Monday, May 21, 2012

Symbolic Animals: The Medieval Bestiary

A Cameleopard
I have a new post up at English Historical Fiction Authors today titled "Of Cameleopards and Lions: The Medieval Bestiary." Bestiaries have always fascinated me, both the beautiful illuminations and the way that science and religion are interwoven in the text.

The two years that I taught medieval history, I had my high schoolers create their own entry for a bestiary. It was great fun to see them research everything from an elephant to a butterfly so they could not only describe f the animal but also discuss what that animal symbolized.

I was intending for this post to go up in June on EHFA, but they needed it early and I'm glad it was all written and ready to go.
Throughout history, from Aesop’s Fables to the Animal Planet network, the human imagination has been captured by the scaly, furry, four-footed, scurrying, slithering, swimming, and winged creatures of the animal world. Not only have the characteristics of animals provided endless fascination, but also the lessons that can be drawn from those characteristics. 
The Physiologos, a Greek book written in the second or third century A.D., was the first book to take brief descriptions of animals and add to them Christian allegories. This book was translated into most of the European languages and is said to have been the second most popular book in Europe (after the Bible).... (read more)


  1. This subject interests me too- I saw a Documentary a while ago which showed that some of the supposed characteristics of certain animals corresponded to the way they were used in Heraldry- and what they represented in it.

    1. What was the name of the documentary? Sounds interesting....


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