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The Legend of Tarrare, the Hungriest Man

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Joey is an undergrad at the University of Alabama studying History and Economics. He has many interests including the History of the World.

Tarrare was a bizarre Frenchman from the 18th century. What made him so bizarre was his insatiable appetite. This appetite put him in an amazing amount of odd situation, that made up his very odd life. From performing on the streets to his military service, and even his death, nothing was ever normal with Tarrare.

Tarrare's Origins

Tarrare was born in rural France sometime around 1770. As he grew older Tarrare was known for is great appetite. By the time he was a teenager, it is said that he could eat a quarter of a cow in a day. Eventually, this became too much for his family and he was kicked out, forcing him to live his life on the road.

To support himself Tarrare became part of a freak show attraction swallowing various objects including, corks, stones, massive amounts of foods, and even live animals.

Even though he was famous for his appetite and ability to eat anything, Tarrare was surprisingly average in appearance. When he was 17 he stood only at average height and weighed only 100 pounds.

Tarrare's Military Service

In 1792 Tarrare enlisted in the French Revolutionary Army to fight in the War of the First Coalition. Whilst in the field Tarrare would often collapse from exhaustion and hunger due to the limited size of the Army rations. Tarrare even did the work of other soldiers in order to get extra food.

His efforts could not stop him however from ending up in the military hospital, for several cases of extreme exhaustion.

The Tarrare Experiments

Whilst he was in the hospital Tarrare was given four days worth of military rations per day. Even so, he still wandered the hospital late at night and ate the food scraps of other patients. At times he was even seen eating bandages and other medical equipment. Tarrare's appetite and behavior were noticed by two military surgeons. These 2 were tasked with experimenting on Tarrare to figure out what made him so hungry.

In one experiment Tarrare ate 2 large meat pies, plates of grease and salt, and four gallons of milk all in 1 sitting. Once he did this it was said that his abdomen inflated like a balloon.

In a different study, Tarrare was presented a live cat. He then proceeded to rip the cat open and eat everything but the bones. This experiment was repeated with live lizards, snakes, and dogs, all of which had the same result.


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Tarrare's Classified Operation

Once Tarrare returned to military service one of his doctors recommended that Tarrare become a courier of secret messages. Tarrare would eat a wooden box containing a secret message and transport it behind enemy lines undetected. When he would arrive at his final destination the box and message would be removed from his excrement. With this recommendation accepted by the commanders of the army, and Tarrare officially became a spy for the army. As a reward for his promotion, he was given 3 pounds of bull liver as a reward, which he ate in one day.

Tarrare's title was short-lived, however. On his first mission to carry a test message to a commander stuck behind enemy lines Tarrare was captured. Tarrare was tortured and questioned for 24 hours before he told the Prussian commander everything and provided the message. However, some say that once the message was out of his body, he ate it again with his fecal matter in order to keep the contents of the message secret, as Tarrare did not know that it was only a test message.

After all of this occurred, Tarrare was beaten and eventually released near the French border to return to military service.

The Baby Incident

Not wanting to return to the war, Tarrare instead returned to the military hospital asking the doctors for a cure for his appetite. He was given a number of treatments including tobacco pills, and a diet of only soft boiled eggs. None succeeded.

During all of these tests for a cure, Tarrare would sneak out every night and steal from local butchers, fight and eat stray dogs, and was once seen eating a body from the mortuary. After this many doctors asked for Tarrare to be moved to an insane asylum, but his doctor would not allow in to go.

Sometime later a 14-month-old infant had disappeared from the hospital and Tarrare was immediately suspected of eating it. After this incident, Tarrare was driven out of the hospital and never returned.

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Tarrare's Death

In 1798 Tarrare visited a doctor explaining that he had eaten a golden fork and as gone very weak since. However, when the doctor further examined him it was discovered that Tarrare had advanced tuberculosis. He would die a month later. He was roughly 28 years of age.

Once he was autopsied, it was found that his stomach was huge and lined with ulcers, and his body was filled with puss. The golden fork was never found.

© 2020 Joey Dykes

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