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: 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: 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: 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
Strand of Scots Pine photographed by Gwen and James Anderson and licensed under CC-AT-SA. This photo is missing DEATH.
Species: ‘pin’, usually thought to be (Pinus sylvestris) but could be yew (Taxus Baccata) or generic term for conifers.
Source: The ‘Song of Roland’, a piece of Crusades propaganda.
Date: Most probably c.1098-1100 A.D.
Highlights: If you believe the ‘Song of Roland’, every soldier rushes to the nearest pine tree whenever they are either (i) meeting a rich person or (ii) about to die. Pretty cool, eh?
The only trouble is, pine trees are supposed to have been extinct in England and northern France when the text was written…
Posted in Anglo-Norman, Plants (incl. Trees)
Tagged charlemagne, churchyards, ecosensitive approach, epic, extinction, ganelon, garden, linguistic drift, literary approach, marsilla, native status, nature is a texture, pine, pine tree, postcolonial approach, propaganda, song of roland, woodland, yew trees
The portrait of St. Mark in the Lichfield (St Chad) Gospel.
In 2013 I had an academic paper accepted by the Journal of Late Antique Religion and Culture (JLARC). The journal is open access and you can read it here (link to pdf in the right hand column). I found that the manuscript animals were copied from manuscript to manuscript by closeted scribes, and were not based on real animals (e.g. lynxes, cats, wolves).
Species: The manuscript images were all derivative and made up a coherent, although unrealistic tradition of depicting lions (Panthera leo) not lynxes (Lynx lynx), wolves (Canis lupus) or cats (Felis catus; Felis sylvestris).
Source: Some of the oldest manuscripts in Britain: The illuminated gospels.
Date: 650-1000 A.D.
Highlights: One lion, that from the Lichfield (St Chad) Gospel (above) provoked a great deal of interest. It only had the stub of a tail and the scribe’s style made its body looked speckled. However in every other respect the lion was drawn in a derivative way to the mainstream tradition, and the answer is probably that the scribe simply forgot to paint the rest of the lion’s tail.
Posted in British, Latin, Mammals, Special Feature
Tagged archaeological approach, art history, biblical, ecosensitive approach, extinction, figurative, heroes as animals, home, imported stories, material culture, monastic, nature is a texture, saint's life
Photograph of crab apple tree (Malus sylvestris) by Katy Wrathall licensed under CC-BY-SA-ND.
Species Mentioned: A series of crab apple trees (Malus sylvestris).
Source: ‘Yr Afallenau’, a series of Old Welsh prophetic verses found in the Black Book of Carmarthen and Peniarth 3.
Date: Pre-1138. Suggested earliest form c.800-899 A.D., but little evidence for this.
Highlights: Myrddin the Mad is the literary inspiration for THE Merlin you’ve heard about. He goes to live in the woods and gives prophecies to a series of apple trees. He believes some of these are magic and they hide him from “his enemies” (possibly just friends trying to get him to come down from that tree and put some clothes on.)
Posted in British, Plants (incl. Trees), Welsh
Tagged apple tree, apple trees, arthurian, cynfeirdd, ecosensitive approach, folkloric approach, harmony with nature, heroic age, literary approach, Myrddin Wyllt, nature is a hero, nature is a texture, nature is amazing, prophecy, woodland