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The following passage is from the novel Ivanhoe by Walter Scott.

"By St Dunstan," answered Gurth, "thou speakest but sad truths; little is left to us but the air we breathe, and that appears to have been reserved with much hesitation, solely for the purpose of enabling us to endure the tasks they lay upon our shoulders. The finest and the fattest is for their board; the loveliest is for their couch; the best and bravest supply their foreign masters with soldiers, and whiten distant lands with their bones, leaving few here who have either will or the power to protect the unfortunate Saxon. God's blessing on our master Cedric, he hath done the work of a man in standing in the gap; but Reginald Front-de-Boeuf is coming down to this country in person, and we shall soon see how little Cedric's trouble will avail him.--Here, here," he exclaimed again, raising his voice, "So ho! so ho! well done, Fangs! thou hast them all before thee now, and bring'st them on bravely, lad." "Gurth," said the Jester, "I know thou thinkest me a fool, or thou wouldst not be so rash in putting thy head into my mouth. One word to Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, or Philip de Malvoisin, that thou hast spoken treason against the Norman,--and thou art but a cast-away swineherd,--thou wouldst waver on one of these trees as a terror to all evil speakers against dignities."

I wonder what exactly the Jester meant when he said "thou wouldst not be so rash in putting thy head into my mouth."

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    It's a reference to the cliche of metaphorically putting your head in the lion's mouth Oct 28, 2013 at 5:16
  • @FumbleFingers: If you don't mind, can you make that an actual answer? I'd like to get this question off of the Unanswered list.
    – MrHen
    Jan 9, 2014 at 19:05

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It's a reference to the cliche of metaphorically putting your head in the lion's mouth.

Apologies for the substantial "cut&paste", but I'm concerned about "link rot"...

Back in the days when a circus would travel from town to town, most would have a lion tamer (a guy who had trained lions and other large animals). One standard trick would be for the trainer to have one lion open his mouth; the tamer would actually put his head in the lion's mouth to show how well trained the animal was.

Since then, "putting your head in the lion's mouth" means knowingly doing something dangerous.

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