Leaping with the Wolves


Saut-de-loup or the wolf-jump is an architectural element typical of Versailles. You can appreciate this feature while walking the perimeter of the Grand and Petit Trianon: The exterior wall of the park breaks off not to interrupt the view and is replaced by a discrete ten-feet drop. I cannot really see a wolf falling in there but an oblivious tourist certainly may.  Do the wolves jump in some time later?

The genius of Louis XIV was precisely this — in absence of TV, he created an illusion of proximity and accessibility of power: Anyone could be in the presence of the king. You could not address him without being officially introduced, such was the court etiquette, but you could watch him.

There were certain sadistic nuances there that I found intriguing: the objects of pain made aesthetically pleasing, the walls protruding so slightly into a mot, they would trick me into believing that I could…, but then only by an inch or two these tiny obstacle would surpass my ability to overcome them.  And I marvelled at how closely the past centuries resemble what we have in place today.

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2 Responses to Leaping with the Wolves

  1. tzopilotl says:

    ..no, it’s the other way around. the wolf is below and the 10′ drop is meant to keep him from coming up to your level, e.g., wulpa(OHG)=ualpauetzi/ualpanuetzi(Nauatl)=to come from below(sea or land).

    • Tzopiotl? I have seen this bird before! It is a cousin of ahuizotle, an Aztec water dog often shown as a spiral with a hand in its center — the creature’s tail with which it grabs the drowning men to pull them to the bottom of the lake. Welcome! Your comment is most welcome, Tzopiotl! Yet I am curious, some mots had hungry wolves in them. Those did not fall in by accident. So I suspect the whole thing is not unique. My son’s pop-up book on Versailles said that saut de loup was dug to open up the space and to protect you from the wolves. Not exactly the same thing, but is there a connection?

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