Though lore of this creature has been spread throughout both French and Native American lore, the Rugaroo (sometimes spelled Roogaroo, Rougarou, Roux-Ga-Roux, Rugaru, or Ruggaroo) is our next peek into some of the Native American culture and legends.
Versions of the Rugaroo vary from something similar to a mild Bigfoot-type creatures to cannibalistic Native American Wendigos. Some dispute the connection between Native American folktales and the francophone Rugaru. (2)
Just as the Wendigo is part of the traditional belief systems of various Algonquian-speaking tribes in the northern US and Canada, the Rugaroo is an extremely similar tale of metamorphosis triggered the cannibalism among the Ojibwe and Chippewa. As is the norm with legends transmitted by oral tradition, stories often contradict one another. The stories of the Wendigo vary by tribe and region, but the most common cause of the change is typically related to cannibalism. (2) A modified example, not in the original wendigo legends, is that of a motif of harmful sensation story—if a person sees a rugaru, that person will be transformed into one.
Author Peter Matthiessen argues that the rugaru is a separate legend from that of the cannibal-like giant Wendigo. While the Wendigo is feared, he notes that the Rugaroo is seen as sacred and in tune with Mother Earth, somewhat like Bigfoot legends are today. (3)
It is important to note that rugaru is not a native Ojibwa word, nor is it derived from the languages of neighboring Native American peoples. However, it has a striking similarity to the French word for werewolf, loup garou. (2) Aka: the werewolf. But the Native American lore suggests that unlike the Loup Garou (who are limited to the form of a wolf and in some lore more are specifically triggered by full moons with limited or uncontrolled shifting), a Rugaroo can take on any animal form and can shapeshift at any time, multiple times. (1)
1. Associated content : L. Lee Scott
2. Wikipedia: Rougarou
3. Peter Matthiessen