Monthly Archives: October 2014

‘The Owl’ by Dafydd ap Gwilym (c.1350)

Tawny owl in hollow tree photographed by echoe69 and licensed under CC-BY-ND-2.0.

Tawny owl in hollow tree photographed by echoe69 and licensed under CC-BY-ND-2.0.

What defines the British countryside for you? Perhaps its the green hills, the golden fields or the endless brown roads. For Dafydd ap Gwilym it was the sound of the tawny owls which just wouldn’t leave him alone.

Species: ‘Y Dylluan’ (the owl), most probably a tawny owl (Strix aluco).

Source: One of Dafydd ap Gwilym’s poem called ‘Y Dylluan’.

Date: c.1350.

Highlights: By the time he writes this poem, Dafydd is so crazy from being kept up all night that he threatens to take a torch to the woodland to make the owls shut up. He’s a great inspiration to us all.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Chaucer’s Weasel: A Love Story

weasel

Least weasel (M. nivalis) photographed by Medien-gbr and licensed for use under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

In one of Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’, the main character Alisoun is described as a weasel. Most scholars have taken this as a parody of courtly love, a sign of Alisoun’s promiscuity or the character’s weakness. Could this actually be a complement?

Species: A ‘wesele’. The term was generic in the medieval period  but most probably referred to Mustela nivalis, M. erminia or M. putorius.

Source: ‘The Miller’s Tale’, Chaucer’s most adult and therefore most well-known story.

Date: c.1380-1400.

Highlights: Alisoun, the main female character is compared to a weasel in her introduction. How could Chaucer say that about the poor innocent girl? Oh I remember. She’s a right weasel.

Continue reading