Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Summer of the Bulls

This is (finally) going to be a post on French culture...a part that I didn't know anything about until I met my husband and went on vacation with him for the first time. His family comes from a small village near Montpellier in the south of France with a strong 'toro' connection. Every summer each village has a festival that includes "les courses," which technically translates as bullfights but is vastly different from the traditional corridas. No one has a sword, no one dies, nobody dresses up in a fancypants outfit -- just a bunch of young men armed with sneakers and holding a crochet, which is a small tool consisting of small, flat hooks that cover their knuckles. It sounds worse than it is. As my husband explained to me, "They just play with the bull a little bit and then he goes back to the ranch." Seems a lot fairer that way, and I'm pretty sure that no one is jacked up on steroids.

The point of the game is to be able to run *just* faster than the bull while getting close enough to capture a piece of string tied around his horns. The string is tied in a certain way and includes tassels and other whatnots to be captured. I won't bore you with the particulars only because I don't know them. Lucky you. Anyway, local businesses will bet on each stringpart to be captured (there's a specific order), and the raseteur who manages to get that particular one can win a decent amount of money.

Player #1: le toro

You may be pleased to know that yes, they really do lower their head, snort, and paw the ground, just like in Bugs Bunny.

Players 2 to 10ish: les raseteurs

Note that in the above photo, Player #1 (look closely) decided he wasn't feeling cooperative that day and decided to play by his own rules.

Each town has a little dirt arena that is circled with a low wooden wall equipped with what I'll call a running board. This running board is important as it allows the raseteurs to get a good running jump out of the arena and (if all goes well) catch the red railings of the stands. If all doesn't go well, then this can happen:

DARN my slow camera and lack of picture taking skills, but particularly my slow camera. I pressed the shutter at the right time, but it didn't actually take the picture until a second later, thereby missing the really cool shot of the bull's incredible jump onto the railing. Can you see where the raseteur ended up? No worries, no one ended up hurt, but it sure was an exciting moment.

In spirit, the whole event seems much closer to a rodeo than a corrida, but there are parts of the game that are considered beautiful when they happen, such as when the bull seems to catch on to the rules and will chase several raseteurs in a row without stopping. Some bulls aren't really cooperative -- the newbies -- and will stand around. It reminded me of that children's book about Ferdinand who is happy in his field, and was glad when those bulls went home. Others are pretty fierce competitors and are especially fun to watch. Unexpectedly to me, some of the biggest fans were older women who sat around and discussed the bulls, their energy levels, beauty, and intelligence. At first I thought they were talking about the raseteur, but nope, it was all about the bull.

There are more details, so if you've made it this far and are still interested, go here to see better pictures and more specific commentary.

More to come...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can still remember our first time to the bull fights and it looks just like you have stated. It was a great day and we all had a wonderful meal after the wedding I do remember.
I liked to have never figured out how to post a comment.
So thanks for the memories. Have a wonderful day