NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Ywaine’s Lion

D.D.R. Owen suggests that this noble beast may have been derived from the lion befriended by Androcles. It seems remarkably humanesque in its intelligence: even though Ywaine must sever a piece of its tail in saving it from the serpent, it remains his loyal helper for life; at one point, supposing Ywaine dead, it almost kills itself by deliberately running on Ywaine’s sword.

The lion’s size looks a little problematical. Early on their first night together, it kills a deer and finishes off the whole creature except for Ywaine’s single piece of loin. Later, when the lion has been wounded in battle with Laudine’s seneschal and his brothers, Ywaine lines his shield with bracken and moss, lays the beast on it at length, and carries him on his horse, which may more nearly suggest the size of a large hound.

It has apparently recovered completely by the time Ywaine must battle the giant demons of Pesme Avanture: at their insistence, he shuts it away in a small room, but, driven frantic by the sounds of fighting, it breaks out and accounts for one of the pair, enabling Ywaine to finish the other.

Ywaine and the lion make formidable fighting team. It is as well for Gawaine, even if it does seem a bit conventient for the author of the romance, that Ywaine and the younger daughter of the lord of Noire Espine have the foresight to slip away and leave the loyal beast where they have spent the night, so that the man can fight this one battle alone, the lion catching up only after it is finished.