[MR] BBC: Fighting Snails in Medieval Marginalia

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Mon Dec 25 02:17:19 PST 2023

Noble Friends,

To post, or not to post, on Christmas Day? Like Livius, the lady who is
behind The History Blog, I considered taking the holiday season off. But
this morning I stumbled upon this absolutely delightful BBC article, and
couldn't resist. This is my Christmas gift to you all.

The article in question discusses medieval marginalia depicting snails in
combat with knights. Yup! Snails. There are over 70 examples in surviving
manuscripts, most illuminated between 1290 and 1320. They often depict a
knight cowering in terror before an enormous slimy mollusk.

Sometimes the snails are shown being ridden by evil rabbits (shades of
Monty Python!). Militant rabbits themselves are a similar motif of the
time, and are frequently shown in triumph over hunters.

No firm explanation for these images has ever been discovered, but theories
abound. Some experts suggest a "world turned upside down" parody, similar
to the "Fools Christmas" presided over by a Lord of Misrule. Perhaps they
were a veiled warning or a satiric subterfuge against the upper classes,
hinting that they could be brought low. Who knows? We are left with a
mystery to ponder, and some really fun images to enjoy.

The article, with three examples from the British Museum collection, is
found at

Merry Christmas, good friends.

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge, and Lover of All That Is Cheeky 🦆
Continuing a crusade to keep Merry Rose relevant and in business.

More information about the Atlantia mailing list