Animals as judges

Possibly from the 13th century, this Celtic telling of the return and verification of the identity of Ulysses ends delightfully.

The Recognition of Ulysses

…”good people said the queen “who are you at all?” “I am Ulysses son of Laertes,” said he. “You are not the Ulysses whom I know” said she. “I am indeed,” he said, “and I will describe my credentials”; and then he told of their secrets and their talks together and their hidden thoughts. “What has happened to your looks or your men,” said she, “if you are Ulysses?” “ They are lost,” he said “What was the last of your keepsakes that you left with me?” she said. “A golden brooch,”said he, “with a silver head; and I took your brooch with me when I went into the ship and it was then you turned back from me,” said Ulysses. “That is true,” she said “and if you were Ulysses you would ask after your dog.” “I had not thought it would be alive at all,” he said. “I made a broth of long life” said she, “because I saw that Ulysses loved it greatly. And what sort of dog at all is that dog?” she said. “It has white sides and a light crimson back and a jet black belly and a green tail,” said Ulysses. “That is the description of the dog.” She said, “and no one in the place dares give it its food except myself and you and the steward” “Bring the dog in” said he. And four men went to fetch it and brought it in with them. And when it heard the sound of Ulysses’ voice, it gave a tug at its chain so that it laid the four men flat all over the house behind it, and, jumped at Ulysses ‘ breast and licked his face. When Ulysses’ people saw that, they leaped towards him. Whoever could no get at his skin to kiss him covered his clothes with kisses…

(From A Celtic Miscellany, Trans. by Kenneth Jackson)

It seems that man is capable of pulling off an endless amount of deceit. Spy craft known no end of sophistication. Secrets can be passed on or extracted. Appearances can be faked. Inside information can be known through other means and the examiner could even doubt their own memory of the situation. Here, the queen does her best to judge and though all the tests are passed, she remains skeptical. What breaks the spell? The dog. Apparently nothing on earth, not even the Devil himself could trick the dog. When he jumps on his old master and licks him, all further questioning is thrown in the trash. What do animals know that we don’t? How to tell the truth.