Back to top



Creature Background Essay Author: Kara L. McShane
Boars are described in the bestiary tradition as fierce creatures (152), though no moral is prescribed to them.  While boars serve several functions in medieval Arthuriana, the ferocity ascribed to them in the bestiaries is a consistent element of their appearances in Arthurian works.

Boars appear most frequently in hunts, and, often, they injure even the best knights of the court. In the Prose Lancelot, Lancelot is exiled from court by Guinevere and loses his mind.  Though a hermit cares for him, Lancelot leaves the hermit's home and pursues a boar; he is gravely injured in the hunt.  He is found by another hermit and brought to King Pelles's court, where he is healed.  This adventure leads to the restoration of his sanity (3.332-3), so the boar wound is essential to the rest of the romance's plot.  This story is retold in the Post-Vulgate Merlin Continuation (5.68). In Malory's "Book of Sir Tristrem de Lyones," Lancelot pursues a boar and kills it, though he is injured in the thigh before he can chop off the boar's head; as in the Prose Lancelot, he is brought to King Pelles's court to recover and is recognized there (2.821-24).  These wounds are essential to the plot, but it is interesting to observe that boars are fierce enough to injure one of Arthur's greatest knights.

A boar similarly injures Tristran in Beroul's version of the Tristran story, but the effect of the wound is different.  Beroul includes an episode in which Mark and a dwarf attempt to catch Tristran going to Iseult's bed by placing flour between their beds, so Tristran's steps would be seen if he tries to join her in bed.  Tristran...

Read More