“Bisclavret”, is one of the twelve Lais of Marie de France written in the 12th century. Originally written in French, it tells the story of a werewolf who is trapped in lupine form by the treachery of his wife.
Bisclavret, a baron in Brittany who is well loved by the king, vanishes every week for three full days. No one in his household, not even his wife, knows where he goes. His wife finally begs him to tell her his secret and he explains that he is a werewolf. He also says that while in werewolf form he needs to hide his clothing in a safe place so he can return to human form. The baron’s wife is so shocked by this news that she tries to think of ways she can escape her husband. She no longer wants to “lie beside him anymore.” She conspires with a knight who has loved her for a long time. The following week, the baron’s wife sends the knight to steal her husband’s clothing. When her husband fails to return, she marries the knight. The baron’s people search for him but finally relent, feeling that their absentee ruler has left for good.
A year later, the king goes hunting and his dogs corner Bisclavret, now fixed in wolf form. As soon as he sees the king, Bisclavret runs to him to beg for mercy by taking the king’s stirrup and kissing his foot and leg. This behavior so astounds the king that he has his companions drive back the dogs and everyone marvels at the wolf’s nobility and gentleness. The king takes Bisclavret, still in wolf form, back to the castle to live with him.
The knight who had married Bisclavret’s wife is invited to the castle for a celebration along with all the other barons. As soon as Bisclavret sees the man he attacks him. The king calls to Bisclavret and threatens him with his staff. Because the wolf had never acted so violently before, all in the court think that the knight must somehow have wronged him. Soon after, the king visits the area where the baron used to live and brings the werewolf along with him. Bisclavret’s wife learns of the king’s arrival and takes many gifts for him. When Bisclavret sees his former wife, none can restrain him. He attacks her, tearing off her nose.
A wise man points out that the wolf had never acted so before and that this woman was the wife of the knight whom Bisclavret had recently attacked. The wise man also tells the king that this woman is the former wife of the missing baron. The king has the wife questioned under torture. She confesses all and yields up the stolen clothing. The king’s men put the clothing before the wolf, but he ignores it. The wise man advises them to take the wolf and the clothing into a bedchamber and let Bisclavret change in privacy. Bisclavret does so and when the king sees again his beloved baron, he runs to him and embraces him, giving him many kisses. The king restores Bisclavret’s lands to him and exiles the baroness and her knight. Many of the wife’s female posterity were afterwards born without noses and all of her children were “quite recognizable/ in face and appearance.”