NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Questing Beast

Barking Beast, Beast Glatisant, Beast Glotisant, Beast Gratisanti, Beste Glatissant, Bestia Grattisante, Bizarre Beast, Glatissant Beast, Howling Beast

This beast or monster reappears frequently in French, Italian and Spanish romance. Malory describes it as

the strongeste beste ever he [Arthur] saw or herde of.

In Malory’s Book, the beast was pursued by Pellinor, also called Knight with the Strange Beast, in French romance and the rest of Malory by Palamedes, and in Spanish and Italian texts by Perceval.

This peculiar creature was the offspring of a mortal girl who lusted after her own brother. She was the daughter of King Hipomenes, who had slept with the Devil. Merlin, who revealed the story, says the devil persuaded her to accuse her brother of rape. Their father, Hipomenes, gave the order to kill his son by being torn apart by dogs. Shortly before his death, the brother said his sister would give birth to an abomination that would make the same sounds as the dogs that were to kill him.

Upon its birth most of the attending midwives perished, and the beast escaped into the forest. It is described as having the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the hindquarters of a lion (or leopard) and the feet of a hart. From its stomach came the sound of twenty or thirty hounds questing, that is, baying, thereby giving it its name. It was often pursued by scores of actual hounds. (A similar unnamed beast appears in Perlesvaus, but it is a Christ allegory rather than a demon.)

Somehow the quest to destroy the monster was related to the Grail Quest. Palamedes was known as the Knight of the Questing Beast. During the Grail Quest, it was chased at times by GalahadBorsYvain the Bastard, Perceval, GawainLancelot and Hector – all of whom fought with Palamedes over the right to pursue it. Despite Pellinore’s claim that only his kin could catch it, and despite Merlin’s prophecy that Perceval would kill it, the Questing Beast was finally slain by Palamedes at a lake later known as the Lake of the Beast. As its body sank into the waves, the water boiled.

The Questing Beast in Le Morte d’Arthur appears after King Arthur had an affair with his sister, Morgause (they were unaware of this), and she gave birth to Mordred. The Beast is seen as a symbol of the incest, chaos and violence which destroys Arthur’s kingdom.

Palamedes’ slaying of the Questing Beast appears in the Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal. Some authors, unfamiliar with this text, claim that no one ever caught or killed the monster.

The animal seems to have its origin in an allegorical creature, variously described with barking whelps inside her; this was seen by Percivale and mentioned by Gerbert and in Perlesvaus.

See also
Galtisant | The Legend of King Arthur

The term Glatisant is derived from the French word glapissant, which means ‘yelp’, ‘bark’.

Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470