The Questing Beast

The Questing Beast

The Questing Beast

Symbols and Motifs, CreaturesName Variants: Beste Glatissant, Glatysaunt BeastBackground Essay Author: Kara L. McShane
The Questing Beast (also called the Bizarre Beast or the Beste Glatisant) appears briefly in French and English medieval texts. In French, it appears in three thirteenth-century texts – the Prose Tristan, Perlesvaus, and the Post-Vulgate cycle.1 In English, it appears in Malory’s fifteenth-century Morte D'Arthur. The creature's name comes not entirely from its function (as the object of quests) but from the monstrous barking noise it makes. In French and in Middle English, glatisant means barking or baying, while in Middle English, the verb questen means to bark as well as to hunt. This double meaning of the English word makes the Questing Beast's name a pun; it is the barking beast for which knights hunt. In both Malory and the Post-Vulgate, the noise it produces is similarly described as "lyke unto the questyng of thirty coupyl houndes, but all the whyle the beest dranke there was no noyse in the bestes bealy" (Malory 42). In several accounts of the Questing Beast, this noise is caused quite literally by the barking of dogs inside the beast's belly (Perlesvaus 154, Lancelot-Grail 5.284). Though the medieval texts provide various physical descriptions of the Questing Beast, the barking or yelping noise that emerges from its insides is consistently used to describe the creature.

The Questing Beast's physical form differs radically depending on the text in question. In Perlesvaus, the Questing Beast appears when Perlesvaus (commonly called Perceval in English and most other French texts) sets out in search of the Grail, and it is "as white as new fallen snow, bigger than a hare but smaller than a fox" (154). However, despite the beast's

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