Monthly Archives: June 2015

When Arthur met an Eagle

Species: One woodland-adapted sea-eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).

Source: ‘Ymddiddan Arthur a’r Eryr’ (the Conversation between Arthur and the Eagle), a teaching text on Christian theology with an Arthurian frame story.

Date: Most probably original to the Jesus 20 manuscript: 1300-1350 A.D.

Highlights: Once Arthur found an eagle laughing at him. He was annoyed until he found out it was his dead nephew, Eliwlad. At that point he hinted he could make war on God if it would help…

sea eagle

Sea Eagle photographed by GerardM, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0. Sea eagles (=white-tailed eagles; fish-eagles) often nest in lowland trees.

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How a Pig discovered Glastonbury

Species: Semi-domestic wild sow (Sus scrofa).

Source: ‘De Antiquitate Glastone Ecclesie’ (The Early History of Glastonbury), originally by William of Malmesbury but heavily edited by monks at Glastonbury Abbey.

Date: Originally composed c.1129 A.D., but earliest extant version mid twelfth century.

Highlights: One day an old pig was so fed up it went exploring in a marsh, and sat under an apple tree on an island. When Farmer Glateing found it, he liked the place so much he named it Glastonbury. Aww, cute.

If you believe that, it’s because you aren’t used to the politically cut-throat, properganda-filled world of the medieval church!

Wild boar (Sus scrofa, probably male) from Additional 42130  f. 19v. Public domain from age of work.

Wild boar (Sus scrofa, probably male) from Additional 42130 f. 19v. Public domain from age of work.

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Sir Balyn of the Stabby-stab

Species: Imported garden laurel tree (?Laurus nobilis ; Prunus Laurocerasus?)

Source: ‘Balyn & Balan’ in Le Morte Darthur.

Date: Complete by 1469-70, first printed 1485 A.D.

Highlights: Sir Balyn is the least subtle knight that’s ever lived. Once Balyn brought a sad, jilted knight to visit his lover. She was otherwise engaged. Balyn snuck his friend in anyway. Balyn can’t be held responsible for EVERY murder right?

Well-maintained laurel tree (Laurus nobilis) in Westbury Court Gardens. Photograph by Pauline Eccles.

Well-maintained laurel tree (Laurus nobilis) in Westbury Court Gardens. CC-BY-SA 2.0. Photograph by Pauline Eccles.

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What is a sea swallow? (morwennawl, morwennol)

Species: ‘Swallow’ (Hirunda sp.); ‘Sea-swallow’ (=tern, Sterna sp.)

Source: ‘Culhwch ac Olwen’, the earliest Welsh prose tale.

Date: c.1100 A.D., but from the oldest-seeing part of a story with a known ninth century version.

Highlights: Our story pauses mid-way through to admire the figure of Culhwch, boy-hero. He’s so fly, even the mud off his horse’s hooves come out like swallows, and his hounds are as agile as terns.

Common tern (Stena hirundo) photographed by Tony Hisgett.

Common tern (Stena hirundo) photographed by Tony Hisgett.

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