for days after the battle. The river became known as the Rouge River. It was said the Nain was seen dancing on the banks of the Detroit River celebrating.

Detroit's Masonic Temple
The Detroit Marche Du Nain Rouge was instituted in 2010 by two Wayne State University law students--Francis Grunow and Joe Uhl--but it has grown into a costumed Mardi Gras-like community based event with a parade. The celebration is held on the Sunday after the Vernal Equinox to commemorate Detroit's liberation from Nain Rouge. Detroiters come together to unite against negativity and show support for their city. Revelers are advised to come in costumes to disguise themselves so the Nain can not take revenge.


The parade begins near the campus of Wayne State University, continues down the Cass corridor, and ends at the Masonic Temple where the embodiment of the Nain bashes the city from atop his float. An effigy of Nain is destroyed--banishing the evil spirit from Detroit for another year. The parade and celebration are meant to be light-hearted and fun. It's an opportunity for Detroiters, who anxiously await the rites of spring, to blow off some steam after three months of winter.

For a more detailed account of the devilish Nain Rouge, read this account from the Detroit Metro Times: http://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/the-legend-of-the-legend-of-detroits-nain-rouge/Content?oid=2404384