The Questing beast or otherwise known as Beast Glatisant, was a strange creature from the Arthurian lore. It was named because of the strange sound it makes from its stomach that could be likened to the same sound a pack of questing hounds makes. Its name Beast Glatisant is related to a French word Glapissant which means “the barking or the yelping of dogs”
In the Television series Merlin, the Questing Beast is said to be a deadly creature with the magic of Old Religion that inhabits the land of Albion. Its venom is fatally poisonous and has no cure. If someone gets bitten by it, only the old religion could cure them by sacrificing another human life in their stead. Gauis says:
“At the very heart of the Old Religion lies the magic of life and death itself.
The Questing Beast carries that power,
One bite, you die, and there is no cure”
In the Arthurian legend, the beast is portrayed as an elusive beast because it was barely possible to capture it during the hunt.
As the name entails, its function was to be a subject of a quest. King Pellinore, Sir Palamedes, and Sir Percival took it upon themselves to make this beast their quest.
The Questing Beast varied in appearance from its first mention in French Arthurian romances to other appearances in Modern documentation.
In Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin, the strange creature has more of an animal body. It had the hind-quarters of a lion, the head of a serpent, body of a leopard and, a deer’s’ feet.
The earliest accounts described it as being a beautiful, white creature smaller than a fox.
Arthur first saw the creature drinking from a nearby pool immediately he woke up form an unpleasant dream that foretold Mordred’s destruction. After this scene, King Arthur is approached by Pellinore convincing him that he could take on the beast since it’s his destiny and that of his bloodline. He further persuaded him to give him the mandate of hunting the beast that he had been trained from birth to hunt the creature down.
Initially, Pellinore had searched for the beast unsuccessfully, only to have his friend Sir Grummore convince him to drop the quest. However, when the animal made its first appearance, Pellinore fueled by strong ambitions resumed.
According to The Once and Future King by T.H. White, King Pellinore noticed the beast kept avoiding human encounter because it wanted attention, this prompted Pellinore to nurse and care for the beast till it fully recovered then he continued with his Sisyphean Hunt.
In the original version of The Sword in the Stone, there is a minor change in the encounters of Pellinore and the beast. According to this version, King Pellinore was held captive by Galapas the giant, but the beast came to rescue him because of love.
Later the beast became emotionally attached to Sir Palomides, who disguised himself and Sir Grummore as the beast in order to soothe Pellinore’s sadness when he was wallowing in pity because he couldn’t find his precious beast.
In Modern accounts of Merlin, the beast played a major role in the old religion. It was seen as a bad omen. It appeared only on two known occasions- the demise of Queen Ygraine which had resulted in the Great Purge, and another time after twenty years.
The beast bit Arthur resulting in his near-death experience, he was only brought back to life by Merlin who journeyed to the Isle of the Blessed to sacrifice his own Life so that Arthur might live.
The essence of symbolism in literature should not be ignored or neglected, because it connects our concrete day-to-day experiences to more significant interpretations the author applies to those experiences. Symbolism is one of the dominant devices used in The Once and Future King by T.H White to enhance the depth of the story.
The Questing Beast is an Iconic symbol in Arthurian Lore. As its name entails, it’s more like a riddle for the brave and the keen to solve. The Questing Beast has more to it than just being a monster, it stands for a meaningless quest (Ogden-Korus).
T.H White used this misinterpreted creature to explain the character of King Pellinore and to portray that there is no significant reason why Pellinore should spend half his life hunting and tracking the beast. He holds no genuine anger, pity or emotional feelings towards the creature just that he believes it’s a quest for the “Pellinore” (Bloodline).
Pelinore’s blind search for the beast symbolizes how reputable knights embark on perilous, yet pointless quests for no just course. These acts are encouraged by chivalry based on the belief “might makes right”.
Have you asked yourself why the beast chose to appear to Arthur right after he had an affair with his step-sister Morgause and after he had a disturbing dream? This signifies doom because the creature is perceived as a bad omen. It is relevant to know that Merlin prophesied that the Questing Beast had been born of a human woman, a princess who was sexually attracted to her own brother. The princess made a pact and slept with the devil. Her purpose was for the devil to help win the heart of her brother, but in truth the devil manipulated her to accuse her brother of rape. A creature born from such an unpleasant encounter with the devil can never amount to anything good.
The beast was described to have varying distinctive physical features of different animals. The hindquarters of a lion, the head of a snake, the body of a leopard and the feet of a deer. This can only mean chaos. Perhaps chaos in Camelot.
There is only one real life-presumed record of the beast’s existence. It is the belief in Molossia that during King Pellinore’s pursuit of the beast, it leaped away mightily, leaving its print on the surface of the Helicopter Rock, and the print can still be seen till this day.
Jason is the editor-in-chief of ArthurLegends.com and the primary author of the Arthurian Shared Universe. He has a deep love of British history and mythology, especially relating to Celtic and Arthurian traditions (obviously). He spends most of his days in made-up worlds.