Monsters of Europe: The Questing Beast!

Questing Beast, © 2015 Liz Vitale
Questing Beast, © 2015 Liz Vitale

The Questing Beast is a monster from Arthurian legend. It is the subject of quests by famous knights like King Pellinore, Sir Palamedes, and Sir Percival. This oddity has the head and neck(do serpents have necks?) of a serpent, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion and the feet of a deer(or “hart” as it was called during the period). It is also referred to as the” Beast Glatisant“, which comes from the great noise it emits from its belly. It makes a barking noise that is said to sound like “thirty couple hounds questing”. “Glatisant” is related to the French word glapissant,which means “yelping” or “barking”.

After he wakes from a disturbing dream that foretells Mordred’s destruction of the realm, Arthur sees the creature for the first time as it is drinking from a pool nearby. He is later approached by King Pellinore who confides that it is his family quest to hunt the beast. Merlin reveals that the Questing Beast had been born of a human woman, a princess who lusted after her own brother. She slept with a devil who had promised to make the boy love her, but the devil manipulated her into accusing her brother of rape. Their father had him torn apart by dogs as punishment. Before he died however, he prophesied that his sister would give birth to an abomination which would make the same sounds as the pack of dogs that was about to kill him.

The beast has been taken as a symbol of the incest, violence, and chaos that eventually destroys Arthur’s kingdom.


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