Q is for Questing Beast

Diana Beebe, Mermaids Don't Do Windows, MDDW, Diana Beebe's Blog, science fiction, fantasy, young adultThe Questing Beast is a creature that several knights in Arthurian legends went on quests to kill.

 H.J. Ford, "Arthur and the Questing Beast". From King Arthur, Tales of the Round Table, Andrew Lang, 1904.

H.J. Ford, “Arthur and the Questing Beast”. From King Arthur, Tales of the Round Table, Andrew Lang, 1904.

The name, however, comes from the sound it makes, which is a barking described as the sound of “thirty couple hounds questing.”

I imagine these brave knights (King Pellinore, Sir Palamedes, and Sir Percival) were pretty nervous about hunting the beast with the head and tail of a snake, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion, and the hooves of a deer. Maybe they weren’t nervous. It was their duty to go on quests and die trying, if necessary.

This beast is a terrible omen of the destruction of King Arthur’s kingdom. In Thomas Malory‘s Le Morte d’Arthur, the Questing Beast is a symbol of the incest, violence, and chaos.

From  an episode of the BBC series Merlin (© 2008 British Broadcasting Corporation)/Shine Television
From an episode of the BBC series Merlin (© 2008 British Broadcasting Corporation)/Shine Television

It is said to have originated from a human woman, a princess who lusted after her own brother. She slept with the devil as part of a deal to get her brother to love her. That didn’t end well for any of them—except maybe for the devil. 😉

After King Arthur has an affair with Morgause (he didn’t know she was his sister) and begat Mordred, Arthur has a nightmare about Mordred’s destruction of the realm. When he wakes, he sees the beast drinking from a nearby pool.

We all know how his story ends.

The giraffe might have been inspiration for the beast. The medieval species name of the long-necked mammal was Camelopardalis because it looks like it could be half camel and half leopard. Brilliant!

Taking that Arthurian Literature course in college has earned its keep. LOL

Sources:

Do you have a favorite retelling of the Arthurian legends? Have you ever heard of the medieval name for giraffes?

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