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
Least weasel (M. nivalis) photographed by Medien-gbr and licensed for use under CC-BY-SA-3.0.
In one of Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’, the main character Alisoun is described as a weasel. Most scholars have taken this as a parody of courtly love, a sign of Alisoun’s promiscuity or the character’s weakness. Could this actually be a complement?
Species: A ‘wesele’. The term was generic in the medieval period but most probably referred to Mustela nivalis, M. erminia or M. putorius.
Source: ‘The Miller’s Tale’, Chaucer’s most adult and therefore most well-known story.
Highlights: Alisoun, the main female character is compared to a weasel in her introduction. How could Chaucer say that about the poor innocent girl? Oh I remember. She’s a right weasel.
Posted in English, Mammals
Tagged 14th century, Alisoun, Canterbury Tales, Chaucer, comedy, figurative, heroes as animals, heroine, linguistic approach, literary approach, Miller's Tale, mustela nivalis, romance, satire, weasel
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
Patron’s La Belle Dame sans Merci painting, photo taken by Sofi.
Species mentioned: One tree, not a hawthorn (mayflower; Crataegus sp.) as commonly thought. Possibly oak (Q. robur).
Source: The medieval ‘Romance of Thomas of Erceldoune’, not to be confused with the later ‘Ballad of True Thomas’.
Date of Source: c.1350-1400.
Highlights: The shining lady that slimy Thomas of Erceldoune seduced under the Eildon tree turned out to be the Fairy Queen. She apparently took him seriously when he offered to stay with her forever, and drags him to her Otherworld realm as a paramour. Oops.