In French folklore the Carcolh—often referred by it’s name in Gascon, a French dialect, as Lou Carcolh, which translates as The Snail—is a monstrous snail-like creature that once terrorized the town of Hastingues, in the southwest of France near the border with Spain.
This creature was said to have a body like large snake, with a gigantic shell and long tentacles that it used as whips to kill its victims, and in fact anything—human or beast—who dared approach it.
In 1903 the Revue de Gascogne (the bulletin of the Regional Historical Society) describes this creature from eye-witnesses’ accounts as a "monstrous snail living in the vast, dark cavern above which the town of Hastingues was built. Elder people in the area described how in the hillside of Hastingues, a large net of tunnels extends from a massive subterranean cave. This huge cave, it seems, serves as den for a formidable snail that has lived there but no one knows since when. What it’s certain is that the filthy beast, a sort of long viscous and hairy snake, suddenly comes out of the hole, most often when an imprudent man engages it, embraces the man with its horrible tentacles, smacks him against its shell, and then makes of him a mouthful. Such is, at least, the conviction of the locals."
Interestingly, no one reference in literature and oral tradition mentioning the Carcohl is older than the 20th Century. And nonetheless, many of these mentions describe how the viscous slime trails let by the monster could be seen in the distance reflecting the sunlight from the Church’s tower, announcing the arrival of the beast long before the creature was close enough to attack.
Crossing paths with one of these slime trails was warning enough to run in the opposite direction, as the tentacles of the Carcohl could reach farther—some say many miles—than the beast could be actually seen, despite its enormous size. So keeping as much distance as possible was the best way to avoid being unexpectedly tossed into the creature’s vast mouth. Even nowadays, local tradition warns us that if you’re walking in the woods around Hastigues and happen upon a strip of long grass, winding as a ribbon and with blades that are thin and brown like horse’s hair, don’t tread upon this peculiar undergrowth, for such grass only grows where the Carcolh once passed and stepping on such ground will bring misfortune.
Fortunately, the Carcohl wasn’t a fan of daylight, passing most of its time resting in its underground lair, surfacing only to hunt.
Rumor has it a merchant once dared enter the Carcolh lair and stole some of its eggs. He took such eggs with him when traveling to the New World, but the eggs were lost or stolen before he arrived. Some say that one of those eggs floated all the way to Grenhaven, hatching near the dark hemlock hills that surround the port, explaining some local legends about a giant carnivore snail haunting a section of the forest called Leeds Hop.
The Carcohl hasn’t been seen in more than 50 years, which many think indicates the beast has died. Other, less optimistic, people, prefer to believe the beast is alive but in deep hibernation waiting for a mate.
-Rose, C., 2001. Giants, monsters, and dragons: An encyclopedia of folklore, legend, and myth. WW Norton & Company.
-Bane, T., 2016. Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore. McFarland.