Maida Vale

Medieval Romance

The Story of William and the Werewolf

12th century, Old French: 14th century Middle English alliterative translation, Library of King's College Cambridge.

They seemed more convincing as deer even than they had been before, as bears, the skins fitted them so perfectly!

While the two derlinges talked to-gadere, the werewolf an huge hert hade hunted riyt thider... – While William and Emelior were hiding from the colliers, the werewolf had been hunting a huge deer, a hart, and brought it down right beside their den. Then he went off and found a hind, and served it in the same manner, bringing it down, too, beside their den. And then he went away without a sound. William knew immediately what the wolf had in mind.

'Do you see what the werewolf has done?' he said. 'May Christ keep him from sorrow! Let’s take the skins off these animals and dress ourselves in them before going any further.'

William took the hart and Emelior the hind and they skinned them as quickly as they could; then each playfully dressed the other so that the skins were firm and tight, each sewn together so skilfully that the hide looked exactly as it had done upon the beast on which it had grown. – Better thei semed than to siyt, semliche hertes, than thei semed before, beres [bears] whan thei were – they seemed more convincing as deer even than they had been before as bears, the skins fitted them so perfectly!

Story fragment retold in Modern English from: Skeat, Walter W, 1867. The Romance of William of Palerne (The Romance of William and the Werewolf). Early English Text Society; reprinted 1996 for the EETS by Boydell and Brewer Limited, Woodbridge, Suffolk. Translation and retelling of lines 2568–95.

See for yourself

Anglo-Norman literature – Wikipedia

Chivalric romance – Wikipedia

Guillaume de Palerme – Wikipedia

14th century Middle English alliterative translation of The Romance of William of Palerne, edited by Walter Skeat, 1867, reprinted 1996, available through the Early English Text Society (EETS)

…or direct from Oxford University Press


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