Ille is a very small town – or a very large village – as you prefer, built at the foot of the Pyrenees on the French side.
It is a very old town – you will find, under the modern walls, the very very old sun-baked bricks that date back to the Roman times.
It is a city that was built seemingly at random, one of those cities where you get lost when they are all, all small.
This tiny and charming town has a story, told, once again, by Mérimée – but we don’t know if he invented it or if he took over a legend that was lying around the streets.
This takes place at the end of the 19th century.
The fashion, among well brought up people, is for Antiquity and archaeology.
Luckily, in Ille, antiquity and archaeology are all they know.
So, according to the legends and the stories of the ancients, these gentlemen put on their jackets and dig, here and there, to find the remains of the greatness of the Roman Empire.
And then one day, the shovels hit an obstacle that is not a stone – it doesn’t make the same sound – it’s a metallic sound.
Finally, they found something.
A sword ? a shield ? a cup perhaps ?
The shovels encounter obstacles on a much larger scale.
All these gentlemen start to sweat, and dig like madmen, on a length of a good meter sixty – they were right : their shovels discover then, at a moment, a bronze hand, a hand astonishing of beauty and grace.
It took hours and the efforts of all the men in the village – but at the end of the day, there she was, standing before them: Venus
The most charming, the most graceful, the most bewitching Venus you could dream of was less charming, less graceful and less bewitching than this bronze Venus, still all covered with dust and dirt.
A Venus so adorable, with a small dimple in the cheek of her bronze smile, a Venus with human size which told them the beauties of the love.
Her gemstone eyes were strange, green, but it looked like they were alive.
You should not have met her eyes – suddenly a terrible cold would run through your veins
Something like that – but worse
No doubt it was the contrast between the exciting and cheerful beauty of the statue and the emerald fixity of those stone eyes.
This strange sensation was not going to put them in a bad mood. Would Ille soon be a new Troy? A high place of archaeology for the learned world? One had not yet brought to light Empurias – did I speak to you about Empurias? well it’s a wonderful place but there are no stories about Empurias, one would have to invent it.
In any case, the Venus would be the extraordinary highlight of the wedding that would be celebrated the following Saturday. A beautiful marriage, uniting the heir son of the small fortune of the corner to a young woman as beautiful as wise.
The guy, he was a local guy.
We didn’t play rugby in the Catalan country yet – we played the game of palm – palm ? paume in French – do you know the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris ? – this game.
It was played outdoors – and it was already a very physical game.
The Venus, the pride of the whole village, was enthroned in the square.
It was a splendid sunny Friday and the heat was going to be heavy.
Here was our fiancé, loaded with the next day’s rings, his overcoat, his hat, and everything else, invited to a game.
What to do with his luggage?
He looked at the Venus, laughing.
He put the hat on her head, his coat and jacket on her arm – and on her left ring finger, as a joke, the ring of the bride.
He met Venus’ eyes – his blood ran cold – but what? A rough and healthy guy like him was not going to be impressed by emerald eyes.
– are you thinking of the Tim Burton movie? But Tim Burton is not a Catalan, alas.
The game was fierce – they all sweated profusely, the dust stuck to their bodies.
And at the end of the game, our fiancé took back his little luggage: hat, coat, jacket. But the ring was stuck. Completely stuck on Venus’ finger.
And there, you see, the Catalans are not funny people.
A bit of olive oil and the ring is back.
The wedding took place on Saturday.
They danced all day, all night, all the village, all the surroundings. They made music, they laughed, they drank wine from all the surrounding vineyards.
It took a long time for the young husband and wife to reach their wedding bed.
At that time, it was at the home of his parents.
Our fiancé was dead from wine, fatigue, dancing, heat – he fell asleep without even looking at his young bride. Who also fell asleep, a little sad, no doubt.
In the middle of the night, very strange noises were heard in the newlyweds’ house.
And then a howl, a howl, a high-pitched, shrill, crazy howl that never stopped
Then everything stopped.
The next morning, the family found the young bride, haggard, voiceless – irretrievably mad.
In the bed, the husband –
The bed was collapsed on the floor, as if crushed by too much weight. The husband was dead – but how can I tell you that? dead with the appearance of having been really married, really united to his wife.
In the square, Venus was sunbathing. On her left hand, the wedding ring of the bride was shining.
The whole village agreed that the bride had gone mad when her husband wanted to… to become her husband, had screamed so much that he had died of fright and the bed had broken.
And that it was better to dig a very very very deep hole and put the Venus in it – because no one had succeeded this time to take back the wedding ring.
The story was classified as a legend – and Merimee told it almost as a legend.
Like Matéo Falcone, the story of the Venus d’Ille is a very short story, which would go so well on a stage, when the theatre needs short shows to offer a Virtual Reality and Short Show adventure.
Since it’s a very visual story, it doesn’t need a text – it can be performed in dance, circus, puppetry – which allows to emphasize the madness and fantasy of the story.
There are few short shows – few have been written and produced, because they are too short. So, since Altair is going to need a lot of short shows, it’s time to look at what to put on the stage – isn’t it ?
Featured Image : Ille sur Tête – France. I thank you, really, very sincerely, for still being here despite my nasty old dog temper – the covid and the headless morons, it’s too much for my little not so strong, not so calm and not so patient person – I think I used up my reserves of patience, empathy, understanding and gentleness too quickly this year – I’m not going to invent that these are my most important moral qualities, I’ve been given a limited dosage. So I’m going to blow up a few more times this June. June is always the month of my big professional angers. And then it will be vacation and swimming in the sea. My challenge is : not to break everything in the process – I know how to do that – last year I broke a whole wall to get over my righteous anger. I don’t want to break Altair, the trust you give me by coming to read my ideas – not always great, just often great. Thanks to you. Vraiment