Trees as Symbol and Metaphor in the Middle Ages
Title Details

306 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

4 graphs, 15 colour and 22 b/w illus.

Series: Nature and Environment in the Middle Ages

Series Vol. Number: 8

Imprint: D.S.Brewer

Trees as Symbol and Metaphor in the Middle Ages

Comparative Contexts

Edited by Michael D.J. Bintley and Pippa Salonius

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
Highlights human encounters with the forest and its trees at the time of the European Middle Ages, when their lofty boughs were weighted with meaning.


Forests, with their interlacing networks of trees and secret patterns of communication, are powerful entities for thinking-with. A majestic terrestrial community of arboreal others, their presence echoes, entangles, and resonates deeply with the human world.

The chapters interrogate the pre-Anthropocene environment, reflecting on trees as metaphors for kinship and knowledge as they appear in literary, historical, art-historical, and philosophical sources. They examine images of trees and trees in-themselves across a range of environmental, material, and intellectual contexts, and consider how humans used arboreal and rhizomatic forms to negotiate bodies of knowledge and processes of transition. Looking beyond medieval Europe, they include discussion of parallel developments in the Islamic world and that of the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.
Introduction: The Surrounding Forest - Michael D. J. Bintley and Pippa Salonius

1. Mother Earth, Sister Moon and the Great Forest of Tāne - Pippa Salonius

2. Beowulf's Foliate Margins: The Surrounding Forest in Early Medieval England - Michael D. J. Bintley

3. Bone, Stone, Wood: Encountering Material Ecologies in Early Medieval Sculpture - Meg Boulton

4. 'Mervoillous fu li engineres que croix fist de fust, non de pierre': Materiality and Vernacular Theology in the Wood of the Cross Legend - Laura Chuhan Campbell

5. The Evolution of Relational Tree-Diagrams from the Twelfth to Fourteenth Century: Visual Devices and Models of Knowledge - José Higuera Rubio

6. From Forest to Orchard: Arboreal Areas as Mnemotechnic Supports in the Middle Ages - Naïs Virenque
7. The Vegetal Imaginary in Exemplary Literature: The Case of the Ci nous dit - Pauline Leplongeon

8. Adam's Sister: Tree Symbolism in Premodern Mystical Islamic Cosmology - Samer Akkach

Concluding Reflections

MICHAEL BINTLEY is Associate Professor in Medieval English Literature at the University of Southampton. He is author of Trees in the Religions of Early Medieval England (2015), and Settlements and Strongholds in Early Medieval England: Texts, Landscapes, and Material Culture (2020), and co-author of Landscapes and Environments of the Middle Ages (2023).

PIPPA SALONIUS is a medieval art historian and independent scholar who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Title Details

306 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

4 graphs, 15 colour and 22 b/w illus.

Series: Nature and Environment in the Middle Ages

Series Vol. Number: 8

Imprint: D.S.Brewer