News - Tuesday, 30 April 2024

The Legend of the bee

Is it a bee or maybe a fly? The symbol of the Laguiole knives still causes discussions among enthusiasts.
There are many theories, explanations and stories. 


The fly, technical and artistic terms

First of all, when a French knifemaker speaks of the “mouche”, (means “fly” in english) he is referring to the headpiece of the spring that is responsible for locking the blade. The “fly” is therefore a technical term. However, in the early days of Laguiole knives, this part of the knife was still undecorated. In his book “Histoire du couteau de Laguiole”, Christian Lemasson describes that the first decorated Laguiole knives appeared in the 1880s. The decoration of the mouches were ciseled out of the solid metal and were often in the shape of flowers and plants, such as lilies, daisies or shamrocks. Based on the different styles, the mouches thus became the distinguishing feature of the different knife artisans. The knives for peasant use remained undecorated for a long time, only the knives intended for the wealthy clientele were guilloched.

Rambaud 42 - The Legend of the bee

The heyday of art.

The development reached its “peak” in the following years at the end of the 19th century, as the mayor of Laguiole at the time, Dr. Salettes, stated in a letter. Intellectuals and artists discovered Laguiole knives in the capital’s bistros, which were owned by people from the Aubrac region. The fashion of the magnificent Laguioles was at its height. Knifemakers competed with each other with ever new models,” Lemasson outlines the heyday of the knives, in which “bird heads, horse hooves or little women’s boots” were also popular symbols of the mouches.


The bee is born.

Floral patterns were the decorative standard. It was only between 1908 and 1909, according to Lemasson, that a turning point occurred in the history of Laguiole knives. The blacksmith Jules Calmes is said to have been the first to decorate mouches with the motif of a bee at this time. Exactly why he did this is not documented. And this is exactly where the legend about Napoleon Bonaparte begins. The story goes that Napoleon has granted the people from Laguiole the use of the bee, his imperial symbol, in recognition of their heroic services during his many wars – this would suggest that it took almost 100 years for them to find a meaningful usage of this noble gift.


Nettoyage Controle qualite 1 - The Legend of the bee

This leaves room for speculation. However, it is a fact that both the flower and the bee represent elementary components of the home of Laguiole knives. The flower as an element of the “rural imagery, fertility symbol and part of the food of the Aubrac cow”. The bee, on the other hand, as pollinator of those flowers and renewer of this miracle of nature. The bee thus becomes an irreplaceable part of rural life for the people of the Aubrac region. A worthy symbol for our knives.

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