Wednesday, November 03, 2010

And werewolf lays for all

by J J Cohen

I am grateful to Noah Guynn of UC-Davis for directing my attention to the Liverpool Online Series: Critical Editions of French Texts. I've just downloaded the free PDF for Amanda Hopkins' edition of the werewolf lays Melion and Biclarel. Hopkins provides both the French and a modern English translation, as well as quite a full introduction ... so upon Noah's suggestion I will likely work these lays into my spring graduate seminar, and do an entire class on werewolf narratives.

Thanks, Noah!


Anonymous said...

I actually taught an entire course on the werewolf renaissance (12th-14th cs) last year. My class lovingly called themselves The Wolfpack. We used the Hopkins text, which is a decent translation and has a good intro. If you want some gore, though, I highly recommend Arthur and Gorlagon!


Karl Steel said...

Good stuff. I'll definitely use these in my animals seminar next Spring, and maybe in my undergrad class too (where I also might use, again, the same TEAMS Middle English Breton Lays volume that's Jeffrey's using in his grad course).

Incidentally, long-time readers of ITM might remember my post on Irish Wolves, where I made a number of mistakes about this poem on certain Irish men who turn themselves into wolves. I claim the poem is a paraphrase of material by Bishop Patrick of Dublin: this is a mistake, no doubt based on my misreading a French werewolf article years ago. Patrick is likely rendering Irish material into Latin, and it's definitely pre-Norman conquest (11th century).

Good articles on the topic include
Carey, John. "Werewolves in Medieval Ireland," Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 44 (2002): 37-72
Matthieu Boyd, 'Melion and the Wolves of Ireland,' Neophilologus 93 (2009):555–570

There are several better editions than the one I used in that post. The best is Aubrey Gwynn, ed. and trans. The Writings of Bishop Patrick: 1074-1084. Scriptores Latini Hiberniae 1. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1955. Here is his edition (with the glosses from certain mss) and his translation, which I follow for the most part:

Karl Steel said...

Sunt homines quidam Scottorum gentis habentes
Miram naturam maiorum ab origine ductam,
Qua cito quando uolunt ipsos se uertere possunt
uel more
Nequiter in formas lacerantum dente luporum.
Unde uidentur oues occidere sepe gemntes: (100)
Sed cum clamor eos hominum seu cursus eorum
i. ut ueri lupi
Fustibus aut armis terret, fugiendo recurrunt.
i. propria
Cum tamen hec faciunt, sua corpora uera relinquunt
i. suis mulieribus
Atque suis mandant ne quisduam mouerit illa.
i. ut moueantur ad propria corpora
Si sic eueniat, nec ad illa redire ualebunt.
Si quid eos ledat, penetrent si uulnera queque,
i. a persequentibus eos
Uere in corporibus semper cernuntur eorum.
i. ouium quas deuorant
Sic caro cruda herens in ueri corporis ore
Cernitur a sociis: quod nos miramur et omnes. (p. 62, from Versus sancti Patricii episcopi, de mirabilibus Hibernie)

Section XVI, Of Men Who Turns Themselves into Wolves

There are some men of the Scottish race
Who have this wondrous nature from ancestry and birth:
Whensoever they will, they can speedily turn themselves
Into the form of wolves and rend flesh with wicked teeth:
Often are they seen slaying sheep that moan in pain. (100)
But when men raise the hue and cry,
Or scare them with staves and swords, they take flight like true wolves.
But whilst they act thus, they leave their true bodies
And give orders to their women not to move them:
If this happens, they can no longer return to them. (105)
If any man harm them or any wound pierce their flesh,
The wounds can be plainly seen in their own bodies:
Thus their companions can see the raw flesh in the jaws
Of their true body: and we all wonder at the sight.

For a similar version, representing the kind of source that Bishop Patrick likely drew upon, see the Middle Irish De Íngantaib Érenn (On the Wonders of Ireland)

"There are certain people in Ireland, i.e., the descedants of Lnigne[ch] Faelad in Ossory, who go in the shapes of wolves when it pleases them, and they kill livestock in the manner of wolves. ANd they leave their own bodies. When they go into the shapes of wolves, they tell their households not to move their bodies, for if they are moved they will not be able to come back into their bodies. And if they are wounded [while] outside, those wounds will be in their bodies at home; and the raw meat which they devoured outside will be in their teeth" (trans. p. 54 in Carey)

Patrick's poem and others like it are clearly about the practice of díberg, the brigandage of a gang of young men (fían) prior to receiving their inheritance. My interest in it, however, has to do with the poem's final line, since where we would expect moral judgment we instead get wonder.

Amanda Hopkins said...

Thank you all for the kind words about my edition/translation. It's great to know it's being used and being useful.

Since Renee has mentioned the gory Arthur and Gorlagon, you may also be interested in my essay on the text: "Why Arthur at All? The Dubious Arthuricity of Arthur and Gorlagon" (in Arthurian Literature XXVI, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and David F. Johnson. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer (2009), pp. 77-95), which focusses on bestiality…