Badger (Meles meles) photographed by Mark Robinson, CC-BY 2.0. Colour analysis is mine.
I’m currently working on translating and analysing a seventeenth century natural history text called Scotia Illustrata by Robert Sibbald. It’s lots of fun but there are occasional bits I have trouble with. This week I looked at how sophisticated his colour terminology is, and found something very surprising…
A journal article I wrote last year has just been published in Fafnir: Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research! The article discusses the environmental aspects of a modern fantasy novel called the Redemption of Althalus by David Eddings.
You can read the full article here for free, or read an explanation if you keep reading:
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: 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: Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris); oak (Quercus robur); crow (Corvus corone) ; tawny owl (Strix aluco); wild cat (Felis sylvestris).
Source: ‘Coed Marchan’ by Robin Clidro.
Date: Around 1580 A.D.
Highlights: After Marchan Wood was cut down, a delegation of red squirrels went to Parliament in London to request no more deforestation. They begged this on behalf of the wild animals mentioned above, but also mentioned the poor domestic stock and humans that were suffering. Sadly they weren’t listened to.
This week’s blog post is on the RSPB web site. Click here to see it.
Image from British Library Additional Manuscript 18852, a red squirrel from c.1500 AD. Image in the public domain.
Posted in Birds, Mammals, Plants (incl. Trees), Special Feature, Welsh
Tagged Bible Welsh, deforestation, early modern, ecocritical approach, environmental management, exploitation, extinction, harmony with nature, human-environment conflict, literary approach, nature is a hero, RSPB, satire, sixteenth century, vote for bob, Welsh poetry, woodland
Species: The 35 most popular types of bird.
Source: ‘The Parliament of Fowls’ by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Highlights: Considering Chaucer had no idea what he was talking about, his categorisation of birds into four categories was perhaps the best we could hope for.
Public domain woodcut from another text (‘The Woody Choristers’).
Book Cover © John Howe, 2002. Display of this book-cover comprises fair-use under the 1988 Licenses, Designs and Patents Act.
Species Mentioned: Bumper article! Two armies of species, one tame and one wild.
Source: ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’. One of the most exciting Middle English stories.
Date of Source: 1385-1400.
Highlights: ‘Sir Gawain’ tells the story of a game played between the civilised, charming, boring Sir Gawain and the giant, strong, savage Green Knight. The story proves people in medieval Britain distinguished the environment as managed by humans and the wild, primordial environment. In ‘Sir Gawain’, civilisation won and we are still dealing with the complicated consequences of that ‘victory’ today.
Posted in Birds, English, Plants (incl. Trees)
Tagged ancient woodland, arthurian, ecocritical approach, ecocriticism, environmental management, exploitation, garden, greenwood, human-environment conflict, literary approach, nature is a hero, nature is a texture, primordial environment, re-wilding, romance, wildwood, woodland