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The Knight vs. The Snail

Image from the Gorleston Psalter (14th Century)

This is a doodle from a medieval manuscript. Such manuscripts were written by monks (who, other than nobles and clergy, were really the only ones that could even read after all) and usually included some sort of doodle or artwork in the margins. But some are pretty strange. Like this one. Do you know why the knight is fighting a snail? Because if you read enough 14th century literature this image turns up everywhere. And nobody knows why.

Perhaps its a weird joke – the knight finally facing an equally-armored foe – or maybe it’s a metaphor. Some people have proposed that the snails are references to biblical passages, or political groups, or sex. Here’s a tip – if you don’t know what something represents, sex is always a good guess. Maybe the monks just really hated snails, but then why do the knights always look so worried?

Maybe they know something we don’t. I’m not saying knights battled giant snails in medieval Europe. But I’m not not saying it either.

To see more images, go to the Medieval Manuscripts blog at the British Library. Thanks to io9.com and reddit for the heads up.

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Anthropology, History

 

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