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Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners

Posted May 23, 2011 to photo album "Dog + Man: From The Odyssey to Beginners"

In Beginners, the dog Arthur and the human Oliver create an emotional bond that echoes back all the way to Homer.

Arthur + Oliver
Argos + Odysseus
Peritas + Alexander the Great
Gelert + Llywelyn
Guinefort + his Knight
Donnchadh + Robert the Bruce
Urian + Cardinal Wolsey
Pompey + William the Silent
Luath + Robert Burns
Boatswain + Lord Byron
Fortune + Josephine
Lauro + Napoleon
Seaman + Meriwether Lewis
Flush + Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Greyfriars Bobby + John Gray
Balto + Gunnar Kaasen
Hachiko + Hidesaburo Ueno
Guinefort + his Knight

Guinefort + his Knight

De Supersticione, by inquisitor Stephen de Bourbon; from a Medieval illuminated manuscript, Modern rendition.

Pritchard was perhaps inspired by Guinefort, a greyhound who belonged to a knight who lived in a castle near Lyon, France, in the 12th century. The story has it that one day the knight went hunting, leaving his baby boy with his faithful dog Guinefort. When he returned he found his son’s cot overturned and Guinefort with blood dripping from his jaws. Thinking the baby had been eaten, he killed the dog only to hear the child begin crying, under the cot next to the body of a dead viper. The knight put the dog down a well, and made a shrine to Guinefort. Thus was born, St. Guinefort, the only non-human saint, though albeit one not recognized by the Catholic Church. Stephen de Bourbon, a 13th century chronicler of medieval heresies, writes: “The local peasants hearing of the dog's noble deed and innocent death, began to visit the place and honor the dog as a martyr in quest of help for their sicknesses and other needs. They were seduced and often cheated by the Devil …” For centuries the church sought to stamp out the cult of Guinefort, which persisted through the 1930s.