"you may call me Gil-Martin"
Illustration from a copy of the Book of Hours, c.1460
Public DomainIllustration from a copy of the Book of Hours, c.1460 - Credit: Master of Catherine of Cleves, Lieven van Lathem (illuminators)
According to Ian Duncan (‘Authenticity Effects: The Work of Fiction in Romantic Scotland’, The South Atlantic Quarterly 102.1, Winter 2003), ‘Gil-Martin’ is the Gaelic word for ‘fox’. Foxes appear as trickster-figures in mythology and literature the world over. In medieval and early modern Europe, Reynard the Fox appears as a devious figure who uses his wits to puncture the aristocracy and clergy; a huge oral tradition surrounds the exploits of the wily Br’er Fox in the American South; in the Far East, fox-spirits (kitsunes) take on the shape of female mortals in order to ensnare men. Foxes are also associated with the devil and continued to be burnt as symbols of Satan into the Renaissance.

The name also echoes that of Robert’s boyhood rival, M’Gill (p. 119). It is an interesting point that Gil-Martin takes on a name reminiscent of the boy whose downfall Robert procures through imitation. This suggests that he is mockingly drawing attention to his role as Robert’s nemesis, even at this early point.