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Detroit event celebrates exile of Le Nain Rouge

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Hundreds of Detroiters are expected to get together on Sunday. Their goal? To kick an evil red dwarf out of the city.

Yep, you read that right.

Folklore has it that Le Nain Rouge (the Red Dwarf) has been spotted just before calamitous events in the city – including a disastrous fire in 1805, and the unrest in 1943 and 1967. But the first recorded sighting dates back to the city’s founding.

A curse on Cadillac

According to the event’s Web site, the first recorded sighting of Le Nain was when Detroit founder Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac crossed his path:

After the incident, Cadillac’s luck soon took a turn for the worse. A political rival of Cadillac convinced the French government to indict him on charges of illegal trafficking. This resulted in Cadillac’s removal from power and imprisonment. And even though his name was eventually cleared, Cadillac’s fortunes were never the same. He died in France still trying to establish his land claims in Detroit.

The first Marche du Nain Rouge reportedly took place shortly after Cadillac’s fateful meeting with the demon, with citizens of Fort Pontchartrain hoping to drive out the dwarf before he cursed them as well.

A clean slate

The idea behind Le Marche du Nain Rouge is to banish the demon for the coming year. There will be a parade with street theater and a marching band, with a bonfire at the end to burn Le Nain in effigy.

The event has a feel similar to Mardis Gras. People dress up in costume, wear masks or paint their faces – with the idea that a disguise will help prevent retribution from the demon.


Sarah Hulett is Michigan Public's Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.