Species: One black hauthorne (unearthly Crataegus monogyna / Crataegus laevigata) and one generic thorn (most likely the same species). These bushes are, strangely both used by knights to store their weapons.
Source: ‘Sir Gareth’ one of the tales from Le Morte Darthur by Thomas Malory.
Date: Le Morte Darthur was probably complete in manuscript form by 1460 CE, and was first published by Caxton in 1485.
Highlights: A significant portion of the plot of ‘Gareth’ is concerned with the main character’s battles with a group of Power Rangers. He defeats a Black Knight, a Green Knight, a Red Knight, a Blue Knight a second Red Knight and a Brown Knight.
Is Gareth seeking perfection through alchemy (Wheeler, 1994)? Is Gareth seeking to fight his way up through the ranks to becoming the golden knight (Tiller, 2007)? Where do the bushes come in? Is this the end of the Power Rangers?
Read on to find out.
The MS image is from BL Royal 14 E III, f.97v. One of the knights is Gareth. It is in the public domain because of its age. The photograph was taken by Mooshuu and is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0. If you know the identity of the cosplayers here please let me know.
Posted in English, Plants (incl. Trees)
Tagged 15th century, arthurian, battlefield, blackthorn, civilisation vs nature, ecocritical approach, ecosensitive approach, grassland, hawes, hawthorn, heroic age, human-environment conflict, king arthur, Le morte darthur, literary approach, marxist approach, mayflowers, meadow, nature is a texture, romance, sir gareth, woodland
Species: A tawny owl (Strix aluco) and magpie (Pica pica) have a battle of wits and it gets UGLY. An ambiguous grey bird is the judge.
Source: ‘Dàn mu Chonaltradh’ (English title: The Colloquy of the Birds).
Date: Modern! First published 1798, and written a few years before.
Highlights: Once upon a time, long ago, birds could speak Gaelic. Here’s the most famous example.
Magpies from Addition MS 26968 fol.282v. Owl from Harley 2887, fol.29. Both images are in the public domain because of their age.
Posted in Birds, Gaelic
Tagged 'nuair a bha Gaidhlig aig na h-eoin, comedy, eco-sensitive, Eoghan MacLachlainn, Ewen MacLachlan, flyting, folkloric, gaelic, heroic age, hierarchy of birds, idyllic, literary, Maclachlainn, magpie, meadow pipit, mimesis, mimetic poetry, modern, nature is a hero, nature speaks, owl, satire, scottish gaelic, tawny owl, woodland
Species: One overgrown snake which grows into a dragon-worm.
Source: The ‘Life of St Petroc I’ a text in Latin probably written in Cornwall, perhaps at Bodmin Priory.
Date: The historical Petroc probably lived in the sixth century A.D. Our text was first written prior to 1177, most likely around the mid-eleventh century, although the only complete manuscript (Paris MS. Lat. 9989) only exists in sixteenth century transcript form. The story itself may well have been known orally before it was first included in the written life (Doble, 1965: 133-4; Orme, 2000: 214-15).
Highlights: Once upon a time an evil villain died. He had a snake pit like most evil villains and after he died no-one was being fed to the snakes (awww). They ate each other until one got so big it came out and turned into a dragon. It happens.
Oh yes, it happens.
Grass snake (Natrix natrix) photographed by Thomas Browne and shared under CC-BY 2.0 license)
Posted in Amphibians and Reptiles, Latin, Monsters
Tagged 11th century, battlefield, coastland, dragon, dragon slayer, ecocritical approach, environmental management, folkloric approach, home, influence of christianity, literary approach, medieval brittany, medieval christianity, medieval cornwall, nature is a pest, saint's life, serpents, snake pit, snakes
Species: Beaver (Castor fiber)
Source: My paper looks at an exhaustive list of reliable historical documents, selected depending on their reference to other wild species of mammal.
Date: The texts range from c.1200-1607 in south Britain and 1526-1684 in Scotland. Beavers are only found in those at the start of each period.
Highlights: If beavers were still around in south Britain after 1300 and Scotland after 1600 they must have suddenly started hiding-out.
Photograph of European beaver by Harald Olsen, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.
Posted in British, English, Latin, Mammals, Scots, Special Feature, Welsh
Tagged beaver, beavers, Bryony Coles, ecosensitive approach, exploitation, extinction, historical approach, historical biology, history text, hunting, linguistic drift, low profile species, nature is amazing, persecution, re-introduction, wetland
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 photographed by GerardM, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0. Sea eagles (=white-tailed eagles; fish-eagles) often nest in lowland trees.
Posted in Birds, Welsh
Tagged arthurian, catechism, cornwall, extinction, fourteenth century, heroes as animals, heroic age, literary approach, medieval christianity, native status, sea eagle, sermon, species history, white-tailed eagle, woodland
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.
Posted in Latin, Mammals
Tagged 12th century, apple tree, arthurian, Avellon, Avelon, environmental management, Glasteing, Glastonbury, Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury festival, harmony with nature, historical approach, history text, nature is a hero, old sow, origin legend, propaganda, wetland, wild boar, William of Malmesbury, woodland, Ynys Wytrin, Ynyswitrin
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. CC-BY-SA 2.0. Photograph by Pauline Eccles.
Posted in English, Plants (incl. Trees)
Tagged 15th century, arthurian, Balyn & Balan, bay, bay leaves, chivalric, chivalry, ecosensitive approach, garden, introduction, knights, laurel, Le morte darthur, literary approach, marxist approach, native status, nature is a texture, romance, sir Balyn, syr Balyn