Portal:King Arthur/Selected article/7

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Illustration by H. J. Lang

The Questing Beast, or the Beast Glatisant (Barking Beast), is a monster from Arthurian legend, the subject of quests by famous knights like King Pellinore, Sir Palamedes, and Sir Percival. The strange creature has the head and neck of a serpent, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion and the feet of a hart. Its name comes from the great noise it emits from its belly, a barking like "thirty couple hounds questing".

The first accounts of the beast are in the Perlesvaus and the Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin. The Post-Vulgate's account, which is taken up in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, has the Questing Beast appear to King Arthur after he has had an affair with his sister Morgause and begotten Mordred (they did not know they were related). Arthur sees the beast drinking from a pool just after he wakes from a disturbing dream that foretells Mordred's destruction of the realm; he is then approached by King Pellinore who reveals it is his family quest to hunt the beast. Merlin reveals the Questing Beast had been borne 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, but before he died he prophesied his sister would give birth to an abomination that would make the same sounds as the pack of dogs that killed him. The beast has been taken as a symbol of the incest, violence, and chaos that eventually destroys Arthur's kingdom. (read more . . . )