Hybrids

Hybrids

CreaturesBackground Essay Author: Kara L. McShane
Hybrid creatures are particularly fascinating in light of new scholarly attention on monsters and monstrosity.  While many of these creatures fall into other categories, (such as griffins) or appear throughout medieval Arthuriana (such as the Questing Beast), other hybrids appear only once.  Several notable ones are considered here.
 
In the Alliterative Morte Arthure, the giant of Mont Saint-Michel is described as an amalgamation of animals, monstrous through his hybridity.  He snarls like a greyhound, has skin like a frog, is flat mouthed like a flounder, has spots like a boar, and is fat like a pig (in addition to being five fathoms long) (ll. 1074-1103).  The giant's monstrosity is not limited to this physical description; he has tubs full of Christian children roasting.  Arthur, of course, kills him in battle.  The lengthy description of this monstrous giant is not unlike descriptions of loathly hags common in other medieval Arthurian works, yet here it is reflective of the cannibal giant's threatening (and inhuman) true nature rather than being an externally imposed punishment.
 
However, it would be an oversimplification to read all hybrids in medieval Arthurian texts as monstrous.  In the Middle English Ywain and Gawain, Colgrevance encounters many animals when he goes forth into a fair forest, including lions, bears, bulls, boars, and...

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