Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Medieval Manuscripts and Snail Doodles


From The Conversation:

Snails were recognised in medieval times for their unusual strength, given that they were able to carry their home on their back. Confrontation with a snail, therefore, could represent a test of personal strength as well as mental fortitude.

Once a symbol of deceptive courage, the snail became a creature to be hunted down and destroyed in a display of strength and bravery.

A knight approaches a large red snail, wielding a club.

Like many other subjects popularised in marginal illuminations of the 1300s, the snail and knight duo gradually disappeared as time wore on. They experienced a brief revival, however, in medieval manuscripts towards the end of the 15th century.

And they haven’t completely disappeared from the common imagination. Today the pairing can still be enjoyed in the nursery rhyme, Four-and-Twenty Tailors Went To Kill a Snail:

Four-and-twenty tailors went to kill a snail,

The best man amongst them durst not touch her tail;

She put out her horns like a little Kyloe cow;

Run, tailors, run, or she’ll kill you all e’en now.

(Read more.)


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