, Volume 93, Issue 4, pp 555–570 | Cite as

Melion and the Wolves of Ireland

  • Matthieu BoydEmail author


When the werewolf protagonist of the Old French lay of Melion recruits a band of other wolves in order to lay waste to Ireland, this activity—unique to Melion—is informed by the medieval Irish view of díberg ‹(wolf-like) brigandage’. These aspects of Melion’s setting and plot are major developments in the medieval werewolf tale most famously attested in Marie de France’s Bisclavret. The case of Melion has profound implications for understanding Celtic influence on Francophone literature in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.


Arthurian Bisclavret Ireland Lai/lay Melion Werewolf/werewolves 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



I am grateful to Prof. Tomás Ó Cathasaigh (Harvard University), Prof. Catherine McKenna (Harvard University), Prof. Keith Busby (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Aled Llion Jones (Harvard University), Margaret Harrison (Harvard University), and the reviewers for Neophilologus, who made valuable comments on drafts of this article.


  1. Almqvist, B., Ó Catháin, S., & Ó Héalaí, P. (Eds.). (1987). Fiannaíocht: Essays on the Fenian tradition of Ireland and Scotland. Dublin: Folklore of Ireland Society.Google Scholar
  2. Bergin, O., & Best, R. I. (Eds., tr.). (1937). Tochmarc Étaíne. Ériu 12, 137–196.Google Scholar
  3. Berry, H. R. (1907). Statutes and ordinances and acts of the Parliament of Ireland, King John to Henry V. Dublin.Google Scholar
  4. Bliss, A. (1984). Language and literature. In J. Lydon (Ed.), The English in medieval Ireland (pp. 27–45). Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.Google Scholar
  5. Boyd, M. (2008). The ring, the sword, the fancy dress, and the posthumous child: Background to the element of heroic biography in Marie de France’s Yonec. Romance Quarterly, 55.3, 205–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brereton, G. A. (1950). A thirteenth-century list of French lays and other narrative poems. Modern Language Review, 45, 40–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brewer, J. S., et al. (Eds.). (1861–1891). Giraldi Cambrensis Opera. (Vols. 8). London: Rolls Series.Google Scholar
  8. Bruckner, M., & Burgess, G. S. (2006). Arthur in the narrative lay. In G. S. Burgess & K. Pratt (Eds.), The Arthur of the French: The Arthurian legend in medieval French and Occitan literature (pp.␣186–214). Cardiff: University of Wales Press.Google Scholar
  9. Burgess, G. S., (1977). (supplement no. 1, 1986; supplement no. 2, 1997). Marie de France: An analytical bibliography. Research bibliographies and checklists 21. London: Grant and Cutler.Google Scholar
  10. Burgess, G. S., & Busby, K. (tr.). (1999). The Lais of Marie de France. New York: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  11. Burgess, G. S., & Brook, L. C. (Eds., tr.). (2007). With the collaboration of A. Hopkins for Melion. French Arthurian literature IV: Eleven Old French narrative lays. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer (Arthurian Archives IV).Google Scholar
  12. Busby, K. (2007). Merlin, Barnagoys, et les débuts du monde arthurien. In N. Koble (Ed.), Jeunesse et genèse du royaume arthurien: les suites romanesques du Merlin en prose. Actes du colloque des 27 et 28 avril 2007, école normale supérieure (Paris) (pp. 145–156). Orléans: Paradigme.Google Scholar
  13. Bynum, C. W. (1998). Metamorphosis, or Gerald and the Werewolf. Speculum 73.4, 987–1013. Rpt. in Bynum, Metamorphosis and Identity (pp. 77–111). 2001, New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  14. Campanile, E. (1979). Meaning and prehistory of Old Irish cú glas. Journal of Indo-European Studies, 7, 237–247.Google Scholar
  15. Carey, J. (2002). Werewolves in Medieval Ireland. CMCS [=Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, formerly Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies], 44 (Winter 2002), pp. 37–72.Google Scholar
  16. Carey, J. (2007). Ireland and the Grail. Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications.Google Scholar
  17. Charles-Edwards, T. M. (1993). Early Irish and Welsh kinship. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Cleary, T. (tr.). (2004). The Counsels of Cormac: An ancient Irish guide to leadership. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  19. Cosgrove, A. (Ed.). (1987). A new history of Ireland. Volume II: Medieval Ireland 1169–1534. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Daniëlli, S. (2007). Wulf, min wulf: An eclectic analysis of the wolf-man. Neophilologus, 91, 505–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Davies, R. R. (1990). Domination and conquest: The experience of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, 1100–1300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Davies, R. R. (2000). The first English empire: Power and identities in the British Isles 1093–1343. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Dooley, A., & Roe, H. (tr.). (1999). Acallam na Senórach/Tales of the elders of Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Duby, G. (1964). “Dans la France du Nord-Ouest au XIIe siècle: les ‹jeunes’ dans la société aristocratique”, Annales, Economies-Sociétés-Civilisations 19, 835–846. Tr. F. L. Cheyette, In Lordship and Community in Medieval Europe: Selected Readings (Huntington, NY: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1975), 198–209; tr. Cynthia Postan, in Duby 1978: 112–122.Google Scholar
  25. Duby, G., & Postan, C. (tr.). (1978). The Chivalrous society. Berkeley: The University of California Press.Google Scholar
  26. Duffy, S. (1997). Ireland in the Middle Ages. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  27. Faletra, M. (2006). Chivalric identity at the frontier: Marie’s Welsh Lais, Le Cygne (2006, Fall), 27–44.Google Scholar
  28. Flanagan, M. T. (1989). Irish society, Anglo-Norman settlers, Angevin kingship: Interactions in Ireland in the late twelfth century. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  29. Foerster, W. (Ed.). (1908–1915). Les Mervelles de Rigomer von Jehan, altfranzösischer Artusroman des XIII. Jahrhunderts nach der einzigen Aumale-handschrift in Chantilly (Vols. 2). Dresden: die Gesellschaft für romanische Literatur.Google Scholar
  30. Frame, R. (1998). Ireland and Britain 1170–1450. London/Rio Grande, OH: The Hambledon Press.Google Scholar
  31. Gantz, J. (tr.). (1981). Early Irish myths and sagas. New York: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  32. Gerstein, M. R. (1974). Germanic warg: The outlaw as werewolf. In G. J. Larson (Ed.), Myth in Indo-European antiquity (pp. 131–156). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  33. Gwynn, A. (Ed., tr.). (1955). The writings of Bishop Patrick, 1074–1084. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.Google Scholar
  34. Hamp, E. P. (1996). FianL. Studia Celtica Japonica, 8, 87–95.Google Scholar
  35. Hopkins, A. (2003). Bisclavret to Biclarel via Melion and Bisclaret: The development of a misogynist lai. In B. K. Altmann, & C. W. Carroll (Eds.), The Court Reconvenes: Courtly Literature across the Disciplines. Selected Papers from the Ninth Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society, University of British Columbia, 25–31 July 1998 (pp. 317–323). Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  36. Karkov, C. E. (2003). Tales of the ancients: Colonial werewolves and the mapping of postcolonial Ireland. In P. C. Ingham, & M. R. Warren (Eds.), Postcolonial moves: Medieval through modern (pp.␣93–109). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  37. Kelly, F. (1988). A guide to early Irish law. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.Google Scholar
  38. Kinoshita, S. (2004). “Colonial possessions: Wales and the Anglo-Norman imaginary in the Lais of Marie de France.” In A. Classen (Ed.), Discourses on love, marriage, and transgression in Medieval and Early Modern literature (Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies), 147–62. Reproduced as Ch. 4 of Kinoshita, Medieval boundaries: Rethinking difference in Old French literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  39. Kittredge, G. L. (1903). Arthur and Gorlagon. Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, 8, 149–275.Google Scholar
  40. Knott, E. (Ed.). (1936). Togail Bruidne Da Derga. Dublin: Stationery Office. Rpt. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 1975.Google Scholar
  41. Koch, J. & Carey, J. (Ed., tr.). (2003). The Celtic heroic age: Literary sources for ancient Celtic Europe and early Ireland and Wales (4th ed.). Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications.Google Scholar
  42. Lárusson, M. M. (Ed.). (1955). Konungs skuggsjá: Speculum regale. Reykjavík: H. F. Leiftur.Google Scholar
  43. Loomis, R. S. (Ed.). (1959). Arthurian literature in the Middle Ages: A collaborative history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Malone, K. (1928). Rose and cypress. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 43, 397–446.Google Scholar
  45. McCone, K. R. (1985). OIr. Olc, Luch- and I.E *wlk w os, *lúk w os ‹Wolf’. Ériu, 36, 175–176.Google Scholar
  46. McCone, K. R. (1986). Werewolves, cyclopes, díberga, and Fíanna: Juvenile delinquency in Early Ireland. CMCS [=Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, now Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies], 12 (Winter 1986), 1–22.Google Scholar
  47. McCone, K. R. (1987). Hund, Wolf, und Krieger bei den Indogermanen. In W. Meid (Ed.), Studien zum Indogermanischen Wortschatz. Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft 52 (pp. 101–154). Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft.Google Scholar
  48. Meyer, K. (1908–1911). The Irish Mirabilia in the Norse ‹Speculum Regale’, Ériu, 4, 1–16.Google Scholar
  49. Meyer, K. (Ed., tr.). (1909). The instructions of King Cormac mac Airt. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, & Co.Google Scholar
  50. Meyer, K. (Ed., tr.). (1910). Fianaigecht: being a collection of hitherto unedited Irish poems and tales relating to Finn and his Fiana, with an English translation. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis; London: Williams & Norgate.Google Scholar
  51. Mullally, E. (1988). Hiberno-Norman literature and its public. In J. Bradley (Ed.), Settlement and society in medieval Ireland: Studies presented to F. X. Martin (Kilkenny), pp. 327–343.Google Scholar
  52. Mullally, E. (Ed., tr.). (2002). The deeds of the Normans in Ireland/La Geste des Engleis en Yrlande. Dublin: Four Courts Press.Google Scholar
  53. Mullally, E. (2006). The Irish topography of two Arthurian romances: Durmart le Galois and Les Merveilles de Rigomer. In H. B. Clarke, & J. R. S. Phillips (Eds.), Ireland, England and the Continent in the Middle Ages and beyond: essays in memory of a turbulent friar, F. X. Martin, O.S.A. (pp. 88–104), Dublin: University College Dublin Press.Google Scholar
  54. Murray, K. S.-J. (2008). From Plato to Lancelot: A preface to Chrétien de Troyes. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Nagy, J. (1985). The wisdom of the outlaw: The boyhood deeds of Finn in Gaelic narrative tradition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  56. Ó Cathasaigh, T. (1986). Curse and satire. Éigse, 21, 10–15.Google Scholar
  57. Ó Cathasaigh, T. (1996). Gat and díberg in Togail Bruidne Da Derga. In A. Ahlqvist et al. (Eds.), Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum CVII: Celtica Helsingiensia. Proceedings from a Symposium on Celtic Studies (pp. 203–213), Helsinki/Helsingfors: Societas Scientarum Fennica.Google Scholar
  58. Ó Néill, P. (1997). The impact of the Norman invasion on Irish literature. Anglo-Norman Studies, 20, 171–185.Google Scholar
  59. O’Meara, J. J. (Ed.). (1948–1950). Giraldus Cambrensis in Topographia Hibernie: Text of the first recension. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 52, 113–177.Google Scholar
  60. O’Meara, J. J. (tr.). (1951). The first version of the Topography of Ireland by Giraldus Cambrensis. Dundalk: Dundalgan Press.Google Scholar
  61. O’Meara, J. J. (tr.). (1982). Gerald of Wales: The History and Topography of Ireland. London/New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  62. Orpen, G. H., & Duffy, S. (intro.). (2005). Ireland under the Normans 1169–1333. Dublin/Portland, OR: Four Courts Press. (First printing, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1911–1920).Google Scholar
  63. Otway-Ruthven, J. (1980). A history of medieval Ireland (2nd ed.). London: A. Benn.Google Scholar
  64. Reinhard, J., & Hull, V. (1936). Bran and Sceolang. Speculum, 11, 42–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sayers, W. (1982). Bisclavret in Marie de France: A reply. CMCS [=Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, now Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies], 4 (Winter 1982), 77–82.Google Scholar
  66. Sharpe, R. (1979). Hiberno-Latin laicus, Irish láech, and the devil’s men. Ériu, 30, 75–92.Google Scholar
  67. Stokes, W. (Ed.). (1900). Acallamh na Senórach. In W. Stokes & E. Windisch (Eds.), Irische Texte 4.1 (Leipzig: S. Hirzel), xiv + 1-438. Accessed via the Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT) at University College Cork. URL:
  68. Stokes, W. (Ed., tr.). (1901). The destruction of Dá Derga’s hostel. Revue Celtique 22, 9–61, 165–215, 282–329, and 390–437.Google Scholar
  69. Tobin, P. M. O’H. (Ed.). (1976). Les Lais anonymes des XII e et XIIIe siècles: édition critique de quelques lais bretons. Publications Romanes et Françaises 143. Geneva: Droz.Google Scholar
  70. Vesce, T. E. (Ed.). (1969a). Les Mervelles de Rigomer, Chantilly, Musée Condé MS. 472 (626). Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms. Unpubl. Diss. Fordham University, 1967.Google Scholar
  71. Vesce, T. E. (1969b). Celtic material in Les Mervelles de Rigomer. Romance Notes, 11, 640–646.Google Scholar
  72. Vesce, T. E. (1970). On identifying the Popelican(t). Mediaeval Studies, 32, 352–353.Google Scholar
  73. Vesce, T. E. (tr.). (1988). The Marvels of Rigomer (Les Mervelles de Rigomer). New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  74. Warnke, K. (Ed.). (1925). Die Lais der Marie de France (3rd Ed.). Halle: M. Niemeyer.Google Scholar
  75. West, M. (1997–1998). Aspects of díberg in the tale Togail Bruidne Da Derga. Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, 49–50, 950–964.Google Scholar
  76. Whittaker, W. J. (Ed.). (1895). Mirror of Justices (attributed to Andrew Horn). Publications of the Selden Society, 7. London: Bernard Quaritch.Google Scholar
  77. Zimmermann, G. D. (2001). The Irish storyteller. Dublin: Four Courts Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Celtic Languages and LiteraturesHarvard University, Barker CenterCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations