Monday, October 13, 2008


This is the part of a ceremony to create a knight, to tie a sword belt on the knight was part of the ceremony. Although, at some point before in the ceremony fealty was previously made by placing a hand on a bible or saints relic, this image is of the belt tying part of the ceremony. It symbolizes the knight’s membership of the "fighting class"

Losing fairies in Le Bel Inconnu and Bataille Loquifer

Composed by Renaut de Beaujeu during the late twelfth century and early thirteenth century, Le Bel Inconnu, or the Fair Unknown, is a 6266-line octosyllabic novel about the account of Fair Esmerée's liberation. She is captured and changed into a snake by two sorcerers, and only a kiss from a brave knight can break the spell. Throughout his adventures to save Princess Esmérée, Fair Unknown, sent by King Arthur, arrives at a magical land called the Golden Island governed by a fairy named Blanches Mains [White Hands]. Fair Unknown is struggling between his love for Princess Fair Esmerée and for fairy White Hands. The fairy clearly dominates the novel and holds the power of the outcome of the story despite the protagonist's wedding to Fair Esmérée.

We observe striking resemblances in the Cycle of Guillaume. Indeed, Bataille Loquifer [Battle of Loquifer], an anonymous account of the thirteenth century, is the story of Rainouard who is looking for his son Maillefer. Ordered by King Arthur, three fairies capture Rainouard and he arrives at Avalon, a magical kingdom. Like Fair Unknown who liberates an enchanted creature, Rainouard saves Chapalu who has been transformed into an enormous and monstrous cat. [1] Only the blood of a brave knight can break the spell. Similar to our hero in the Golden Island, Rainouard falls in love with a fairy, but decides to leave Paradise to find his son and ultimately his wife, Aélis. In both tales, the fairies, despite their magical powers, do not succeed in keeping the knights.

One may question why the authors of these two accounts decided to give power to fairy women and why the supernatural prevails if the outcomes are not a winning situation for the magical world.



The hero of the French La Bataille de Loquifer, who also appears in the Chanson de Guillaume and Aliscans. The texts are part of the non-Arthurian William of Orange Cycle, written in France in the thirteenth century. Loquifer contains a scene in which Renoart, is transported by Morgan le Fay to the Island of Avalon, of which Arthur is king. He has a tryst with Morgan which produces a son named Corbon. [Bataille]

Marsion [Marrion]

In the La Bataille de Loquifer, a sister of Morgan le Fay. She helped her sister bring the hero Renoart to the Isle of Avalon. [Bataille]

Corbon [Corbans]

In the French romance La Bataille de Loquifer, the illegitimate son of the hero Renoart and Morgan le Fay. [Bataille]

[1] In the Old French poem, Bataille Loquifer, which has many Celtic features, there appears a monster with cat-head, Chapalu (from Cymric cath, ‘cat,' and penlle, ‘head,' properly ‘headstead,' lle from older *lo).

Cath Palug

Usually "Palug's Cat", but also assumed to mean "clawing cat", palug being from the root pal, meaning "clawing, scratching."

The animal Cath Palug is described as a gigantic cat raised on the isle of Anglesey by the sons of Palug (presumably a local king). According to the Welsh Triads, Cath Palug was born of the sow Hen Wen when she was chased across Britain by her owner, Coll ap Collfrewy. Cath Palug was not born on Anglesey, but "at Llanfair in Arfon under the Black Rock... and the Powerful Swineherd threw it from the Rock into the sea." The cat then swam ashore at Anglesey and was adopted by the sons of Palug. The cat's siblings are a wolf and an eagle, and all three are described as bringing a "great oppression" to Britain. According to the poem "Pa Gwr," Cei went to Anglesey to fight lions, and here he was able to kill Cath Palug. Unfortunately, the poem is unfinished, so we never hear the full tale.

Cath Palug has continental versions, such as the giant cat that Arthur fought near Lake Bourget, according to one French romance. Reportedly, the battle's memory lives on in the landscape's names: Col du Chat (cat's neck), Dent du Chat (cat's tooth) and Mont du Chat (cat's mountain). Here, the animal is called Capalu.

Geoffrey Ashe argued that Cath Palug was actually a leopard kept as a pet by a chieftain on Anglesey. However, I'm not sure what he bases that information on. Presumably he means a black leopard, as the cat is never described as speckled.

Big cats are not indigenous to Britain, despite persistant sightings of large, black cats, particularly in Wales, Scotland, and the Midlands. They are often described as panthers, pumas, leopards or lynxes (sp?). Though I do not claim that there is a connection between the phantom "big cats" of Britain and the Cath Palug, one does wonder if there is a connection, if Cath Palug is perhaps the earliest "sighting" of these big cats. Oddly, I've yet to see anyone make the connection between the supposed "big cats" and the story of Cath Palug. At any rate, the "big cats" of Britain still fall into the realm of cryptozoology; but then, so did the giant squid until recently. See also the Alien Big Cat.

The figure of Cath Palug likely inspired the animal Llyan, the giant cat in The Castle of Llyr, one of the books in the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. In that book, Llyan is given a magic potion which causes the oridinarly feral cat to grow to the size of a horse. She terrorizes the forests on Mona (modelled on Anglesey). She becomes the companion of the bard Fflewddur Fflam after his music tames her.


"The Three Powerful Swineherds of the Island of Britain" Trioedd Ynys Prydain. ed. Rachel Bromwich. Cardiff: UWP, 1964.

"Pa Gwr" The Black Book of Carmarthen, ca. 1225. from The Four Ancient Books of Wales, ed. W.F. Skene. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1868.


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