Representing Beasts in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia

Representing Beasts in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia

Edited by Michael D.J. Bintley, Thomas J.T. Williams


Boydell Press



Essays on the depiction of animals, birds and insects in early medieval material culture, from texts to carvings to the landscape itself.
For people in the early Middle Ages, the earth, air, water and ether teemed with other beings. Some of these were sentient creatures that swam, flew, slithered or stalked through the same environments inhabited by their human contemporaries. Others were objects that a modern beholder would be unlikely to think of as living things, but could yet be considered to possess a vitality that rendered them potent. Still others were things half glimpsed on a dark night or seen only in the mind's eye; strange beasts that haunted dreams and visions or inhabited exotic lands beyond the compass of everyday knowledge.
This book discusses the various ways in which the early English and Scandinavians thought about and represented these other inhabitants of their world, and considers the multi-faceted nature of the relationship between people and beasts. Drawing on the evidence of material culture, art, language, literature, place-names and landscapes, the studies presented here reveal a world where the boundaries between humans, animals, monsters and objects were blurred and often permeable, and where to represent the bestial could be to hold a mirror to the self.

Michael D.J. Bintley is Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Canterbury Christ Church University; Thomas J.T. Williams is a doctoral researcher at UCL's Institute of Archaeology.

Contributors: Noël Adams, John Baker, Michael D. J. Bintley, Sue Brunning, László Sándor Chardonnens, Della Hooke, Eric Lacey, Richard North, Marijane Osborn, Victoria Symons, Thomas J. Williams


July 2015
27 black and white, 11 line illustrations
312 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Anglo-Saxon Studies
ISBN: 9781783270088
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC ART015030, LIT011000, SOC003000
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Table of Contents

Representing Beasts in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia: an Introduction - Michael D.J. Bintley and Thomas J.T. Williams
Between Myth and Reality: Hunter and Prey in Early Anglo-Saxon Art - Noël Adams
'(Swinger of) the Serpent of Wounds': Swords and Snakes in the Viking Mind - Sue Brunning
Wreoþenhilt ond wyrmfah: Confronting Serpents in Beowulf and Beyond - Victoria Symons
The Ravens on the Lejre Throne: Avian Identifiers, Odin at Home, Farm Ravens - Marijane Osborn
Beowulf's Blithe-Hearted Raven - Eric Lacey
Do Anglo-Saxons Dream of Exotic Sheep? - László Sándor Chardonnens
You Sexy Beast: The Pig in a Villa in Vandalic North Africa and Boar-Cults in Old Germanic Heathendom - Richard North
'For the Sake of Bravado in the Wilderness': Confronting the Bestial in Anglo-Saxon Warfare - Thomas J.T. Williams
Where the Wild Things Are in Old English Poetry - Michael D.J. Bintley
Entomological Etymologies: Creepy-Crawlies in English Place-Names - John Baker
Beasts, Birds and Other Creatures in Pre-Conquest Charters and Place-Names in England - Della Hooke


A welcome addition to the growing collection of studies of medieval human-animal relations. Its contribution is that it goes beyond the simple juxtaposition of traditional zooarchaeological analyses and more discursive artistic/literary pieces. MEDIEVAL ARCHAEOLOGY

The essays in Representing Beasts cogently and vividly convey a broader understanding of human and non-human interaction during the Middle Ages in England and Scandinavia . This tightly constructed collection of essays would be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in ecomedievalism and/or animal studies.THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

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