Dog

Caval

Dog

CreaturesBackground Essay Author: Kara L. McShane
The second family bestiary tradition comments on the intelligence of dogs, especially their ability to recognize their names, and describes them as very loyal (145).  In fact, "often even dogs produced evidential proofs to contradict circumstances of a murder that was committed" (146); they mourn, and they can heal wounds by licking them (147).  The bestiary thus compares dogs to preachers, who heal men's wounds by hearing confession (147-48). 
 
These traits of loyalty and intelligence commonly appear in the dogs of medieval Arthuriana.  In Malory, for example, Lancelot follows a brachet into a castle, where he finds it licking its dead master.  This example closely parallels a description of dogs in the second family bestiary; the dog stands near the corpse of its master and "with mournful plaint, bewailed the fate of his master.  As it happened, he who committed the murder ventured into the circle of spectators… Thereupon, the dog, its cries of grief set briefly aside, took up the arms of revenge, and seized and held the man" (147).  In Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Lancelot sees "lye dede a knyght that was a semely man, and that brachette lycked his woundis" (1.278). While this could imply familiarity with the bestiary tradition, Willene Clark notes that the story is Aesopic in origin (147n140).  It is similar, however, to an episode Malory's "Boke of Syr Trystrams de Lyones," in which Tristan's loyal brachet recognizes the sick (and disguised) Sir Tristran (2.501-02).  Both Lancelot and Tristan's encounters, then, likely draw on familiar cultural understandings of dogs' natural loyalty.
 
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