Morgan le Fay and the Cat
Cath Palug or Kapalu, the giant cat that began its legendary life in early Welsh texts, became, eventually, a friend and ally of Morgan le Fay. In the 12th century romance of the French hero Guillaume au Court Nez or Guillaume d’Orange (based on the historical Carolingian knight Guillaume de Gellone or Guillaume d’Aquitaine), Morgan le Fay, the fairy queen, and her sister, Marrion, invite the Saracen knight Renoart to Avalon, where Arthur and Morgan rule as king and queen. There Renoart encounters a monstrous cat named Kapalu and is ordered by Arthur to fight the creature. But during the duel, it is revealed that Kapalu is in fact a handsome knight placed under an enchantment by Morgan and her fairies. In the end, all’s well that ends well, and Kapalu and Renoart embrace as comrades-in-arms with Morgan and Arthur’s blessing.
As Kapalu in the 13th century romance La Bataille Loquifer, the fearsome giant cat is a servant of Morgan. As in the romance of Guillaume au Court Nez, Morgan is the magical queen of the Isle of Avalon, where she and Arthur rule together. Renoart falls in love with Morgan and has a son with her, Corbon, described as “a very devil, who does nothing but evil.” When Renouart eventually betrays and abandons her, Morgan sends Kapalu to pursue and kill him. Kapalu goes after Renoart across the ocean and is able to sink Renoart’s ship, but the shipwrecked knight is rescued by sirens, sea nymphs whose singing lured sailors to their deaths. It has to be said that this is a strange and somewhat illogical outcome when taking into account that Morgan herself is a sea goddess – indeed, a whole class of water fairies, the Mari-Morgans of Brittany, are named after her – and it would make more sense for the sirens to be on her side. Still, the story shows that Morgan, perhaps the most famous witch in legend, has a truly fabulous and loyal familiar in Kapalu.
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