Tag Archives: feminist approach

The Hierarchy of Birds

Species: The 35 most popular types of bird.

Source: ‘The Parliament of Fowls’ by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Date: c.1380-82.

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.

Parliament of Birds

Public domain woodcut from another text (‘The Woody Choristers’).

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Speaking Starlings

Here are three things you should know about starlings: (i) They have cool little stars all over their feathers. (ii) Boring people get very excited watching them gather together in clouds. (iii) They can learn to speak medieval Welsh, unlike most undergrads.

Species: The common but surprisingly cool starling (Sturnus vulgaris).

Source: ‘Branwen’, second of the ‘Mabinogi’ stories.

Date: 1000-1250 A.D.

Highlights: If you are ever a victim of domestic abuse, our text suggests that your best option is to train a starling to talk, and send it to your brother with orders to summon his army and invade.

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The Owl (Strix aluco?) in the ‘Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi’ (Math)

Tawny Owl

Tawny owl, photographed by K.-M. Hansche and edited by Arad. Licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.5.

Species Mentioned:  One owl, probably a tawny owl (S. aluco). Hated by all other birds.

Source: ‘Math’ fourth of the ‘Four Branches of the ‘Mabinogi’, the most important epics of medieval Welsh literature.

Date of Source: c.1000-1250 A.D.

Highlights: This source is symptomatic of the suspicion and low esteem owls were considered with in medieval Britain.

Blodeuedd, the most beautiful woman in the world plots to murder her oh-so-boring demi-god husband. She nearly succeeds but her husband turns into an eagle and flies away. Blodeuedd is then hunted down and permanently changed into an owl, the most ignoble of all birds. Said husband is changed back into a human with no lasting damage. Don’t worry, it’s totally fair.

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