Species: Pests, game, scavengers and royal beasts.
Source: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, The Acts for the Preservation of Grain, The Values of Wild and Tame.
Date: Medieval to Early Modern, c.1100-1566.
This week’s blog post is a guest post at the Academy for Distance Learning, where I have been challenged to provide a summary of Britain’s strangest laws in 500 words or less
The Academy for Distance Learning is a UK institution where you can take courses up to higher diploma level online or by correspondence. They have just started a (modern) Wildlife Law course which I will be teaching this year.
You can read the full blog post here.
Posted in Anglo-Norman, Birds, English, Mammals, Special Feature, Welsh
Tagged environmental management, exploitation, farmland, harmony with nature, historical approach, home, human-environment conflict, hunting, legal, nature is a pest, nature is amazing, persecution
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: 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
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’.
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.
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
Adder (V. berus), licensed under CC AT-SA. Created by Piet Spaans. Altered by Amy Raye.
Species mentioned: One adder (V. berus) who successfully provokes every knight in Britain and brings about the death of King Arthur.
Source: The ‘Stanzaic Morte Arthur’, the immediate forerunner of Thomas Mallory’s more famous ‘Le Morte dArthur’.
Date of Source: Fourteenth century, probably c.1350.
Highlights: A concerned adder realises that there is a possibility Arthur might reconcile with Mordred, leading to another hundred pages of boring story for poor students to read. It heroically glides (honestly!) from its hiding place and bites someone. This stirs-up a blood bath with 100,000 knights slaughtered, including many of the most angst-ridden ones. Soon afterward the text ends with no chance of a sequel. You’re welcome.
On a more serious ecological note, this text is symptomatic of the antipathy people had for snakes even in the medieval period.
Posted in Amphibians and Reptiles, English
Tagged 14th century, arthurian, battlefield, Britain, ecocritical approach, human-environment conflict, literary approach, nature is a hero, nature is a pest, persecution, romance, vermin
Species mentioned: A swarm of very hungry harvest mice.
Source: ‘Manawydan’ the ‘Third Branch of the Mabinogi’.
Date of Source: c.1000-1250.
Highlights: An angry sorcerer takes revenge by turning his whole family into harvest mice to try and eat his enemy’s crops. Amazingly this doesn’t work out as he planned, and one harvest mouse is sentenced to be hanged as a thief.