Wolves and the Wilderness in the Middle Ages

September 2006
11 black and white illustrations
248 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843832362
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BIC GT, 1D, 2AB, 3H

Wolves and the Wilderness in the Middle Ages

Aleksander Pluskowski

The complex attitude to the wolf in the middle ages re-evaluated, bringing together historical and other evidence.
The wolf, a common metaphor for vice in medieval Christian literature, is today an iconic symbol of the intense fear and insecurity that some associate with the middle ages. In reality, responses to wolves varied across medieval Europe. Although not dependent on the wilderness, wolves were conceptually linked to this environment - which although on the fringes of medieval society, became increasingly exploited from the eighth to fourteenth centuries, so bringing people and livestock closer to the wolf.
This book compares responses to wolves, focusing on two regions, Britain and southern Scandinavia. It looks at the distribution of wolves in the landscape, their potential impact as predators on both animals and people, and their use as commodities, in literature, art, cosmology and identity. It also investigates the reasons (both practical and cultural) for the eradication of wolves in England, but their survival on the Scandinavian peninsula.
ALEKSANDER PLUSKOWSKI is Junior Research Fellow in Medieval Archaeology, Clare College, Cambridge

Table of Contents

Into the Woods: The Physical Wolf in the Landscape
Lupine Landscapes: Physical Wilderness in Medieval Britain and Scandinavia
Lupine Landscapes II: Conceptualising Medieval Wilderness
Wolves, Game and Livestock: Predation and Conflict
Wolves and People: Hunting the Hunters
Breaking the Lupine Body: Wolves as Commodities
Ravenous and Gullible: Wolves in Medieval Beast Literature
Lupine Identities: The Emblematic Wolf
From ódinn to St. Edmund: Wolves in Pagan and Christian Cosmologies
Transgressing Boundaries through Bestial Violence: Human Wolves


A very interesting interdisciplinary approach of human-wolf interactions during the Middle Ages, highlighting some practical factors and the role of religion in its eradication. MAMMALIA
A highly interesting, original, and informative account of the medieval wolf and wilderness. SIXTEENTH CENTURY JOURNAL
This book is a significant achievement. Anyone who wants to understand how humans interacted with the natural world in the Middle Ages would do well to read it. SPECULUM
Very novel, being one of the first studies to address specific human-animal-landscape relationships in order to inform on cultural practice and ideology in the past. JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL ARCHAEOLOGY
Weaves a story that enchants. Through these pages the vital wolf-essence bounds across the landscapes of stone, tapestry, vellum, metal and mortal imagination. FORTEAN TIMES