Species: Several, most importantly seagull (Larus argentatus) and cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).
Source: Two Old English lyric elegies: ‘The Seafarer’ and ’The Wanderer’.
Date: Seafarer c.850, Wanderer c.900 AD. (Klinck, 1992:13-21)
Highlights: Tolkien’s totally stole the idea of “sea-longing” from medieval poetry.
Now I’m not saying Tolkien was a sneaking-snaking-snarer who purposefully snuck medieval literature into his stories to educate people, but, well, they didn’t call him Professor for nothing.
Photograph by Julian Nitzsche CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Posted in Birds, English
Tagged 10th century, 9th century, civilisation vs nature, coastland, cuckoo, ecosensitive approach, elegy, folkloric approach, heroic age, linguistic drift, literary approach, medieval vision, middle earth, modern, nature is a moral guide, nature is a pest, nature is a texture, ocean, Old English, Seagull, sermon, The Seafarer, The Wanderer, tolkien
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 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
In the seventeenth century people still believed in phoenixes, based partially on indisputable pictorial evidence like this.
Picture from the Aberdeen Bestiary is a photographic representation of a 2d public domain image.
Source: Pseudodoxia Epidemica (the ‘Plague of Pseudoscience’), by Thomas Browne.
Date: 1646 A.D.
Highlights: It turns out that in the seventeenth century, belief in phoenixes, griffins and unicorns was still a thing.
To stop you feeling too proud of ‘how far we’ve come’ I should point out that we still have one or two irrational beliefs today. Continue reading
Posted in English, Invertebrates, Monsters
Tagged 17th century, crane fly, folkloric approach, griffin, home, natural history, nature is a pest, nature is amazing, phoenix, rise of scientific method, tainct, thomas browne, unicorn
Part of the Vaughan coat-of-arms at Tretower Court, Brecon Beacons, south-east Wales.
Species: Generic snakey-snake, called an adder (Vipera berus) but has prey constricting habit like smooth snake (Coronella austriaca).
Source: The Vaughan family coat-of-arms and its descriptions (not as boring as it sounds, I promise!)
Date: c.1450 A.D.
Highlights: The Vaughan coat-of-arms shows three boys being strangled by snakes. This was inspired by the legend of a family member being born with a snake around his neck. Boring folklorists c.1900 interpreted this as an #IHateSnakes moment. They are wrong, it was originally the opposite. The writings of Lewis Glyn Cothi suggest comparing someone to a snake was a compliment. Continue reading
Posted in Amphibians and Reptiles, English, Welsh
Tagged adder, art history, artwork, battlefield, breconshire, coat-of-arms, eco-sensitive reading, figurative, folkloric approach, garden, harmony with nature, heroes as animals, history text, home, llys tre-twr, moreithig warwyn, nature is a pest, persecution, smooth snake, tretower, vaughan, vaughan family
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.
- Earthworm photographed by Jacopo Werther, licensed under CC-SA-BY 2.0. Hydra concept art from Dragon’s Dogma, a 2012 computer game. Display and discussion of this cover image comprises fair-use under the 1988 Licenses, Designs and Patents Act.
Species Mentioned: Folklore originally attached to various medieval fictional serpents but now attached (falsely) to all British earthworms.
Source: Most medieval Bestiaries.
Date: Bestiary tradition most popular in Britain c.1150-1450.
Highlights: The source attests that snakes can be chopped into pieces and still try to kill you like an ineffective cartoon supervillain. Many people in Britain sometimes still believe this about worms, the modern descendants of poisonous “wyrms” to this day. Are we really any less gullible than our predecessors?
Posted in Amphibians and Reptiles, Invertebrates, Latin, Monsters
Tagged bestiary, farmland, folkloric approach, garden, imported stories, linguistic approach, linguistic drift, monsters, nature is a pest, persecution, redelimitation