Many American communities have urban legends. Detroit has an urban legend too. The Nain Rouge is celebrated as a hero today.
The History of the Nain Rouge
In 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Detroit. Legend has it that a little red devil, the Nain Rouge (French for red dwarf) attacked Cadillac. In the attack, a curse was put on the city. Since then, whenever disaster strikes, it is said that the Nain made an appearance beforehand. Appearances include the Battle of Bloody Run (1763), the 1805 fire which burned the whole city of Detroit, and the 1967 12th Street Riot.
The Nain Rouge story developed from the early French Quarter of Detroit. The hackneyed tale comes from Normandy, France, with stories of lutin, a hobgoblin. Others say that the story is from the American Indian legend about an offspring of the Stone God.
The urban legend has turned from a story to a living entity. In 2010 the Naine became all the rage with an annual Marche du Nain Rouge parade in his honor. There is wine named after the Nain, and a graphic Novel called Nain Rouge: The Red Legend (Caliber Comics). Now there is a Tour de Troit- Run du Nain Rouge 5K on the parade route before the celebration begins.
What is the Nain Rouge?
As was already mentioned, the Nain Rouge is from ancient America, Detroit, and France. The little devil really gets around (pun intended)! There are also different descriptions of the imp.
Detroit’s description is an evil looking little red devil and according to Skinner, author of End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Myths And Legends
“A shambling, red-faced creature, with a cold, glittering eye and teeth protruding from a grinning mouth.”
Skinner also mentioned that others described the imp as small and furry. It had black or red hair, cold gleaming eyes, and rotten teeth. Ancient lore believes the hobgoblin is a sprite, which creates evil mischief. On the other hand, the lutin is also considered a leprechaun.
No matter how the little red devil is described, or where it is from, the Nain Rouge is considered evil and mischievous. Even the Urban dictionary calls it a “little ghoul who (messes) up everything.”
Nain Rouge Culture, Celebration and Other Activities
Marche du Nain Rouge parade and Tour de Troit- Run du Nain Rouge 5K takes place downtown every March. The parade for 2020 was cancelled due to Covid-19. Check postings for the 2021 celebration. Nain Rouge Brewery opened in 2019. Nain Rouge merchandise can be found online and in the city of Detroit.
For those who prefer NOT to be involved in such fiendish activities, Tripadvisor lists a number of attractive elements including dining, architecture, and museums. Abandoned home tours are available. Also, the Ford Motor Company bought, and is restoring the Detroit Train Depot.
The Marche du Nain Rouge parade is not the only celebration in Detroit. Visit Detroit for fireworks on July 4. Go to the Detroit Zoo Lights at Christmas. Then, stay for a block party and fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Whether the Nain Rouge is a real demon or an urban legend, it still makes for a good story. Even if Detroit celebrates the legends of a devil, it still has many family-friendly things to do. Despite all the negative news about the Motor City, Detroit is a cool place to visit.