By Miranda Parham
"A Gluttonous Man"
The man shown in this photo goes down in history as the man who would eat anything and
everything. Tarrare, the cannibalistic French spy, lived from 1772-1798. Growing up, Tarrare and
his family realized he had an unusual hunger. By the time he was a teen, his parents could no
longer provide for his appetite, and kicked him out. His gruesome, insatiable appetite landed him a
job as a street performer and showman. He would wow the crowd by devouring live animals,
baskets of apples, large portions of meat, and even inanimate objects thrown at him by the
audience. Every day, he would consume the equivalent of his body weight in food. Despite the
amount of food he consumed, he was a skinny teen, weighing roughly 100 pounds. Every meal, his
skin would stretch, and his stomach would inflate like a balloon. According to Mark Oliver, author
of “The Story Of Tarrare, The Insatiable Glutton Who Ate Everything From Human Flesh To Live
Eels,” Tarrare “…stunk so horribly that a visible vapor rose out of his body like real-life cartoon stink lines.” His peers would always stand at least 20 paces away from him due to his unbearable stench. Wanting to live a more normal life, Tarrare decided to join the French army. He'd consume the rations of four men and then scavenge for any leftovers he could find. His talent to swallow inanimate objects fascinated his superiors. They ordered Tarrare to swallow a hollow box holding a secret message and take it across enemy lines. Once he met his target, he would defecate, delivering the message unharmed. Tarrare was captured by the German troops and tortured until he confessed their secret plot. Tarrare, traumatized from this experience, begged to be released from the French army. Towards the end of his life, he desperately worked with doctors and surgeons in hopes of finding a cure to his lifelong hunger. As years went by, his hunger increased more and more. His physicians performed a slew of tests and administered every drug they could think of, but nothing seemed to tame Tarrare’s need for food. During his stay at the hospital, he was suspected of drinking the blood of patients and eating dead bodies in the morgue. He was even accused of eating a toddler who went missing in the hospital.
He was discharged from the hospital and left to fend for himself. Tarrare eventually died of
tuberculosis. Tarrare's organs were unnaturally swollen and coated in sores, according to his
autopsy. Due to the unpleasant stink of his lifeless body, his autopsy team decided to end the
autopsy before they were even finished. Even though the cause of his appetite was never proven, doctors today suspect that Tarrare could have damaged his amygdala. The amygdala is the part of
the brain that regulates appetite, and injury to it could result in polyphagia. Others speculate that
Tarrare may have had hyperthyroidism.
Cruikshank, George. An Illustration of a Gluttonous Man. ISTOCK.COM/WHITEMAY.
Foley, Katherine E. “The Bizarre story of the 18th-Centruy Frenchman Who Ate a Quarter of a
Cow Daily and Never Gained Weight.” Quartz. 23 Feb. 2017.
cow-daily-and-never-gained-weight/. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.
Kageyama, Ben. “History’s Hungriest Human.” Medium. 25 Aug. 2020.
Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.
Meghan. An Artists Impression of Tarrare Eating an Infant. Cvltnation. 20 Nov. 2020.
Oliver, Mark. “The Story of Tarrare, The Insatiable Glutton Who Ate Everything from Human
Flesh to Live Eels.” Ati. 2 Aug. 2018. https://allthatsinteresting.com/tarrare. Accessed 26
Wilson, R.J. “The True Case of Tarrare: The Man Who Ate Everything.” Urbo. 21 June 2018.
Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.
Links for further research :
“Tarrare.” Wikipedia, 14 Oct. 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarrare. Accessed 26
Oct. 2021. This Wikipedia article gives a description of who Tarrare was and what he was
known for. It provides information on Tarrare’s early life, appearance and behavior,
military service, attempted cures, and death.
Panda, Manisha. “The Amazing Story Of Tarrare – The Cannibal Solider Who Never
Gained Weight.” Procaffenation. 19 Aug. 2020. https://procaffenation.com/tarrare/.
Accessed 20 Oct. 2021. This article provides many facts about Tarrare’s existence.
“The tragic fate of the man who couldn’t stop eating.” BBC.
27 Oct. 2021. This article explains the possible causes of Tarrare’s illness and provides a