(The True Story Of) Tarrare: Boy, Soldier, Beast


The man known only as Tarrare was a medical anomaly. He could eat anything without ever gaining weight, and to this day nobody knows how he could accomplish such feats. (Photo by George Cruikshank)


Insatiable beast

Skin and bones

Eating enough for 4 men

Grinding his teeth on his horrible feast

Trash, flesh, cats, stones

Meat, wood, blood and bones

Unfastening his jaw, he swallows it whole

But it’s never enough

Never enough


His skin hangs in folds on his frame

Elephant ears for cheeks

Like a poorly-fitted suit of skin

And God, how he reeks

They can barely breathe

from twenty feet away

Tarrare, insatiable beast

Cannibal, hunter, soldier

Somehow sane

Physical hunger with a right sound brain 



He joined the war

France fought itself for the guise of control

Revolution called for men to join the scene

Tarrare, insatiable beast

Quadruple rations, a liability at least

Pity the man who was fed such but still starved

Nevertheless, Beauharnais tested his resolve

Wrote a letter to his commander

And Tarrare swallowed the box


But the vessel was caught

Whipped, shamed into submission

Revealed his status

His name

His undesirable mission

But the message was coy to test his determination

Tarrare would not be trusted with the fate of the nation

The noose was waiting to snap his neck

But Zoegli saw the soul beneath the beast

Turned and whipped the soldier senseless before he was released


The man, twenty-two and wrought with shame

Begged the doctors to help change his fate

Opioids, laudanum, tobacco, and wine

Tables of food, a diet, everything tried

Nothing could satisfy his growing appetite

He was driven by hunger

A glutton with no gain

Something was destroying his right sound brain

Stealing blood and bones 

Meat, a child

Then disappeared from the pages of history for a while


Tarrare, insatiable beast

Alone in the hospital, starving and weak

Tuberculosis was taking its toll

Not all the things he’d swallowed before

It wasn’t the cats or dogs

Or livers or spleens

Or blood or rocks or corks or metal rungs

No, his death came about through his failing lungs

The doctors never knew why he acted that way

They refused to go near him after his death

And with him, the secrets soon would decay

Tarrare, insatiable boy

It wasn’t his fault he was built to destroy