Questing Beast: The Hybrid of Death #folklore

I first came across the Questing Beast in BBC’s Merlin when it bit Arthur. As it is an Arthurian figure, that is where we need to look to learn more: Arthurian myth.

Questing Beast. Image credit.


King Arthur Tales of the Round Table Edited by Andrew Lang Illustrated by H. J. Ford [1902]


He raised his head to look, and, coming towards him, saw a beast so strange that its like was not to be found throughout his kingdom. It went straight to the well and drank, making as it did so the noise of many hounds baying, and when it had drunk its fill the beast went its way.

The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan

questing beast (Beast Glatisant) Arthurian figure. This monstrous but unexplained hybrid combined the bodies of serpent, deer, and leopard. Although it had only four legs, the sound of 30 hooves was heard whenever it ran. A knight pursued it endlessly, perhaps because it was really human, a boy transformed to animal shape by the horror of seeing his mother torn apart by wild dogs.

*More can be read in the book.

Questing Beast. Image credit.

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlín Matthews

In Arthurian legend, the Questing Beast, also known as Glatisant, is a hybrid creature with the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the hindquarters of a lion and the feet of a hart (stag). From its stomach came the sound of 40 couples of hounds hunting. Its origin comes from a dark tale of incest in which a woman who sleeps with her brother, gives birth to this strange creature and is afterwards torn apart by dogs.

*More can be read in the book.

A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

A hybrid creature of British Arthurian legend, said to have the torso of a leopard, the hindquarters of a lion, the head of a snake, and the feet of a stag. Other descriptions have included iron-like scales and prodigious amounts of slime. The rumblings of its stomach sound like the baying of 40 hunting hounds. The Beast perpetually seeks fresh water to quench its unbearable thirst, but whenever it drinks, the water is fouled by its poisonous saliva. Said to have been begotten by the Devil with a princess who accused her brother of rape after he rejected her advances, it is a symbol of incest and anarchy.

*More can be read in the book.

Questing Beast. Image credit.

Further Reading:

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

The Questing Beast, or the Beast Glatisant (Barking Beast), is a creature from Arthurian legend and the subject of several quests by famous knights.

In medieval literature, the Questing Beast appears to a young King Arthur after his affair with Morgause. She turned out to be his half-sister, though he didn’t know it at the time of the incestuous act that resulted in Mordred (who, of course, destroys the kingdom in the end). King Pellinore then confides to Arthur that it is his family’s responsibility to destroy the Beast. Merlin then discloses that the Beast was born from a princess who lusted after her brother who wasn’t interested in her, slept with a demon who promised she’d get what she wants if she accuses her brother of rape, but the brother is then torn apart by hounds, and she then gives birth to a monster that makes the same sound as the hounds that tore her brother apart. Eventually, Sir Percival, Sir Palamedes and Sir Galahad chases the Beast into a lake and Sir Palamedes slays the Beast. In this way, the Beast’s story is a symbol of the incest, violence and chaos that destroys Arthur’s kingdom.

The original depiction of the Questing Beast is that of a beautiful pure white creature the size of a fox. The sound coming from it was supposedly its offspring tearing it apart from the inside. This changed at some point to the unworldly appearance so well-known to modern audiences: the head of a snake, body of a leopard, haunches of a lion, and the feet of a hart. Its name comes from the sound that comes from its belly, that of a pack of hounds barking and yelping.

The Questing Beast is only quiet when it drinks, but while quenching its unbearable thirst, its poisonous saliva fouls the water for all who would follow.

Questing Beast. Image credit.

Questing Beast in Modern Culture

A Book

On a world far far away, where cute things eat computers and the sky is emerald green, a small team of scientists struggles to save the planet and their own careers by mixing genetic engineering and Arthurian legend. Too bad they had forgotten the first rule of planet exploration: Nature always has the last laugh.

Check it out on Goodreads.

In BBC’s Merlin

Sharp teeth of the Questing Beast. Image credit.
Questing Beast running. Image credit.

The Questing Beast was a creature of enormous strength and powerful magic. It had the body of leopard, which allowed it to run at surprisingly high speeds, and the head of a cobra. Its venomous bite was said to carry the magic of life and death itself, and as such meant certain death.

The Questing Beast

Questing Beast in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Questing Beast

The Questing Beast, or the Beast Glatisant (Barking Beast), has the head and neck of a rinkhals, body and speed of a cheetah, and the sound that comes from them is closer to the laughter and groaning of spotted hyenas than the fabled braying hounds.
It can spit its venom at its quarry which then burns through them without a cure, death following swiftly. Its bite is also deadly.
The Questing Beast only appears when things are out of balance, whether Nature or Magic. It cannot be killed. It is there to bring back balance by killing the source of the imbalance.

Translation of Questing Beast in Afrikaans: Keffende Kreatuur

Cheetah. Image credit. Learn more here.
Rinkhals. Image credit. Learn more here.
Spotted hyena. Image credit. Learn more here.

See it in action:

Workers of Death (Origin of the Fae #5)

Have you heard of the Questing Beast before? Any folklore about the Questing Beast you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

3 thoughts on “Questing Beast: The Hybrid of Death #folklore”

  1. I love how there’s so many different versions of how the creature might look. I wonder if there was ever a creature that actually resembled this one. Cool bit of lore.

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