Story 39

December 9, 2020

Today, Marguerite de Navarre gives us her version of a ghost story (sort of)! Saffredent tells about two servants in the house of the Seigneur de Grignols who try to convince their master and mistress that their house is haunted so that they will flee the house and the servants can “make merry.” Their ruse succeeds while Monsieur de Grignols is away for two years, during which time Madame de Grignols moves to an estate nearby. When her husband returns, however, the couple moves back into their house. Monsieur de Grignols pretends to be asleep one night, and, amid the clattering of “tables, trestles, and stools falling around the bedroom,” he manages to grab hold of an unseen hand that has slapped him, and he discovers that the ghost is their chambermaid.

Like so many before it, this story reminds us how dark the early modern night would have been. Saffredent comments that, the first time he tries to catch the ghost, Monsieur de Grignols lights “a lot of candles.” The ghost prudently extinguishes these candles before making a racket. The next night, after Monsieur de Grignols has seized the ghost’s hand, Saffredent notes that it is only after he lights some candles that he is able to identify her.

Although husband and wife are united in this story, the theme of punishment arises again, as Monsieur de Grignols orders for both servants “to be given such a beating that they would never forget their ghost.” Like Hircan in the discussion of the husband who beats his wife in story 35, Geburon praises Monsieur de Grignols’ “good sense.”

Scholars identify the Seigneur de Grignols in this story as Jean de Talleyrand, who was, indeed, a chevalier d’honneur of Queen Anne of Brittany. He was Seigneur de Grignols from 1474 to 1535. Around 1500, he undertook some major additions and renovations to the Château de Grignols, located in the Périgord in southwestern France. If this castle is the house in question, it looks like a good place for a haunting! (Saffredent just refers to a house, though, so perhaps the castle was under renovation when these events took place…)

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