Thursday, October 7, 2010

"The Questing Beast"

pencil, then digital.

The questing beast is a creature from Arthurian mythology. I'm currently reading Le Morte D'Arthur, and just finished the passage featuring this creature.

The description in the text is extremely vague, however there are other versions of the tale that give more visual cues. From these, it seems to be a typical case of fanciful elaborations of real-world animals, in this case: the giraffe (also known as the "cameleopard" in Medieval times).

The questing beast is described as having the head and neck of a serpent, the body of a leopard, the haunches of a lion and the feet of a hart. Which would make sense if you were trying to explain what a "giraffe" was to the folks back in Europe.

The name itself comes from the description common to all versions of Arthurian legend, which describe the creature as constantly emitting a noise like of a pack of hunting ("questing") dogs. So.. fill a giraffe full of yelping beagles and foxhounds, and there you go.

It appears after Arthur has a troubling dream about the fall of his Kingdom at the hands of his incestuously conceived son, and so the questing beast is thought to be a bad omen: a symbol of incest and its negative consequences.

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