Deer

"King Arthur had hardly spoken, before a white hart ran into the hall."

Deer

CreaturesBackground Essay Author: Kara L. McShane
According to the bestiary tradition, deer are the enemies of serpents (Clark 134).  Deer also migrate, which the tradition glosses to explain that deer are like good Christians, who change their homes from the world to heaven (Clark 135).  These moral attributes are generally absent from medieval Arthurian texts, though deer appear quite consistently in these works.
 
Deer feature most commonly as the object of hunts in medieval Arthurian texts, and there are numerous examples of these hunts.  Often, these hunts are simply the means of getting the characters outside the physical spaces of castles and cities.  The Avowyng of Arthur features a description of the frequent hunting done by those at the court, and both bucks and harts are mentioned among the animals hunted (l. 26-27).  The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle opens with Arthur hunting a hart.  This hunt, though, seems to function primarily as the opening trope of the narrative, the means to get Arthur into the woods; it is on this hunt that he is found by Sir Gromer Somer Joure, and their meeting drives the rest of the plot.  A hunt also opens Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle; Gawain & Kay get lost in a mist and lose the deer they were hunting. In these instances, hunting deer serves as a way to place characters in liminal spaces in which encounters with the unfamiliar or mysterious can occur.

However,...

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