Our work this week is all about exploring the weird and wonderful monsters of the Middle Ages. We started with a thoughtful overview of medieval monstrosity and its understanding, and then took a close look at the monsters found on a variety of premodern maps. For Thursday (2/6), we will take a look at a variety of monsters from a variety of contexts – travel writing, literary manuscripts, bestiaries, and different kinds of statuaries (gargoyles and Sheela-Na-Gigs). Therefore, I thought it would be useful and interesting to do some comparing/contrasting of some of these monsters, and see what comes out of it. As any literary scholar worth their salt might tell you, comparing different things enables the viewer to see these things in a different and more nuanced light. It is in that spirit that I want you to complete your comparisons for this blog post.
In general, I want you to complete two separate comparisons for this assignment. For the first, you should compare the monsters of medieval maps to some form of monstrosity assigned for class on Thursday. Try and be as specific as you can here, perhaps even identifying a specific monster from a specific map (as opposed to some other, specific creature assigned for class) so that you can really hone in on the details and their implications. For your second comparison, I’d like you to compare a monster from Gerald of Wales’ ‘History and Topography of Ireland’ with a monstrous beast from the medieval bestiary assigned for class, a gargoyle, or a Sheela-Na-Gig. Again, try and be as specific as you can in your comparisons. Whatever monstrous entities you choose to compare, your analysis should amount to at least two in-depth paragraphs in which you explain your comparison, offer some observations about the monstrous entities you have selected, and then attempt to draw some conclusions about them.
1.) When comparing the monstrous beings of the medieval maps on item four to the specific ones assigned for thursday, no matter which combination you choose, (besides the mapped Unicorn obviously) the mapped monsters are combination of humanoid beings and real animals, while the specific monsters stated for thursday are all mythological or medieval creatures that are exaggerations of real animals or humans/humanoids. More specifically, it depicts beautiful creatures against, maybe, not so beautiful creatures. For example, take the majestic unicorn and compare it against the wrathful manticore. The unicorn is usually shown as a symbol of beauty depicting a white pegasus-like horse with just a single large horn on its forehead, this creature is usually known to have some kind of magical effects and is often depicted near some kind of valuable or other beautiful sight such as gold or rainbows. Meanwhile the wild manticore is quite the opposite; a dangerous beast with the head of a man, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion, with some depictions suggesting it can have wings like a giant bat or even worse, a demon.
2.) To get into the monsters, meat, and potatoes of the second comparison, I chose from the Gerald of Wales article a more simple creature, the domestic “chicken” (I’m not writing it the way the article did). As well as one of the assigned creatures for thursday, the griffin. Ironically both are actually quite similar as they are both at least partially birds and can fly to some extent. The chicken (as known by most) is a domestic farm bird commonly called poultry and tends to fly lower than most birds but can and is covered in feathers as well as lays eggs. The griffin is a mythical and medieval creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and sometimes an eagle’s talons as its front feet. Both are birds, but the griffin is more mammal than bird; and of course griffins tend to obviously be more dangerous overall.
For my first comparison, I am going to compare the map made in the 1550s when European nations were conquering the new world and Africa to the one-legged monster. In the map there are two people in the top left corner that are known to be monstrous because they look different, they have a big lip that makes them look different than most other humans. I think this relates to the one-legged monster because this monster is human but only has one leg and because it only has one leg people see it as different and they don’t like different, so they categorize it as a monster.
For this comparison I want to compare the Centaur and the man that was half an ox. To start I’m going to discus the Centaur. The Centaur is part man part horse. It has the lower body of a horse and the upper body of a human. The man that was half ox has the all the parts of a human except for the extremities. This beast it is human except for the things like its hands and feet. This beast didn’t have a nose or human eyes. It had bit round eyes like an ox and just holes for its nostrils. I feel that these monstrous figures are similar yet different.
I feel as though these monsters sound similar, but they are different because the Centaur is about half and half. It is part man from the waist up and the rest of it is basically a horse without a neck or head. The beast that is part human part ox is very different. It has a human body yet it as features of a ox like its hands and feet are hooves and its eyes are big and round. Its nose is just two holes and it spent some of its young life with the calves and its mother. After about a year with the mother it was transferred to the society of men because it was more man then beast.
1.) Comparing the medieval monsters from maps and stories turned out to be an excellent way for me to make the connections between what could count as a monster, and what people back then considered to be monstrous. It was easy to see that almost anything could be interpreted or displayed as a monster. Looking at a map made in 1475, a monster, with a religious aspect to it, was named Gog. This creature was described as having horns and a tail and having just ripped off someone’s arm. This being was described as very beast like. It is comparable to the wild men that Mandeville described in his travels, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. These men were also described as having horns and hoofs. Comparing these two creatures, it reminded me that an aspect of being a monster is the category crisis, which explains that these monsters are monstrous because they are pieced together from different animals (humans with horns and hoofs like beasts) which was interesting to realize.
2.) An interesting creature from Gerald’s History and Typography of Ireland, was the man that was split in half, one half being an ox, the other human. It was amazing to read about many of these different creatures, and it wasn’t too hard to determine that a lot were just made up beings, being half of some “beast”, or animal, and half man. A lot of these qualities were distorted into beastly features, which very well could have just been characteristics of a real person or people. In the medieval bestiary, a creature called a Centaur was described as being a person with half the body of a human, and the other half a horse. This was another example of monsters being created by the category crisis of a creature having the characteristics of an animal, and therefore being deemed monstrous.
From doing these comparisons, I realized that the world of monsters is all very closely connected, and to understand why monsters are the way they are, its significant to look into maps and travel writings of the people who created them.
While looking at the medieval maps, I saw many different creatures that resembled monstrous features. In the medieval map by Abraham Ortelius,1602, (item 14); a cow-like creature is seen in the water. This animal seems to share similar features to creature 55, ”A cow that was partly a stag,” from Gerald of Wales ‘History and Topography of Ireland.’ There are some differences in these animals as well. For starters, one is in the water and the other is not. However, if you look closely at the map, small cows can be seen on land. I would also compare the same monster from, ‘History and Topography of Ireland,’ to those from the medieval map that share more than one animal part. In this map, a mixture between a horse and a sea creature can be seen. As well as a mixture between a pig and fish. The monstrosities could have been born from intercourse between different animals. In the same way, a cow that was partly a stag came to be. The domestic cock from Gerald of Wales ‘History and Topography of Ireland’ reminds me of a gargoyle. It is small in size and may look like the others, but it is unique in its own way. This animal crows differently than those from other countries. This makes the animal different and therefore considered a monster. In the same way, gargoyles, are small sculptures that resemble monsters. They are not quite scary, but they are different from other animals that you would see from a day to day basis.
In the monsters we looked at on Tuesdays class they all seemed to be mythological creatures. In the readings for Thursday’s class the monsters seemed to be exaggerated animals or humans, sharing similar characteristics. Such as the cow that was partly a stag, just a mixture of two different animals that actually do exist. In The Travels of Sir John Mandeville in figure 4 it is the same monster I have seen in a few readings. “The people with eyes in their shoulders”, also were described as “People Eaters” in previous texts. This figure looks similar to the stone carving in “Sheela-na-Grigs” article.
A creature that I found interesting from class was a lot of the creatures were water based, such as the Water Horse. While these readings have a lot of monsters that are dog-like or land based creatures. Even a crow like chicken was brought up in the “History of Topography” article. These monsters also do not seem to be as threatening as the sea creatures we looked at on the maps in class, who almost all of them were violent or vicious in some way.
1. All of the maps had a similar monster on them: the sea monster. The sea monsters seen in these maps are always large, serpent-like creatures that can often be found wrapped around boats, destroying them. The medieval bestiary has a number of large, serpent-like creatures as well. One of that largest is the Boa, which is stated as being large enough to regularly feast on cattle. However, the serpent-like appearance is where the similarities end, as the Boa is described as living in Italy and killing cattle by draining them of their milk; for comparison, sea monsters are often seen in the sea and tend to consume men and other creatures in a more traditional manner.
2. The “half-ox, half-man” described in the Gerald text is a monstrous looking hybrid that, in the end, wasn’t actually a bad person. He is said to have lived among normal people for a while before he was killed for looking different. It’s hard for me to describe him as a “monster” as the only monstrous thing about this creature is the appearance. Similarly, the centaur is labeled as a monster in the medieval bestiary when there is not much evidence given besides it’s appearance. This monster is a hybrid too, half-man half-horse, but not much information is given besides that. Like the creature in the Gerald text, it is described as monstrous based solely on it’s appearance, and with the label of “monster” comes persecution from all “non-monsters”.
To compare a medieval map monster with a monster assigned from the Medieval Bestiary, I chose the Jaculus, also known as the Iaculus, Javelin-snake, and Javelot. This creature is a serpent who can fly, and seems to be a land animal that hunts by hiding in trees, and dropping down on an animal to kill it. The picture representing it in the Bestiary looks as though it has the head of a dog or a fox, with the body of a snake, feet and legs of a rabbit, and wings of a bird. While it doesn’t say it’s a sea creature, there are two map monsters from class on Tuesday that look like they could fit the description. The first is Item 2 in the “map library” website. At the top left, there are a pair of creatures with long serpent bodies and wings, though they are missing the legs and feet. They are on land, but look to be a bit more serpent than the one in the Bestiary, though descriptions and depictions of monsters do tend to change with time. Another example, though this one may be more of a stretch, comes ten years later, and is found on the “blogs.loc.gov” website. On the first map shown, at the right hand side, is a sea creature with a serpent’s body and wings, though this one seems to have the face of a bird. I had no idea what this creature might have been a mistaken interpretation of regarding real animals, and everything I looked up just said the jaculus was “mythical,” except that it’s also the name of a small fuzzy rodent known as a jerboa which is not nearly as fearsome.
The second comparison was not as cool as the flying, murderous serpent. Gerald’s account of the creatures of Ireland involves a couple that consisted of a woman and a really nice-looking goat. The goat in question was described as having long white hair and exceptionally tall horns. In the Bestiary, there is described a creature called a he-goat, of which the picture matches that description. It is said to have blood that is so hot, it can dissolve diamonds. It is also said to have a “lascivious” and “lusty” disposition, hence the relationship between it and the woman in Gerald’s history.
1. One comparison I noticed were the goat-like creatures that appeared in the maps as well as in the Gerald of Wales text. A picture of the creatures can be seen in a work by Bernard Breydenbach from 1486. These creatures appear very similar to the one from the Gerald of Wales text. In that text it is said that the goat had bestial intercourse with a human. Perhaps this oddity is the reason why something as simple as a goat appears in multiple historic pieces.
2. The Tempest and Othello have mention of headless men. One quote was “Who would believe that there were such men/ Whose heads stood in their breasts?”. This description perfectly fits an illustration found from an Angelo-Saxon miscellany. These creatures are called Blemmya and appears in the picture just how it is described in The Tempest.
1. I will be comparing Bonnacon to a creature found in the map made by Abraham Ortelius in 1602. Both creatures have horns and tails and deer-like hooves. In the reading, it says that the Bonnacon does not use its harm for self-defense. It is unknown if the creature in the map uses its horns for self-defense, it most likely does because most animals that have horns use them for self-defense. Another difference is that the Bonnacon lives on land and the creature in the map is pictured as living in the water. The Bonnacon has curved horns and the creature in the map has straight horns. The creature in the map has a tuft of hair on the end of its tail, while the Bonnacon has a smooth tail without a tuft of hair. Both creatures have a similar body type and have long legs that are useful for running. The creature on the map does not look like it would be built for living in the water. It does not have fins and its legs look like they would be better suited for living on land. The map does show the creature prancing through the water so the creature may live both on land and in the water.
2. The gargoyle and the half cow half stag share a resemblance. The picture in Gerald of Wales’ ‘History and Topography of Ireland’ of the half stag half cow looks like a gargoyle. They both have little horns. Gargoyles were said to ward off evil spirits and maybe the half stag and cow did that too. The half stag/half cow also has similar feet to a gargoyle. The half cow half stag could have been created or born to make people laugh because it is unusual. In the article about Gargoyles, it says that some people believe they were created by God to bring him joy.
1) Item Six shows us a map created by Abraham Ortelius around 1570 that depicts the area known as Islandia (or Iceland as we know it today). Around the edges of his map, Ortelius includes illustrations of the monstrous creatures that inhabit the waters. These creatures, though hideously depicted on the map, are likely to be common animals that reside in the area that were simply unknown to the cartographer upon his creation of the map. He shows animals, which we now believe to be things such as narwhals and possibly walruses, with hideously pointed noses, and enormous fangs/teeth. It’s likely that Ortelius simply heard about the creatures through word of mouth, and wanted to include them in his illustration to show the wild and strange nature that inhabited the area. Little did he know that his artwork would actually be a grotesque imagining of what we know to be fairly simple creatures.
2) A common trope seen with many of the monstrous creatures we look at is the idea of blending and combining men with beasts. A fairly common one we see mentioned today is the Centaur, which is a man from the waist up, but has the body and legs of a horse below. Similarly, in Ireland (Item 54), there were stories of a man who was half ox (or an ox who was half man). In both cases, these creatures aren’t depicted as hostile, but instead just as men with specific animal attributes. But it is this disfiguration that earns them the label of “monsters”. The half ox ends up being wrongly killed by a group of young Irish natives who think that, in spite of the ox-man being friendly and even attending court in town multiple times, he is still a monster, and should be treated as such.
It is these simple differences in composition that lead so many in ancient times to throw around the label of “monster”. Anything seen as something not entirely like themselves, not entirely human, was to be feared. And these half-beasts, like the Centaur or the Ox-man, always seem to be (wrongly) grouped in with the like of terrifying dragons and sea serpents.
1.) Many of the monsters that we have looked at these past few weeks are plenty of misinterpretations of real things. On the map that Abraham Ortelius made around 1570 there is a ‘sea monster’ called a Nahual on the top right corner. It has a long horn protruding from it’s head and is located up North. This misrepresentation could have been most likely a Narwhal which is located in the Northern hemisphere with a long horn protruding from it’s head, however Narwhals do not have green skin, orange gills, or long blue ears. Another misinterpretation was the Apple-Smellers from eastern parts of India. They are hairy mouthless men who only live by smelling, especially smelling apples. Yet this other misinterpretation could have been a Himalayan tribe who sniffed onions to get rid of mountain sickness, who in fact most definitely have mouths.
2.) Many of these monstrous beasts that we have learned about had to do a lot with women not fitting in a ‘lady-like’ way. For example a monster from the ‘History and Topography of Ireland’ was a woman with a beard and mane on her back. She was sufficiently feminine however just very hairy, but these unlady-like features made her appear monstrous. Another monster found from Ireland was a Sheela-Na-Gig which was represented through little sculptures of women showing their genitals. I doubt there were women that would walk around like that… but this could be another representation of not acting ‘lady-like’. I interpreted Sheela-Na-Gigs as women who slept around, and because they were not lady-like, ‘having one partner’, they appeared as monsters.
1. In item #14 you see “ISLANDIA” with all kinds of monsters throughout the water of the map showing us that the people who have traveled these seas have seen some interesting stuff off land. The map monsters seem more in-depth compared to the explanations and stories of Gerald of Wales. These monsters seem to be alike yet super different all at the same time. How do we really compare the two? Myths come into play with the Flood and how monsters may have come to be because of the great flood, apparently. So, who’s to say if these animals aren’t all related? I believe they have to be. Then, in item #17 we see on foot monsters who have similar traits as the water monsters. Could they possibly be the same type of monster that just changes into whatever element they are in?
2. Throughout the entire reading of Gerald of Wales we see woman throwing themselves at these monsters or tending to their needs. The Sheela-Na-Gigs is very similar in a sense. We don’t know too much about this woman of lust. Who apparently would “get rid of the evil spirits in the house by showing her vagina. Like many of the woman described in Gerald of Wales we see this reoccurring scene of woman being extremely lustful and almost creepy in a sense. Both the Gerald of Wales and Sheela-Na-Gigs complicated what we know today as real and fake.
1. Comparing the medieval monsters in the map and articles that were assigned to us for Thursday helped me understand more about how people in that time prorated monsters. The last link showed a photo of many different monsters and how different they are. The photo even showed in the picture what they do to make themselves monster and by each picture of the monsters their sentences explaining with they are to help people better understand the monster. Also, comparing the maps many monsters showed in both maps. For example, the monsters with the one leg show up on the last map and the article called “The Travels of Sir John Mandeville”. This tells me that this monster was popular in medieval times. They helped me understand what monsters were popular in that time frame.
2. Throughout the many monsters that we have learned about so far is that many of them are them being half man and half beats or even different portions of body parts. In the ‘Gerald of Wales,’ there are many pictures of man-based monsters with or without a certain body part on them or is a full-on beast looking. For example, there are a couple of men in ‘Gerald of Wales’, there is one man on page 74 that has hoves for hands and weird looking feet. There are many different ones as well but that is the one that caught my eye when I was reading.
1) Most of the monsters you can find depicted on medieval maps are imaginative representations of real-world creatures, which I could see in most of the maps we’ve discussed in class. On one map in particular, made by Abraham Ortelius, a sea “monster” is located towards the top named Nahual. Much like a narwhal, the Nahua had a large spiraled horn protruding from its head; Considering this, it is likely that the person who first depicted the Noctua had mistaken it for a Narwhal in the natural world. Another example of a monster that Ortelius likely had mistaken for a monster is the Bonnacon. This large-horned creature showed the characteristics of a male deer, one with no fighting disposition, much like the deer we are used to encountering today.
2) A particularly good comparison of monsters we have discussed in class and those of the Gerald text is one between the “half-ox, half-man” and the centaur. These two monsters are in essence the same, in that they are both characteristically human. Not only do they bear resemblances in their appearance, they are also similarly natured. For example, the ox-man was described to have lived honestly and for the benefit of others, both of these monsters are capable of human emotion, yet they are both described as monsters based solely on their outward appearance – such prejudice is common to see against hybrid races, as they are seen as sub-human despite being equally capable.
1.) When it comes to comparing the monsters on medieval maps to one of the monsters assigned for Thursday’s class, I thought that I would compare and contrast how the unicorn is portrayed. In both sets of links, the unicorn is portrayed with an exceptionally long horn, longer than it is portrayed in today’s adaptations, that is partially curved, and is seen as a monster that is not scary and is more of a majestic and beautiful creature. Something that makes the unicorn different in one set of articles compared to the others is that in one, it is portrayed to have much longer ears and be more of a sky animal while in the other it is more of a land creature.
2.) Between the History of Topography of Ireland and bestiary, I thought of comparing the man that was half human and half ox to the centaur, which was half man and half horse. Both creatures have the hands and arms of a human while the lower body parts such as the legs were the half of the ox or horse. One of the things that makes the two different was that the man that was half human and half ox was portrayed as not having any hair while the centaur seemed to be portrayed as having long hair. Another thing that made the two different was the fact that the half human and half ox walked on two legs while the centaur walked on all four legs.
1) A monster that caught my attention the most on the maps that we viewed were numerous different kinds of sea monsters. There were very large fish with big teeth, fish with cow and dog heads, and fearful “mermaids”. These monsters are usually destroying boats and attacking sailors. In “The History and Topography of Ireland”, It talks about a man that was half man and half ox. It had all the parts of the human body except the extremities were of an ox. He had hooves, large eyes that were same in color and shape of those from an ox, and two holes for nostrils but no nose. In both examples, the creatures are very odd and usually made of two or more animals. Although, unlike the sea creatures, the half man half ox is not a threat.
2) In “The History and Topography of Ireland”, the woman with a beard and mane on her back and Sheela-na-gig are comparable. The woman with a beard and a mane on her back is described to be very feminine other than having the hair down her back and a long beard. Comparing to the Sheela-na-gig, they were “evocative symbols of the feminine in old Irish culture”.
1.) The map that I chose for this first comparison is from Sebastian Munster, 1555. In the top left corner, there is an image of a serpent-like creature with wings. I saw similarities between this creature and the Amphisbaena. The Amphisbaena is a serpent that has two heads, one on each end, and is “often depicted as having wings and two feet”. The serpent-like creature in Munster’s map did not have two heads but does not have legs- just like the “legless lizard that can move either forward or backward”. These two monsters are depicted as threats to non-monstrous humans. To add on, the serpent-like image in Munster’s map shows two of the same figure eating what seems to be an ordinary animal, possibly one of a larger size. For the Amphisbaena, the fact that it can run in either direction makes it a threat to the hunting field.
2.) For this second comparison, I would like to bring attention to creature 54 “a man that was half an ox and an ox that was half a man” from the Gerald of Wales reading as well as the centaur. A centaur is a half man and half horse. Both the centaur and the half ox half human are judged based off of their appearance. However, they are also alike due to their expected fear factor even though they are not nearly as terrifying as other monsters we have learned about in class.
1) A common trend with medieval monsters that I’ve noticed can be seen with map #6 of “Medieval Maps and Monsters” and with the creature Griffon. These monsters can be described as “patchwork.” For example, the griffon is a mix of a lion and an eagle, while the monsters in the map are a mix of fish and various terrestrial animals (such as horses, pigs, and birds). This mix-and-match of beasts is often the cornerstone of various monsters.
2) Another pair of patchwork monsters are the centaur and the man that was half an ox. What’s interesting about these monsters is that they’re both part man. The centaur had the upper body of a man and the lower body of a horse. Meanwhile, the half-ox had the eyes and hooves of an ox, and no hair or nose. These creatures, despite being monstrous, where monstrous in different ways.
When looking at the monsters from maps, a clear that many of the more humanoid monsters, especially those ascribed in Greek and Roman sources, come from very places deemed as remote, exotic, and isolated. Pierre Descalliers’ World Portolan map shows not only a monstrous depiction of an elephant, but also two distinct monsters situated next to an African village. Another source of monsters from Africa comes in a cartography book from 1495 that shows many humanoid monsters alongside other non-human entities that are clearly based on animals found in Africa. From this map, one can easily infer that these more humanistic monsters come from Africa as well. Not only were humanoid monsters solely found on land but in the sea as well. Most Christian bestiaries such as one by Hugh of Fouilloy depict sirens luring sailors off ships with either the lower body of a mermaid and even a horse. While geographically they all symbolize the unknown creatures and cultures outside of one’s own area, they contrast in terms of how they act. To explain, the monsters from Africa are immediately described as deformed savage beings, while sirens are depicted as beautiful creatures that will kill unsuspecting men. The former is more direct in how they are deformed and uncultured monsters. The later is subtle in their monstrosity, almost like an allegory on how while the ocean is a tempting thing, it can lead to your demise.
In Ireland, statures of the Sheela-na-Gig adorn the country with their female genitals and haggard appearance on display. It is unclear whether they are promoting fertility or even the importance of females, but both are present in regards to the Sheela-na-Gig. A similar figure is found in Gerald of Wale’s ‘History and Topography of Ireland’ who depicts the monstrous hairy women who follows the royal court and is depicted naked. Both women are depicted as naked ladies with peculiar oddities that have some position of power with the Sheela-na-Gig having statues across Ireland and around churches and the bearded woman being the king’s mistress. In addition, the Sheela-na-Gig and bearded woman are also viewed as being ‘outside the norm’ of what it means to be a lady much like the Amazons. For example, one version of the Sheela-na-Gig has her being a figure that symbolizes the ‘evils of lust’, which contrasts with a lady being pure. Also, the bearded women, according to Gerald of Wales, is said to be more in tune with her masculine than feminine side due to the amount of hair she has. One key difference between these two figures is that the bearded woman is stigmatized for her beard and mane as people laugh or gawk at her. On the other hand, the Sheela-na-Gig is seen more in a positive light for what they symbolize and are even said to ward off the evil eye.
When comparing the monsters of medieval maps to some form of monstrosity I chose to compare item fourteen (from maplibrary5 link) with the Unicorn. The monsters shown in item fourteen all appear ferocious and threatening, meanwhile the Unicorn is such a graceful and magnificent beast. The monsters from item fourteen are mixes of all different kinds of animals put together to form odd looking beasts, whereas according to the medieval bestiaries the Unicorn is simply a horse with a single horn in the middle of its head. The Unicorn was known to be highly valued because of its special horn. The Unicorn’s horn was acclaimed to be able to detect poison and if dipped in a poisoned drink it could make the poison harmless. The monsters illustrated in item fourteen do not appear to be baring anything that anyone would want. In depictions of the Unicorn their horn is highlighted, symbolizing it’s importance.
For the second comparison, I chose to compare Sheela-na-Gigs to the woman with a beard and a mane on her back. The Sheela-na-Gigs were just statues of naked women showing their genitals and the woman with a beard and a mane was exactly what it or she was. Both creatures were naked females. The reason as to why Sheela-na-Gigs were created still is not known. The woman with a beard and a mane was simply just a hairy woman and the idea of her having a mane was probably just a misconception. Someone probably saw a woman with very long hair that cascaded down her back and laid forward over her shoulders. From afar it must have looked as if she had hair on her face and down her back like a beard and a mane.
For the first medieval monster comparison, I wanted to look more into the Cerastes and the creature pictured on Map 14 labeled with the letter G. The Cerastes is a serpent with what seems to be the head of a ram with a set of horns, or sometimes four small horns. It also has what looks to be two front feet along with the body of a serpent. This monster is very flexible and practically has no spine so it can move swiftly and quickly when needed. When hunting, the Cerastes will hide in sand with only it’s horns showing. The prey will think it’s food and when it’s close enough, the Cerastes strikes and kills its prey. The monster I am comparing looks similar to the Cerastes. It has the body of a serpent and alsol has a set of front legs just like the Cerastes. One of the major differences is that the monster doesn’t have horns and it actually has the head of a horse rather than a ram. Both of these monsters seem threatening and are very prominent in this time period.
For the second monster comparison, I chose to look at the Sheela-na-Gigs sculptures to the woman with the beard down to her waist from the Giraldus de Barri chapter. The Sheela-na-Gigs are sculptures of naked women who had no problem showing their bodies off to be sculpted. Some say that the Sheela-na-Gigs were representing old Irish feminine culture and the importance of females in Irish society. Both of these interesting creatures were from Irish mythology and both depictions of women. A key difference though between these two monsters was that the woman covered in hair mainly resembled some similarities to a foal. She had long hair all the way down her spine like the mane of a horse and the rest of her body was covered in shorter hair. According to the Barri chapter, the woman with the long hair down her spine was just following the custom of her fatherland and not her “nature.” We can then further question about this fatherland the woman comes from and look more in depth to that history, along with the Sheela-na-Gigs statues.
When comparing the monsters of medieval maps to some form of monstrosity I chose to compare item seventeen (from maplibrary5 link) with the Unicorn. The monsters shown in item seventeen all appear to be different kinds of animals put together to create animal and human-like beings. One I would like to point out is the Unicornus. The Unicornus appears to just be a horse with a long-spiraled horn on the top of its head. The face of the Unicornus however looks deranged and creepy with its sunken eyes and extremely skinny body. Meanwhile, the Unicorn is a beautiful creature with either the body of a small goat, an ass, or a horse. The Unicorn has a spiraled-horn on the middle of its head as well, but the Unicorn looks more approachable and like an angel-like being. The Unicorn was highly valued for its horn and the special powers that it possessed. The depiction of the Unicornus from item seventeen and the Unicorn have the same kind of horn on either of their heads and in both depictions of them, their horns are very prominent and attention grabbing to show their importance.
For the second comparison, I chose to compare gargoyles to the man that was half an ox and an ox that was half a man. Gargoyles are structures that appear to be monsters or monstrous angels and the man that was half an ox looks like a gargoyle from the picture of him. Both creatures contain animal qualities. Besides gargoyles being created to either ward off enemies or to delight God their main purpose was to control water flow. The man that was half an ox was probably created due to a man having a deformity or someone could not clearly make out the man’s face from far away.
For my first comparison, I would like to discuss the similarities between creatures such as the centaur, mermaid, and manticore to the monsters featured in the map by Hartmann Schedel (1493). I found it interesting that these monsters all appeared to be some kind of human-animal hybrid. The mermaid is half human, half fish, the centaur is half man, half horse, and so on. The humanoid monsters depicted on Schedel’s map seem to be mixed with birds or goats, and some with animal like hair and other characteristics of the like. The reason these similarities caught my attention is that they hearken to the fact that many monsters created by humans are actually derived from the humans themselves. For example, the bestiary describes mermaid as “being vain and admiring their own image.” (The Medieval Bestiary.) This is a very human quality that is often seen as negative, and so creating a monster that embodies this attribute could be seen as one condemning something they see in themselves or human kind in general.
I also found some interesting similarities and differences regarding the monsters born from women having intercourse with lions and goats from Wales’ excerpts, and the Sheela-na-Gigs. As far as similarities go, all of these “monsters” are from the same region and roughly the same time period. They also both represent women in a way, especially in perhaps a more sexual sense. Where the discrepancies lie, however, is where I was really able to get a good sense of some of the societal sentiments of that place in time. Wales’ two monsters were described as being born from a woman’s indiscretions with animals. Strangely, in an otherwise more or less didactic excerpt, the writer breaks from this style to interject his opinion that these women were “worthy of death” and “wretched” (Wales) for these acts. All the while, a creature discussed earlier as being born from a man having sex with a cow was excused as being a “particular vice of [his] people” (Wales) This shows an imbalance on how this society viewed each gender’s sexuality.
On the other hand, the Sheela-na-Gigs could be said to have uplifted women and praised their sexuality in a subtle way. These nude female figures were said to have embodied fertility. It’s importance and reverence is also reflected in the fact that they were named for the wife of Ireland’s patron saint, St.Patrick. These figures expressed a more positive view on women and their sexuality, representing women’s ability to give life as a good thing and as a reflection of nature’s circle of life.
1) Comparing monsters comes across as something that is a redundant, but it isn’t, and it is as wonderfully compelling as any other comparison. The Map that I will be using was made in 1475 and the reason I chose this map is because it depicts Gog, The Evil King of Magog. I love the depiction of Evil in this sense, a best that lays in wait in the west and feeds on the flesh of unwary travelers. This beast has the horns and legs of a Goat with a tail (Almost the modern depiction of Satan). I find it fascinating that this depiction of Evil is a man -goat hybrid but it doesn’t always get portrayed like this because we see the depiction of the Dragon. The Dragon is another representation of Evil as it is often the metaphor for the Devil himself. The Devil is viewed as a Dragon because they are the Kings of Serpents and the Devil is the King of Serpents. In this case its interesting that these are both depiction of absolute evil, but one takes a very human from while the other takes a terrifying beast form. I think the more Human one is to demonstrate that Evil is something that is present within us, but the Dragon shows that pure Evil is something that exists in the unknown regions and is a beast that is waiting to be slayed.
2) The next two things that I would like to compare is something that interests me a lot and that’s the Lion that loved a Woman and the Unicorn because they both have a sexual way of calming beasts for the benefit of Men. The Lion when in a rage could only be tamed by a woman’s tricks. The Unicorn could only be caught if a maiden displayed herself before it and it would rest only to be soon after killed by a hunter. In these causes’ women are forced to use their sexuality to tame beast for the benefit of men. I think that these monsters show that women should control and tame their sexuality so that way they aren’t difficult for men to handle. Women get punished for being sexual and they can only be sexual with beasts in these cases, this kind of likens women to beast when it comes to their desire and paints men as nobles that are searching for something to tame.
In figure thirteen of the Aberdeen Bestiary, there is a snake depicted. Now, this is not a regular snake, or a snake you would ever expect to see. This snake has legs. I would assume the snake has legs, because someone from the time saw the snake moving and did not understand how a land animal could move without legs. I feel as though this is similar and shares characteristics with the seventh item on the medieval maps document. In figure seven, there is a serpentine monster with legs and a pig’s head depicted. However, this creature is in the sea, because I believe I see a similar pigs head in an ocean in figure six. I feel as though this sheds a lot of light onto how the people of the medieval ages thought. Depicting many things with legs to be able to walk or at least drag themselves along made sense to them, so that way they could move. The truth of the matter is that snakes do not have legs, and fish do not need legs either.
On page 75 of the “History and Topography of Ireland”, the author starts to tell a story of a woman who had a goat entrusted to her, that she made love with. The author states his outrage with making love with an animal who was not rational, but rather a beast or a brute that served a purpose. The next page goes into another similar story about how a lion and a different woman, named Johanna, would also do the same. But, the people were disgusted, but would call for Johanna whenever the lion was outraged, and would “sooth the beast with her womanly tricks”. The author calls all four of the subjects involved, particularly the women, monstrosities. I think this is very relatable to the Sheela-Na-Gigs discussed in the article assigned, because the Sheela-Na-Gigs are predicted to be important to the classic culture of Ireland and how they held women in respect, as well as their sexuality. So, its not a surprise that someone would be outraged by a woman defiling her own sexuality by committing bestiality, when such things are held in high regard.
There are many monsters on medieval maps that could be compared to some form of monstrosity. A monster on the map of “Carta Marina” that I would compare to a form of monstrosity would be the Ziphius (or “water-owl) with the swordfish. Located northwest of the “Carta Marina,” the Ziphuis is a sea creature that possesses the body of a fish, the head of an owl, a large, sharp beak, and large eyes. Similar to the swordfish, the Ziphius resides in the water where it can wreak havoc upon ships with its large beak. According to “The Medieval Beastiar,” the swordfish is “a fish with a pointed beak it uses to sink ships.” In a way, the Ziphius and the swordfish symbolize the dangers of sailing.
Two monsters I found interesting to compare were the wolf that talked to a priest from ‘History and Topography of Ireland’ and gargoyles. In the story about the wolf and priest, it begins with the priest being approached by a wolf that spoke “human words.” As concerned as the priest was, the wolf continued to speak about God and explained that he and his companion were cursed by the saint Natalis; they were exiled from their homes and human bodies, transforming them into wolves. However, the priest fearfully transformed the two back to humans. I found that I could compare the wolves to gargoyles because they signify that not all monsters are bad. Although the wolves appeared to be monstrous, they behaved like civilized people seeking help. Similarly, gargoyles are “monstrous angels” used by churches “to ward off evil.”
1. One of the common traits I seen throughout the maps weren’t just the creatures they placed throughout the waters, I noticed how the wind was represented by humanoid heads in a lot of different maps from the link of maps sent in an email two days ago. This represents the monsters in our assigned course not because they are the same, but because what they represent is the same. During the time period, society had no clue why certain things in nature and the world happened, that many groups of people started associating the different aspects of nature and the world, with monsters and creatures (usually of human-like qualities). This was then represented within maps and literature as they began to represent these “creatures” with godly powers throughout their legacy.
2. I’m Gerald of Wales humans are described with animalistic qualities or animals are described with human qualities (such as a talking wolf, talking being a human quality) This compares nicely with Gargoyles. Gargoyles are usually made with human-like qualities and are usually placed on a high place to let normal humans look upon the “creatures” In Gerad of wales, despite the creatures not being placed in a high location, their representation is still placed in “high” regard.
While looking at The Psalter World Map (1290) I saw two dragon-like creatures on the bottom. They have two legs with talons, a long tail, and they appear to have big feathers but I’m not sure if they are wings. What caught my attention is how their heads looked like those of dogs and they seem to have big floppy dog ears. When I saw them, they reminded me of the Cynocephali monster that has the head of a dog and the body of a man. They live in the mountains of India, communicate by barking, and they breathe fire. Since I am unable to read about the dragon-like creature, I have no way of knowing whether or not they breathe fire, but many dragons are known to breathe fire as these Cynocephalis do. The Cynocephalis use handmade weapons, like swords, along with their fiery breath. From my observations of the dragons on the map, I would assume they would use their talons or teeth as weapons, and if they do happen to breathe fire, they would also use that.
A creature from the Gerald of Wales that really threw me off was the domestic cock. They really considered this animal a monster just because their crowing was a little different in Ireland than it was in other countries. When comparing this “monster” to the Griffin, there are many physical similarities between the two. They are both bird-like, have wings, beaks, and talons. The main difference is the body of the griffin is a lot bigger and stronger than that of a chicken. The back legs of a griffin are compared to the legs of a lion and a plain old chicken definitely doesn’t have legs of a lion.
The maps all had depictions of Sea Monsters, which looked like the depictions of dragons we had looked at earlier. They had a similar body shape and features such as the same claws/talons, sharp teeth, and scales. Gerald of Wales described a creature as a “half man, half ox”. This depiction reminded me of a centaur, which has the body of a man and legs of a horse. It was interesting to see the similarities of the creatures.