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Origin of the name CHAPALU.
Etymology of the name CHAPALU.
Meaning of the baby name CHAPALU.


CHAPALU.  In Arthurian legend, the name of a monster part fish and part cat.  See Cath Palug.

    "In the Merlin we are told how King Arthur, after having conquered the Romans, instead of pushing on as far as Rome and renewing the glory of Berlinus and Brennus, followed the counsel of the prophet, and turned his attention towards freeing Gaul from a monster which spread terror in all the country about Lake Losanne.  This monster, this demon, was in fact nothing more than a simple cat, but the battle which the King sustained against him turned out to be more difficult and fierce than the battle with the giant ravisher of the niece of Hoel, Count of Brittany.
    "The battle of Arthur against the cat is described not only in the prose Merlin, but also in other texts.  Thus, as G. Paris has lately shown, it is referred to in a fragment of a German poem of the twelfth century, evidently drawn from a French source, which the editor has called Manuel und Amande, from the name of the chief characters.  The poet, after eulogizing warmly and in detail the valour of Arthur, apparently goes on to narrate his death, and tells us how the occasion of it had been a monster, which was a fish and at the same time had the form of a cat.  I say apparently, because the poem is quite obscure, and some verses are lacking.
This same legend of the death of the valiant British sovereign in consequence of a struggle with a fish-cat (gatto-pesce) is mentioned secondly by a Norman poet, who, however, animated by strong sympathy for England, is indignant at the story, and repudiates it as a fable invented by the French to throw ridicule on the beloved hero of Britain.  The verses of André de Coutances have likewise been referred to by Paris, but they are worthy of being quoted entire—

"Il ont dit que riens n'a valu,
Et done à Arflet n'a chalu
Que boté fu par Capalu
Li reis Artu en la palu;

Et que le chat l'ocist de guerre,
Puis passa outre en Engleterre,
E ne fu pas lenz de conquerre,
Ainz porta corone en la terre,

E fu sire de la contrée.
Où ont itel fable trovée?
Mençonge est, Dex le sot, provée
Onc greignor ne fu encontrée."

    "Paris seems inclined to believe that Capalu is the name of the portentous cat.  If such be the case, he concludes, we have here the monster of the same name which appears in the Bataille Loquifer, and which has precisely the head of a cat, the feet of a dragon, the body of a horse, and the tail of a lion.
    "This identification of the cat of Losanne with Capalu, or Chapalu, which, however, Paris does not insist on strongly, raises in my opinion difficulties which are, or which seem to me to be, insurmountable.  I believe, indeed, that Andr
é de Coutances, in the verses which I have quoted, alludes not to one but to two stories, which if they were not invented by the French, as he seems to believe, were transformed and altered by them so as to ridicule the inhabitants of England by abasing Arthur.  We have to do, then, with two adventures of Arthur, entirely independent of each other; with two battles undertaken against two different monsters, battles which had, however, the same disastrous results for the sovereign of Britain, since in the struggle with Chapalu he was worsted and was drowned in a marsh, and in that with the cat he lost his life.  And that this is really the state of affairs, will become evident when we come to verify the difference between Chapalu and the cat of Losanne.
    "If, as Paris saw clearly, the former is to be identified with the Chapalu of the Bataille Loquifer, it belongs to the category of fantastic monsters which result from the gathering together of members taken from various animals
—to the family, that is, at the head of which is the chimaera.  But the Cat of Losanne is something quite different.  It is neither more nor less than a cat, but a cat  which has attained dimensions far beyond those of ordinary cats, and is endowed with an extraordinary strength and a frightful ferocity.  But how and why?  We find this how and why described in the most satisfactory manner in a passage of Tristan de Nanteuil, in which the poet is pleased to explain to his hearers the superhuman strength which his hero possessed, and that not less wondrous strength with which the hind was endowed that had nourished him with her milk—

"Nourris furent d'un lait qui fut de tel maistrie,
D'une seraine fut, sy com l'istoire crie.
Il est de tel vertu et de tel seignorie
Que se beste en a beu elle devient fournye,
Si grande et si poissant, nel tenés [à folye],
Que nul ne dure à lui, tant ait chevallerie.
Artus le nous aprouve, qui taut ot baronnye,
Car au temps qu'i regna, pour voir le vous affie,
Se combata au chat qu'alecta en sa vie
Du let d'une seraine qui en mer fut peschie;
Mès le chat devint tel, ne vous mentiray mye,
Que nuls homs ne duroit en la soye partie
Qu'i ne meist affin, à duel et à hachie.
Artus le conquesta par sa bachelerie,
Mais ains l'acheta cher, sy con l'istoire crye."

    "This passage from Tristan de Nanteuil is, then, of great interest for the solution of our little problem.  It enables us, in fact, to dispel every doubt concerning the nature of the animal under whose claws perished the most valiant of kings, if we believe the legend preserved by the author of Manuel und Amande and indignantly repudiated by André de Coutances.  The multiform Chapalu of the Bataille Loquifer has no connection with this monstrous cat, which a fisherman has thoughtlessly nourished with the milk of a siren.  In the second place the author of Tristan calls our attention to the fact that the primitive legend of Arthur and the Cat is quite different from that narrated in the Merlin, where the appearance of the demon cat is a visitation of the wrath of God, who wishes to punish a fisherman who had failed to fulfil his vow—a sufficiently heavy penalty for a rather light offence!
    "That a British or French fisherman should find a siren in his nets will not surprise anyone who remembers how the classic temptresses of Ulysses had preserved their habit of alluring seamen, even in the Middle Ages.  Gervase of Tilbury declares that they often appeared in the British Sea.  But neither Gervase nor other writers consulted by me say that the milk of the sirens had such prodigious virtue as is attributed to them in the story of the cat and of the hind who nursed Tristan.  Perhaps others better versed than I in Bestiaries will succeed in finding some reference to the subject." (Merlin, Wheatley, v.2, 1899)


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