by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Writing”

In Praise of Poodles

Posted 8 April 2010 in by Catriona

(Remember when I got distracted by the fact that King Arthur’s spear was called “Ron,” while his sword and shield had cool names such as “Excalibur” and “Pridwen”? You don’t remember that? Well, this is a great deal like that time. I’m warning you for your own good.)

I’ve actually been researching Alabama in the 1930s today, for work on a study guide on To Kill a Mockingbird, and that’s been fascinating enough.

But in the course of my wandering across the Internet—actually, while I was trying to track down an authoritative source on the history of “boy” as a derogatory term for an African-American man—I found out that Prince Rupert of the Rhine had a notorious white hunting poodle who was said to be imbued with magical powers.

No, it’s true.

The poodle, who was called Boye, was given to Rupert when he was imprisoned during the Thirty Years’ War, to keep him company. After that, he accompanied Rupert during the English Civil War, or at least from 1642 to 1644, when he was killed at the Battle of Marston Moor.

Rupert, who was a Royalist, featured heavily (though not positively) in Parliamentarian propaganda, in which Boye was featured as a witch’s familiar or as the Devil in the form of, well, a white poodle.

In Royalist parodies of the Parliamentarian propaganda, Boye was said to be a “Lapland lady” in disguise as a white poodle. It’s certainly more plausible that a woman from a region that exists largely within the Arctic Circle would choose the form of a poodle than it is plausible for the Devil to do, since he’s traditionally from more temperate climes. (I’m thinking here of how we have to shave our poodle several times a summer: I think the Devil would find that an affront to his dignity. If he has any.)

Boye was said to be invulnerable to harm, as well as possessing the ability to find treasure, to catch bullets in his mouth, and to prophesy.

And, in answer to a brief but spirited debate on Twitter, I think it’s probable that Boye could make a damn fine cup of coffee.

Only one thing bothers me about Prince Rupert of the Rhine’s magical white poodle: why is he not the hero of his own comic book?

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