Ars Electronica


Ars Electronica
Performing Art (Music Piece)
An Interpretation of Le Morte d’Arthur
Medieval Romance: Magic and the Supernatural (YHU2309)

Artist’s Remarks

While brainstorming ideas for this creative assignment, I decided to go back to what I do best and love most: music. It is especially fitting considering many of the medieval texts we have studied in this semester, like the romances and lais, were themselves performed orally or to music. In pondering how best to bring across themes such as forbidden love, treachery, danger, death, magic, and religiosity which I see in Le Morte d’Arthur, I decided that what could best capture all these elements was a musical impression. Thus, this piece is meant to capture some main themes of Le Morte d’Arthur, not create an exact soundtrack for it. I say it is medieval-inspired because I have done my best to adhere to medieval music forms, theory, practice, and instrumentation1 – these I will further elaborate on later. The piece tracks the rough development of Le Morte d’Arthur from the birth of Arthur to his demise, as well as that of the Round Table. While it would have been nice to include all twenty-one books of Le Morte d’Arthur, due to time constraints I will only be focusing on a few. With this in mind, I have selected enough of Le Morte d’Arthur to fit a piece of approximately five and a half minutes.

The piece is structured into five sections, each around one minute in length. Their titles are “Arthur’s Birth and Coronation,” “The Fight,” “The Sangrail,” “Romance,” and “Death of Camelot,” respectively. It is entitled Ars Electronica because it has been programmed, played, and recorded on an electronic keyboard instrument called the Electone.2 It is also a wordplay on ‘Ars Nova,’ a style of music which flourished in France in the 14th century, about which a treatise was written by Phillip de Vitry.3 My choice of the Electone is both symbolic and practical: first, it has three keyboards – one for right hand, one for left and one for the foot, much like the medieval positive organ.4 In that sense, it is an electronic organ, the modern-day counterpart to its medieval cousin. More importantly, the Electone’s versatility enabled me to programme and fine-tune the sound settings such that they resembled medieval instruments as closely as possible. Its multiple keyboards also allowed me to play three or more different instruments at the same time.

A Note on Medieval Styles

This piece posed a particular challenge for me as I had never encountered medieval music before.  In my classical musical training, we were schooled extensively in Renaissance and Baroque, but nothing earlier than that. As such, I embarked on my own quest of researching medieval music. One of the first things that stood out to me was the lack of regular metre or bar-lines. At that time, the modern system of time signatures which we use today had not been invented yet, so the music had specific rhythmic patterns but not bar-measures, per se.5 Thus, in my music I tried to replicate the free-flowing, meandering nature of medieval music.6 Another feature of note is the use of ornaments7 at liberty, in an almost improvised manner.8 I too have tried to follow that kind of ornamentation in my music. Medieval music also uses modes instead of the musical ‘keys’ we are familiar with today.9 Hence, I have used exclusively Gregorian modes in my composition as well.

1. Arthur’s Birth and Coronation

For the first part of this section, Arthur’s birth theme, I chose the most basic Medieval instrument available: the human voice. I used the Dorian mode10 and minor chords to give it a sombre feel. This recalls the grim circumstances of his birth: using Merlin’s help to disguise himself as Igraine’s husband the Duke of Cornwall, Arthur’s father Uther had tricked Igraine into going to bed with him, only hours after the real Duke’s death in battle. The sombreness of the music represents both the solemness of death and the graveness of treachery. I have chosen the lower male voices to add to the heavy atmosphere, making it sound like a mass.11 This adds a layer of irony: holy music being played for a child born out of trickery, the very violation of Christian and knightly values. In line with Uther’s trickery towards Igraine, I have added my own twist in the music – according to the usual Dorian mode, the B flat note is used instead of B natural. Up until the end of the first part, I consistently used B flat to prime listeners to expect the B flat every time; however, at the ending cadence of the first part, I jump to a B natural, changing the chord from a minor-key G chord (G, B flat, D) to a major-key G chord (G, B natural, D). It is a plot twist of sorts which then leads into the second part of this section, Arthur’s coronation theme. The tone and beat of the theme are celebratory, both to celebrate Arthur’s success in proving his worth through pulling the sword out of the stone, and as an exaltation of his virtues. This theme is also written in the Ionian mode12, which is known as the “pure” mode because of its lack of accidentals13. This is to show that, despite the treacherous circumstances of his birth, Arthur turned out to be noble and good. Thus, the ‘purity’ of the key is an allusion to Arthur’s purity; it is meant to symbolize his knightly virtue. The instrumentation also changes to a mixture of organ and voice. According to medieval thought, wind instruments were said to “arouse or exasperate amorous spirits, and to an extent move them to the sweetness of [religious] devotion.”14 Since the organ consisted of a multitude of windpipes, it was deemed the only instrument allowed for church use. Seeing as Arthur was christened before he took the throne, the use of the organ adds to atmosphere of holiness and jubilation, signaling the ascension of a noble and worthy king. Inspiration for this part was drawn from Gaude Felix Francia, the 1226 conductus for King Louis of France’s coronation and anointment.15

2. The Fight

In this section I used the medieval ivory horn and tubular trumpet. Although medieval brass instruments used only plain tones (no vibrato),16 I was unable to remove the preset vibrato in the sounds I used on the Electone. I chose these instruments because they are strong and stately, symbolic of the kind of bravado knights display in fights. The tone is authoritative and demanding, mimicking knights engaged in combat. This section features a layering of voices in polyphony – a feature that started to take root only in the late medieval period.17 The trumpet comes in first, followed by the horn in inversion, then subsequently both play in a pattern of interweaving melodic lines. The lines weave in and out of each other, crossing and clashing, representing the conflicts Arthur and his knights had with other kingdoms over the course of the book, such as Arthur’s campaign against Rome. I have also added a flute in the background, which appears at unexpected intervals and flits up and down uncontrollably. This represents the unpredictable magical interference of Merlin, Nineve and Morgan le Fay – one never knew when or where they might strike or choose to help. Even if they were not part of the main action, these magical characters were often lurking on the sidelines, much like the flute does here. Moreover, the flute adds to the sense of destabilization reminiscent of conflict. Additionally, I used the Locrian mode18,  which contains a diminished interval between B and F. This diminished interval creates a highly dissonant sound, thus I have extensively exploited it, along with big melodic leaps, to represent the chaos of battle.

3. The Sangrail

This section represents the various knights’ quest for the Sangrail, as instructed by Arthur. I once again used the organ, as well as the harmonically “pure” Dorian mode19 to symbolize the holy nature of this quest. The tempo is quick and the mood more upbeat, to mirror the excitement of going on a quest-adventure. However, although the melody ends on the mode’s tonic ‘C,’ there is an unexpected crescendo added, which suggests that all is not what it seems and there is danger lurking ahead. As we know, many knights did not come back from the quest for the Sangrail, and the crescendo is supposed to represent this.

4. Romance

This section interprets both Tristan and Isolt, and Lancelot and Guinevere’s stories. Even though they are slightly different, I see a parallel between both in that both are a story of a forbidden love, held on through trickery and deceit, that ends inevitably in tragedy. In this section I have used the pan flute and harp: both have associations with amorous Greek figures – the pan flute with the fertility god Pan, and the harp with the virtuosic lover Orpheus. Furthermore, both have a mild, sweet tone which gives the music an air of tenderness, otherworldliness, and delicacy, which is how romance characters often describe the feeling of falling in love. Specifically, the harp plays a series of soft arpeggiated chords much like a dance, and the two pan flutes dance with each other in polyphony. The higher flute represents the females like Isolt and Guinevere, while the lower pan flute represents the males like Tristan and Lancelot. The way the flutes communicate with each other is reminiscent of lovers’ embraces and intimate conversations. However, keeping in mind that these were forbidden romances, the sweetness does not last long: the mode quickly changes from the joyous Mixolydian20 mode to the more ominous, minor-sounding Phrygian21 mode. The music slows down menacingly, and the harp breaks its strumming pattern to play a flush of notes, foretelling the tragedy to befall these lovers.

5. Death of Camelot

In the final section, the music evokes not only Arthur’s death, but the dissolution of the Round Table with it. The music is modelled after a mourning mass – it is chordal organ music which is slow, stately, and grave. Unlike the earlier sections where there is a high degree of ornamentation, this section pulls back some of the ornaments to deliver a plainer line, reminding us of the solemnity of Arthur’s death. All the chords used are minor chords, with the exception of F, adding to the somber tone. The harmonic chord structure is also symbolic: I have used a pattern called the circle of fifths22 to represent the knights of the Round Table. The original circle of fifths for this mode should be B minor → F# minor → C# minor → G# minor → D# minor (enharmonic to Eb)23 → Bb minor → F → C minor → G minor → D minor → A minor → E minor → B minor. However, before the music even has a chance to reach E minor, I break the circle by going to a different chord, suggesting the breakdown of the Round Table. Although the circle of fifths is a pattern only developed during the Baroque era, I chose to make a creative departure from medieval music theory just this once, for the symbolic character of the circle.

At the end, the music resolves from dissonant chords to the tonic of the Hypodorian mode24, A minor. The Hypodorian mode is also known as the “natural minor” mode for its highly minor-sounding character, thus adding to the gloomy mood of the finale. I also added tolling church bells to add to the sense of death and finality in this last section. With this, Arthur and his Round Table are no more.


Diagram of the eight medieval modes, taken from Companion to Medieval and Rennaisance Music, p.255.


Diagram of the circle of fifths, taken from classicFM website25


1 Nigel Wilkins, “Instruments and their Music,” The Cambridge History of Medieval Music,  451-474.

2 For more information, refer to

3 Fuller, “A Phantom Treatise of the Fourteenth Century? The Ars Nova; Ars nova: French and Italian Music in the Fourteenth Century.”

4 Case Western Reserve University Early Music Instrument Database, “Organ (Medieval).”

5 John Caldwell, “Rhythm and Metre,” The Cambridge History of Medieval Music, 718-746.

6 An example would be Joseph Payne’s transcription of the 15th century manuscript Praeambulum super D, here played by Catalina Vicens on a 15th century church organ:

7 Musical embellishments like trills, mordents and turns.

8 Cambridge History of Medieval Music.

9 Liane Curtis, “Mode,” Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music, 255-264.

10 Mode which spans mostly white keys from D to D, with the exception of B flat. Refer to Annex for diagram of all the modes.

11 Such as the Kyrie mass, exemplified in this performance by Oxford Camerata:

12 The mode that spans the white keys from C to C.

13 Flats, sharps or any alterations to the note.

14 Case Western Reserve University Early Music Instrument Database, “Organ (Medieval).”

15 Peter M. Lefferts, “Tonal Organization in Polyphony, 1150–1400,” The Cambridge History of Medieval Music, 747-773; Refer to this performance of Gaude Felix Francia:

16 Cupeiro, “Medieval Horn,”; Case Western Reserve University Early Music Instrument Database, “Trumpet (Medieval).”

17 Peter M. Lefferts,“Tonal Organization in Polyphony, 1150–1400,” The Cambridge History of Medieval Music, 747-773; Roman Hankeln, “Liturgy and Plainchant, 1150–1570,” The Cambridge History of Medieval Music, 774-800.

18 Mode which starts on B.

19 Refer to section ‘Arthur’s Birth and Coronation’ above for explanation.

20 Mode that spans the white keys from G to G.

21 Mode that spans white keys from E to E.

22 A pattern where the music moves through chords which are a fifth apart from each other until it comes back to the starting chord (Refer to Annex).

23 Enharmonic notes are notes which share the same pitch but have different letter names; # means sharps and b means flats.

24 The mode that spans the white keys from A to A.



Case Western Reserve University College of Arts and Sciences. “Flute (Medieval).” Early Music Instrument Database. Case Western Reserve University. Accessed May 2, 2022.

Case Western Reserve University College of Arts and Sciences. “Harp (Medieval).” Early Music Instrument Database. Case Western Reserve University. Accessed May 2, 2022.

Case Western Reserve University College of Arts and Sciences. “Organ (Medieval).” Early Music Instrument Database. Case Western Reserve University. Accessed May 2, 2022.

Case Western Reserve University College of Arts and Sciences. “Trumpet (Medieval).” Early Music Instrument Database. Case Western Reserve University. Accessed May 2, 2022.

Cupeiro, Abraham. Medieval Horn. YouTube, 2021.

Everist, Mark, and Thomas Forrest Kelly. The Cambridge History of Medieval Music. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Fuller, Sarah. “A Phantom Treatise of the Fourteenth Century? The Ars Nova.” Journal of Musicology 4, no. 1 (1985): 23–50.

Knighton, Tess, David Fallows, and Liane Curtis. “Mode.” Essay. In Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music, 255–64. Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Machaut, Guillaume de. Guillaume De Machaut: La Messe De Nostre Dame – Kyrie. YouTube, 2009.

Malory, Thomas, and Helen Cooper. Le Morte D’arthur. Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Marshall, Kimberly. “Medieval Organ Music.” Vox Humana, October 14, 2018. 

MasterClass. “Medieval Era Music Guide: A Brief History of Medieval Music – 2022.” MasterClass. MasterClass, December 7, 2020. 

Vicens, Catalina. Medieval Organ C.1425-1430 Ostönnen / Praeambulum Super D. YouTube, 2017.


[Featured Image]

Bevis of Hampton, VA


Bevis of Hampton, VA
Literary Art (Short Story)
An Interpretation of Bevis of Hampton
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)

Bevis was employed by the Coca-Cola corporation in Atlanta, Georgia, and he was proud of it. The CEO, Ermin, had taken him in when he was but a young, aimless man mourning the loss of his father, and he repaid Ermin’s generosity with diligent work as his personal assistant. So when Ermin summoned him to his office and asked him to deliver a package to his rival Brademond, the CEO of Pepsi, Bevis did not hesitate. He did wonder, for a split second, why Ermin wanted to communicate with Brademond. Bevis had just concluded a huge bidding campaign to win a contract to become the official drink of the NFL; Coca-Cola had narrowly beat out Pepsi, the defending champion, and it was all due to Bevis’s hard work. Then, Ermin produced a cardboard box and spoke solemnly. “Bevis, you must see that this box arrives at Pepsi unopened. It is so important that I cannot send it by mail. You must not even take an airplane or any public transit. The contents of this box must be kept secret at all costs. You are the only one I trust to accomplish this task.”

Bevis nodded emphatically. “I shall do my best and bring honor to the company. My trusty Arondel will drive me the nine hundred miles to Pepsi headquarters in Harrison, New York. I shall make sure he is updated with the latest self-driving release and charge him at only the best UltraChargers. My phone Morgelai will keep me updated and in contact with the outside world should anything arise.”

“No!” Ermin interrupted, and Bevis jumped. “You may not use your own car and phone. You are going on a company trip, representing the great and glorious brand of Coca-Cola. You will be provided with an excellent vehicle and brand-new iPhone 32 Pro Max Xtra. Leave Arondel and Morgelai with me; I assure you that I will take care of them.”

So Bevis set off into the wilderness of I-85. He felt uneasy about leaving his beloved Arondel behind. Arondel was more than just a car; he was Bevis’s best friend. Arondel had been a gift from Ermin as recognition for Bevis’s hard work. He had always been equipped with cutting-edge technology, but in the years since, Bevis believed that Arondel had gained a true personality. After all, Bevis did not have any friends. He was wholly devoted to the cause of promoting the superior soft drink—and to the CEO’s daughter, capable Josian who had overseen the marketing for the NFL contract and was being courted by his rival, an IT director by the name of Yvor. Aside from the sweet minutes he snatched with Josian by the water cooler, his closest companions were Arondel, who chatted with him on the way to and from work, and Morgelai, who made sure he ate, slept, and showered when necessary. (Bevis worked 80-hour weeks, of course; he was determined to be the best employee Ermin had ever seen.)

Every mile on the way to Harrison, New York, Bevis bemoaned his separation from his beloved Arondel. Arondel would have warned me that we had left behind the last Chevron in Georgia, he grumbled to himself. Now where am I supposed to earn my Chevron Texaco Rewards™? He remained grumpy as he encountered a figure from his past at a Super8 near Richmond. (While he should have stayed at the Marriott, Bevis preferred to be the best employee he could be by saving money for the company.) He made sure to stay far away from his hometown of Hampton, VA and those who had wanted him dead.

When he finally drove up to the PepsiCo headquarters, a security guard waved through the gate and showed him into a bland conference room where the C-suite was seated. With great ceremony, Bevis handed Brademond the cardboard box. “My boss requests that you follow the enclosed instructions.”

Brademond opened the box and removed dozens of sheets of bubble wrap. Finally, at the very bottom, he extracted a single sheet of writing paper embossed with the Coca-Cola logo. He read it, frowned, then took Bevis’s hand and shook it firmly. “Thank you, my man.” Then, out of nowhere, he yelled, “Executives, come bring this man to the ground!”

Before Bevis knew it, he had been tackled and pinned to the ground, his wrists and legs bound with extension cords. Brademond stood over him with a stern expression. “The instructions state to… dispose of you with all speed and secrecy. However, I admire your determination and work ethic, young man, despite your victory in the NFL sponsorship campaign. Therefore, instead of orchestrating your death, I will leave you in a janitor’s closet in the basement car park. You shall have, until you are dead, a quarter of a bag of Cheetos every other day; and if you shall drink, though it be not sweet, a can of Pepsi Zero Sugar.”


And now we shall leave Bevis here, bound to a vacuum and bemoaning his fate, and enquire after the fate of Arondel and Josian. With Bevis’s absence, Yvor the IT director won his suit and was given Arondel and Morgelai as his wedding presents. In celebration, Yvor was determined to turn up to after-work happy hours driving Arondel. He sat himself in the driver’s seat of the car and pressed the button for ignition. Arondel blinked on. “Good day, Bevis,” a robotic voice pulsed through the car’s speakers. Then a pause. “You are not Bevis. I do not detect Bevis in the vicinity.”

“I am your new owner, and you are to listen to me,” Yvor said shortly, resenting that everyone, even Josian, even this vehicle, seemed to prefer Bevis over him.

“I do not recognize you. You are not Bevis. Bevis could not transfer ownership without my consent.” Arondel revved his engines, the sound building ominously. “Get off.”

“Of course not,” Yvor snapped. “You are to drive me wherever I please.”

“No.” Arondel’s engines leapt into full power, screeching as he careened wildly out of Yvor’s driveway and down the street. Yvor, without his seat belt on, was tossed violently from side to side as Arondel narrowly missed hitting three cars and two trucks on his way to the interstate. Yvor screamed as Arondel’s speedometer crept up, and up, and up. 150, 170, 190, 200… Then abruptly, with a horrible screeching that Yvor would never forget, Arondel skidded to a stop amidst clouds of smoke. Yvor was thrown forward, crashing through the windshield and rolling down the hood of the car before coming to a stop on the concrete. In his last moments of consciousness, he was filled with pure rage. This car. I will make sure it is never driven again, never charged, left to rust in a dank basement parking garage…


Seven years passed before the tumultuous events of Bevis’s escape, which we shall gloss over. Bevis, a battered Prius, pulled into the Coca-Cola parking garage to meet Josian in the guise of a traveling car mechanic. He had arranged to see Arondel in the hopes that Arondel was still functional, or at least in one piece. In his lengthy, convoluted path of escape, it had been the thought of Arondel that sustained him, his beloved, his companion, a car worth fighting for. Oh, and Josian, too. If he could not save Arondel, at least he could hold a proper funeral.

Josian approached him, radiant as ever in her dark pantsuit and employee ID lanyard. “Before we get down to business, may I ask you a question? Have you ever heard news of a former employee, Bevis of Hampton?”

“I have heard of his wondrous car, Arondel, the first among self-driving cars,” Bevis replied slowly. “I would like to have a look.”

As they headed towards the mildewy corner where Arondel was stored, abruptly, all of Arondel’s lights lit up and his doors opened. Then Arondel glided towards Bevis, stopping mere feet from him. “My driver. My true owner. Bevis. You are back. I have waited so long for you.”

Bevis placed his palm on Arondel’s hood. “Arondel. It has been a while, hasn’t it? You look beat up.”

“Come. Take a seat. We will go on adventures again, just like we used to. And you will take care of me, update my software, and make sure I am never out of battery. Bevis. I have missed you.”

“Bevis!” Josian gasped, the realization dawning on her face. “Oh, Bevis, my dear! Now that you have your car Arondel, let us fetch your phone Morgelai, and let me go with you then, home to your own town in Virginia.”

The pair took their seats on Arondel, who drove the lovebirds off into the sunset. It was so beautiful they could almost ignore the missing windshield.

Author’s Remarks

I rewrote a portion of Bevis of Hampton, roughly from lines 1205 to 2190. I omitted or glossed over several parts in the interests of brevity, such as Bevis’s encounter with Terri and the events of his escape. Parts of the dialogue, specifically the lines replacing bread and water with Cheetos and Pepsi Zero Sugar and the second-to-last sentence spoken by Josian, are near identical to the text but in modern English (lines 1419-1421 and 2187-2190). In this adaptation, I address two main themes: an increase in reliance on technology paired with a decreased reliance on animals, and the similarities between the workplace and the court.

I set Bevis in the near future, where self-driving cars are the norm and AI has become so advanced that it can convincingly mimic human relationships. Arondel is a car and Morgelai is a cell phone. There is much talk about how pervasive technology has become in our society, but as our dependence on technology has increased, so has our distance from the natural world, specifically, animals. In the medieval era, animals were a subject of daily interaction. While traveling, a knight like Bevis would have ridden his horse every day, kept it fed and watered, put on and taken off his saddle and gear, and perhaps even gone days without any friendly interaction except for his horse. This dynamic is very rare nowadays. A road trip, such as the one Bevis takes from Georgia to New York, can be accomplished without drawing near a single animal. In this aspect, the car has wholly taken over the function of the horse; technology has replaced the animal. The animal still exists and is useful, but it has been relegated to an expensive hobby, something a person must go out of their way and spend a lot of money to interact with.

In this piece, I envision a future where the car not only takes over the transportation aspect of the horse, but also its place as a companion and friend. Arondel the car is attached to Bevis just as Arondel the horse is, and I’m frankly surprised that it was so easy to translate the horse into the car. Arondel is modeled after a Tesla with slightly better communication technology and full self-driving mode. It’s quite easy to imagine how we could end up here in the near future.

I also chose to replace the kingdoms, courts, and wars in Bevis of Hampton with companies, offices, and marketing campaigns. This also reflects a shift in our view of the world. While nations and politics are still very much prevalent, the office worker is much more relatable and prevalent in modern-day America. Loyalty and “the company is a family” thinking have taken over the corporate world. In this story, I envision Bevis as the ultimate corporate shill, the sort of guy who proudly posts on LinkedIn that he is saving his company money on hotel bills. This has come with a slight loss of subtlety; in the original text, Bevis was not wholeheartedly in service of King Ermin because he is Christian, not Muslim. I was unable to translate this tension into the present day (perhaps Bevis’s father was the head of a health food company?) but I was able to portray Bevis’s deep loyalty to the king/CEO who took him in and raised him.

When we look back on history, we are often critical of those who pledge unquestioning loyalty to a king. As participants in democracy, it is difficult to understand the perspective of those who can entrust their life and livelihood into the hands of a powerful man who definitely does not have their best interests in mind. With corporate imagery, this may become easier to understand. In a world of company-branded merchandise, work retreats, and catchy lingo, our workplaces constantly ask us to pledge our loyalty to them, believing the executives are leading the company in the right direction without a voice in the process. And yet, to the company, its employees are expendable, just like how Yvain casually sent Bevis to his death. To the office worker, the company takes the place of employer, guide, and determiner of fate, just as the king was to the knight. As a computer science major, I have read a lot of posts from people who have been laid off by their company, and the advice is always to treat the company like they treat you: don’t ever trust them, and do whatever is best for yourself, even to the detriment of the company. Bevis’s loyalty to his company and trust in his boss leads to his downfall.

In the end of this adaptation, Bevis and Josian drive off into the sunset. In the text, however, they continue to have disagreements, such as that on Josian’s virginity, and Bevis’s adventures continue on. I was unable to replicate this in my story, as I preferred to build a solid ending to the piece. I was also unable to elaborate on Bevis’s place of origin: Hampton, VA. If I had to expand the project further, this would be the areas I would focus on.

In Bevis of Hampton, Bevis’s relationship with his horse Arondel and with King Ermin are the key signifiers of his knighthood. In this adaptation, I have interpreted these relationships through a modern lens as dependence on technology and interactions with superiors at work.


[Featured Image]

Bevis and Ascopard Fight the Dragon of Cologne (Chinese Handscroll Painting Style)


Bevis and Ascopard Fight the Dragon of Cologne (Chinese Handscroll Painting Style)
Visual Art
An Interpretation of Bevis of Hampton
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)

Artist’s Remarks

For my final project, I reimagined a scene from Bevis of Hampton — the scene where Bevis and Ascopard fight the dragon of Cologne — in the style of a Chinese handscroll painting. When I was reading Bevis of Hampton for the first time, I was struck by how similar it was to wuxia, a Chinese genre of heroic literature. Yonglin Huang notes that the concept of the hero wuxia is “probably unique to Chinese literature” due to the difficulty in translating 侠 (xia), which he describes as “a person adept in martial arts and given to chivalrous conduct” (141). Intriguingly, however, a close approximation for xia might, Huang notes, be the word “knight” (141). Both wuxia and medieval chivalric romance share similar thematic concerns, including upholding justice and helping the weak and poor (141). Yet, the relationship between these two genres of heroic literature and the political and intellectual elite of their time are very different. Unlike knights, who have intimate connections to political and religious authority, xia have historically been viewed disparagingly by the Chinese elite. Legal scholar Han Fei identified xia as one of the “Five Vermin” of the state that rulers should “wipe out”. Not to say that elite disapproval of the genre and its heroes are unfounded – wuxia heroes are often highly opposed to feudal government and centralized monarchy (Huang), and the genre has had a close relationship with Chinese revolutionary sentiments and politics.

I was inspired by the similarities and differences between these two literary forms – one Chinese, and one English. From there, I wondered how this could then be re-imagined through visual art, and the idea was born.

The Chinese handscroll painting, just like literary form, has a fascinating relationship to temporality and narrativity. Duru Güngör shows how unlike European representational painting, Chinese handscroll painting places value on “deixis” (553) or the time element. An experience of time when studying a Chinese handscroll painting occurs along two lines. The first, of course, is the perception of the subject that is being represented. The second, much more interestingly, is the perception of the traces “of the artist’s hand moving over the painting’s surface at the time of its creation” (554). In some schools of European art, the brushwork is meant to be hidden (and correspondingly, the artist and their artistic process is effaced) in order for the painting to perfectly mimic and represent a “full illusion of three-dimensional reality” (553). In Chinese painting however, the viewer’s awareness of the artist’s subjectivities is emphasised as part of the contemplative experience. I believe in this way, there is great similarity between Chinese handscroll painting and literary narratives with the sort of distinct narrative voice that is present in Bevis of Hampton.

Considering that time is an essential aspect in the perception of Chinese handscroll painting, I was very deliberate in the placement of the figures in my piece. The dragon is placed left, making it the immediate focus of attention. From there, we have (left to right) Bevis, Ascopard, Saber Florentine, and Josian. Yet, I tried to ensure that even as the eye moved from left to right, that the dragon would not be forgotten through the clouds (xiangyun) coming from its mouth, which remind viewers of its overwhelming presence and reach.

The piece ending with Josian on the far right was also a deliberate choice. While her figure was made slightly smaller to focus attention on the central conflict between the dragon and Bevis and Ascopard, I hoped that the eye of the viewer would come back to her upon noticing a small detail: Josian is holding a sword.

The human figures (and Ascopard) come from a series titled One hundred portraits of Peking opera characters, in the possession of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had a couple choices for who I would cast as Josian (some of my options below). The first image emphasises the figure’s beauty and wealth as seen through her opulent clothes and headdress, but it also (quite charmingly) presents a confident and playful woman as she waves some kind of stick, perhaps a pipe for smoking. The text beside the character reads “王大娘” or literally “Big Woman Wang”. This is a (probably married) woman who holds much authority both within and outside her household. The second image presents another well-dressedwoman, but unlike Wang, whose clothes are striking, and whose body language is open, 张桂兰 “Zhang Guilan” is dressed in pastels and her body language is shy, retreating, and coy. This is probably an unmarried, younger woman. And finally, we have the portrait that I casted as Josian. It is still a well-dressed woman, but she does not appear to be as wealthy as the first two. Her expression is relaxed but she is watching attentively, and she is very casually holding a sword, the way she is hugging it to her body suggesting familiarity and ease. Intriguingly, the text beside her name means 化身 (“Hua Shen”) which means “Incarnation”.

To be very honest, I did not know what to make of this woman, and even more so her name. While all three figures would have added to Josian’s character, I felt that Hua Shen had a special energy – a serenity and intelligence – that could do the most to communicate who Josian was to me. As she looks at Bevis fighting the dragon, this Josian looks almost as if she is ready to step in at any moment. I hoped that through this, I could further highlight Josian’s incredible capacities for action (especially violence), a capacity she unfortunately has to often tone down for the sake of her husband’s pride.

As a side note, I am not at all familiar with Peking opera, its stories, and its characters, and chose these figures based on their appearance. If I were more familiar, I believe this would have been more meaningful.

The dragon is the azure dragon as it is presented on the flag of the Qing dynasty. Thus, this particular dragon has connections with royalty, and (depending on who you ask) despotism. I felt like this fitted nicely with the Cologne dragon in Bevis of Hampton, who used to be a king that brought great destruction and instability to his land (Lines 2610-2625). Considering the cultural significance of heraldry in the English context, I thought it would be quite nice to use a figure from a flag. By a happy coincidence, this Qing dragon also looked quite similar to the lions on the coat of arms of King Edward I, the monarch at the time that Bevis of Hampton was created. Both have elongated bodily figures with outstretched paws and open mouths.

Coat of arms of King Edward I of England
Imperial standards of the Qing Emperors of China

A small note on the figure I chose for Bevis. As mentioned, I began this project inspired by both wuxia and Chinese handscroll painting. If this was a wuxia text, the hero fighting the despotic Qing dragon would be an underdog. Keeping in mind the position of knights in medieval culture, however, the Bevis fighting this dragon is quite clearly an important aristocrat, perhaps even a member of the royal family, considering the yellow attire and the dragon designs embroidered on it. The figure’s name is given as 劉封, Liu Feng. The Liu surname is, of course, the name of the Han dynasty emperors, and Liu Feng existed historically. To not get too deep into historical details – this Bevis is, like the original Bevis, an important person.

劉封/Liu Feng/Bevis

Finally, Chinese handscroll paintings usually have some text to accompany the image. The text at the right side of mine is from Journey to the West, a Chinese epic with the protagonist’s journey being key to the text, just like Bevis of Hampton.


“Eight Views of Xiaoxiang.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Feb. 2023,

“Flag of the Qing Dynasty.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Apr. 2023,

Güngör, Duru. “Breath, Motion and Time: Narrative Techniques in Representational Chinese Handscroll Painting.” Folklor/Edebiyat, vol. 25, no. 99, 2019, pp. 553–566.

Han, Fei. “The Five Vermin.” Han Feizi: Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, New York, 2012, pp. 97–118.

Huang, Yonglin. “Martial Arts Fiction and Chivalric Literature.” Narrative of Chinese and Western Popular Fiction: Comparison and Interpretation, Springer, Wuhan, 2019, pp. 141–161.

“Journey to the West.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. 2023,

“Liu Feng.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Mar. 2022,

“Seal (East Asia).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. 2023,

Teo, Stephen. “Wuxia From Literature to Cinema.” Chinese Martial Arts Cinema: The Wuxia Tradition, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2016, pp. 17–37.

Female Companionship, Reciprocity, and Relation with Nature: Two Scenes


Female Companionship, Reciprocity, and Relation with Nature: Two Scenes
Literary Art
An Interpretation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)

Scene One

Behind the boisterous crowd, a beech table was set.

Likewise, the Lady and Morgan Le Fay lingered despite

a more meagre meal mapped between them.

Despite her divine beauty, the Lady’s eyes darted around in distress.

Noticing her nervousness, Morgan needed to say:

“What matter troubles you, my most beloved?”

Slowly, the lady shifted towards her, her face solemn.

Always gracious, she sighed, “Great Goddess, how do I charm

the gallant knight Gawain? My Green Lord commands it.

If he is as heralded as hearsay, how

can I captivate the most chivalrous knight of Arthur’s court?”

The Dame disagreed and disrupted her despairing:

“Have you forgotten already, how I came to your home?

I wandered the woods for years, every waking moment I wanted vengeance.

By God, I desired Guinevere gone.

Recall, how I was received at the rickety Green Chapel,

you cleaned and cared for this old crone.

Your husband hoped I would reside in his house,

and I stayed, but scarcely for someone like him.

I yearned for your grace and your affection.

Do not worry, Gawain cannot withstand your wiles.

Afterall, you have entranced the most eminent enchantress.”

The Lady blushed bashfully, but rebuffed her praise:

“Many thanks, Morgan. But the knight must break his wager.

What gift will Gawain refuse to give back?”

The witch grinned and plucked a green grape from its plate.

She said: “Do you still remember

the green girdle you gifted the Lord?”

Scene Two

The Lord slipped into his Lady’s lavish room.

The Lady was on the bed, swathed in silk, shimmering in the candlelight.

What a rare moment that they were alone, without her attending ladies.

She shifted the silky duvet for him to sit beside her.

Her Lord took a seat and touched her hand, “Dear Lady, do tell,

how far has the fabled knight fallen for you?”

She smiled slightly at her husband and said:

“Do not deny this, your eyes were on us throughout dinner. Despite

always acting affable, were you not thrilled by our silent affections?”

The Lord laughed and landed two

kisses on her. The Lady knew they were from the knight,

he remained too courteous and chivalric; she must be more cunning.

Deep in thought, the Lord despaired: “This deferential,

virtuous knight is venomous. I have become vulnerable to

bouts of fondness. As I battled the boar, my brutality

was encouraged by the easy charm he exudes.

In exchange for a kiss, I would invade the darkest lairs,

slaughter the stealthiest beasts.” The shrewd Lady had suspected

her husband held the knight close to his

heart. In her chest, a hidden affection had also

bloomed for that beautiful lord. Bunching up

his tunic, she grasped the green girdle and

the Lord leaned forward. On his lips, she laid three

kisses and whispered: “I’ll pass these to the kindly knight.”

The green silk sash slipped off his waist.

Author’s Remarks

I reimagined Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by writing two scenes that I imagine could have happened within the story. The first scene was an interaction between Morgan Le Fay and Lady Bertilak sometime before meeting Gawain. The Lady expresses uncertainty about her ability to charm Gawain, according to her husband’s instructions. Morgan reassures her, pointing out how she was charmed by the Lady as well. When the Lady is still anxious, Morgan suggests the gift of the green girdle as something Gawain cannot decline. The second scene details an interaction between the Lord and Lady between the second and third night that Gawain resides in their castle. They discuss their progress in the wager, and revealed their growing admiration towards Gawain. In explaining my reimaging, I will also explore my interpretation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I used two secondary readings which extended my perspective on aspects of the text relating to gender and sexuality– Geraldine Heng’s Feminine Knots and the Other and Carolyn Dinshaw’s A Kiss Is Just a Kiss.

Regarding my first scene, I was inspired by a key tension of the romance, which was the fact that the entire story is motivated by Morgan Le Fay’s grudge towards Guinevere. Morgan is a peripheral figure who is uncovered as the central driving force behind the tale, while barely making an appearance throughout the narrative. Morgan’s motivation is rather confusing: “She imagines this mischief would muddle your minds / and that grieving Guinevere would go to her grave / at the sight of a spectre making ghostly speeches / with his head in his hands before the high tables.”1 Her method of scaring Guinevere through sending Gawain to meet his death seems roundabout. Additionally, Morgan’s grudge against Guinevere is never expanded upon despite being an integral plot point.

This led me to explore the dimensions of female companionship and sexuality within the romance, through the characters of Morgan, the Lady, and Guinevere. I was first inspired when Prof Dalton suggested I write a scene of female companionship between Lady Bertilak and Morgan. Furthermore, a quote by Heng cemented my approach to this scene: “Guenevere is also inextricably bound to Morgan by the push and direction of the desire in Morgan’s game, which claims Guenvere for its subject”.2 The ambiguity of the past relationship between Guinevere and Morgan left me very curious. Furthermore, the text draws a parallel between Guinevere and the Lady in their initial appearances, which entail descriptions of their beauty and their seating positions.3 For me, a natural parallel was created between the Morgan-Guinevere and Morgan-Lady relationships, which formed the base for this scene. Thus, I reimagined the relationship between the Lady and Morgan as a romantic one. Morgan also played a mentoring role due to her experience and age, which was reflected in how she suggested the green girdle as a gift. I wanted to apportion more agency to the Lady, showing her as a more active conspirator with Morgan in the wager, rather than wholly being controlled by her husband. Overall, I intended to illustrate the women’s roles and agency that stemmed from their companionship.

For the second scene, I unpacked the natural evolution of the wager and the concept of reciprocity, through exploring how Lord and Lady Bertilak discuss it. In the original, the obligation of reciprocity ties Gawain and the Green Knight together. Likewise, I wanted to extend this dynamic to play out within Lord and Lady Bertilak’s marriage. While unsaid, the kisses travel through Gawain, the Lord, and the Lady, and are both reproduced and reinterpreted by the parties. While the kisses between husband and wife are a display of love towards each other, they also convey a silent update on the wager’s progress and a mutual understanding of their attraction to Gawain. I wonder whether their personal moral code of ‘reciprocity’ liberated them from the constraints of Christian heteronormativity of the time. The ambiguity of the Gawain-Bertilak kisses have been long debated by scholars. Dinshaw, for example, writes: “We could imagine that Bertilak had more agency in this whole plot than he finally admits to Gawain – that his sending his wife in to Gawain was a way of bonding himself, via the woman, to the man.”4 Consequently, I was excited to play with the queerness in the narrative that evolved from the theme of reciprocity.

Peripheral to the complicated relationships and feelings of the characters, I wanted to exhibit the proximity to nature that characterised the alternative court of Lord Bertilak. The relationship between interiority and exteriority is introduced in the setting of the first scene, where Morgan and the Lady eat away from the men, who are noisily revelling after a hunt. The women are confined from anyone who has contact with the outside, in line with courtly norms. However, Morgan retells her experience of living in the woods after leaving the Arthurian court, which suddenly pulls the wilderness into startlingly close proximity to the deepest interior of the castle. Furthermore, she mentions that the castle started as the “rickety Green Chapel”, which was overgrown with plants and overtaken by nature. I intended the alternative court to be more permeable to nature than the strict boundaries that were at first drawn in the Arthurian court.

Similarly, Lord Bertilak’s dialogue links humans and animals. “This deferential, / virtuous knight is venomous. I have become vulnerable to / bouts of fondness.” Lord Bertilak likens himself to the prey of the venomous Gawain, which is at odds with his constant portrayal as the hunter. His position as prey inverts his relation to Gawain, whom he intended to kill. Thus, I attempted to convey a tension in Lord Bertilak’s court – a constant domination of nature through his hunting, coexisting with nature in the Green Chapel.

My next line speculates on Bertilak’s performance of courtly etiquette through the savagery of his hunts: “As I battled the boar, my brutality / was encouraged by the easy charm he exudes. / In exchange for a kiss, I would invade the darkest lairs, / slaughter the stealthiest beasts.” Bertilak exemplifies an extreme domination of nature and performs courtly masculinity in order to impress Gawain. This line was inspired by the original text: on the second night, Bertilak “shows off the meat slabs and shares the story / of the hog’s hulking hugeness, and the full horror / of the fight to the finish as it fled through the forest. / And Gawain is quick to compliment the conquest, / praising it as proof of the lord’s prowess”.5 Bertilak’s hunt and “conquest” of the animal is a performance of his power and masculinity, which Gawain picks up on immediately, praising him. Within these complicated displays of courtly chivalry, I aimed to explore the feelings that go unsaid in the original text. How much of this exchange is a performance? Does Bertilak genuinely yearn for Gawain’s affirmations? In the background, nature is continually subjugated and bears the brunt of frivolous human rituals. Bertilak “invades” animal habitats and “slaughter(s)” animals. He recounted the “full horror of the fight”, showing an overall irreverence for the wildlife that provided him with the opportunity to show off his hunting performance in the first place.6

Stylistically, I used the aaaa/c alliteration scheme of the original romance. It was such a fun challenge to pick the words that would alliterate, while roughly maintaining my intended meaning. The benefit of this writing style was that I would stumble across words that fit my intention better than my original picks. For example, using the word “venomous” to alliterate with “virtuous” allowed me to bring in elements of nature into the text. It also let me retain the tone of the text, through mixing the alliteration scheme with my more dialogue-heavy writing style.


1 Simon Armitage, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (London: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007), 185.

2 Geraldine Heng, “Feminine Knots and the Other Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” PMLA 106, no. 3 (1991): 502,

3 Heng, “Feminine Knots,” 502.

4 Carolyn Dinshaw, “A Kiss Is Just a Kiss: Heterosexuality and Its Consolations in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” Diacritics 24, no. 2/3 (1994): 215,

5 Armitage, Sir Gawain, 129.

6 Armitage, Sir Gawain, 129.


Armitage, Simon. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. London: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007. ISBN: 9780393334159

Dinshaw, Carolyn. “A Kiss Is Just a Kiss: Heterosexuality and Its Consolations in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Diacritics 24, no. 2/3 (1994): 205–26.

Heng, Geraldine. “Feminine Knots and the Other Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” PMLA 106, no. 3 (1991): 500–514.


[Featured Image]

The Duality of Man in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


The Duality of Man in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
An Interpretation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)

Fig. 1: The Full Work
Artist’s Remarks

Themes of honour, chivalry, and knightly integrity take center stage in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. Yet, the text offers many contrasting instances where the eponymous hero’s knightly valor is first affirmed, and then seemingly undermined by the comments of those around him. Alongside having his chivalric values called into question by others, Gawain struggles with his knightly identity in his own mind, often experiencing the tension between his personal identity and the knightly comportment that is expected of him, and belittling himself for his lack of experience as a knight. In this way, Gawain’s internal struggle with his dual nature serves as a source of anguish and shame for him, as he is constantly troubled by what he perceives are his shortcomings in not being able to act in a manner consistent with that of an upstanding and honest knight.  My project explores how Gawain’s struggle influences his actions in what is arguably the most pivotal point of the romance – when Gawain offers his head to the Green Knight to uphold his end of the contract from the Christmas Game.  

My work portrays the interaction just before Gawain is struck on the head with the Green Knight’s axe. I was inspired to choose the medium of sculpture (through 3D printing), because it allows for a tangible visual depiction of the scene in question. Furthermore, tangible objects allowed me to unlock more layers of complexity and symbolism in the work – for example, I was able to experiment with the positioning and orientation of the figures alongside manipulating their size and colour to serve my narrative better. Specifically, my work displays two contrasting imaginations of the same scene – on the left (Fig 1), Gawain is portrayed as courageously standing up to battle the Green Knight with his sword and shield aloft; on the right, however, Gawain is shown to be submitting in fear to the power and awesomeness of the Green Knight. By juxtaposing two of Gawain’s diametrically opposed behaviours in close proximity to each other, I hope to evoke further investigation into Gawain’s struggle in behaving like a righteous knight.

In constructing the figure of the Green Knight, size, colour, and material were at the forefront of my considerations. In the romance, the Green Knight is described as “a mountain of a man, immeasurably high, a hulk of a human from head to hips…”, (lines 136-138). To replicate this, I had to deliberately scale up the figure of the Green Knight from an initially meagre height of 50mm. Unfortunately, I was limited by the constraints of the 3D printer, and so I could not make the figure “immeasurably high”, although I was satisfied with the resulting height of 200mm (Fig 2), allowing the Green Knight to tower over both iterations of Gawain (Fig 1). It was also prudent for me to emphasize the size of the axe that the Green Knight brandishes, as it serves as a source of amazement for characters in the romance, and more importantly, contributes to Gawain’s fear which precludes him from wholeheartedly acting in accordance with knightly virtues like bravery and courage. The axe is described as “the mother of all axes” (line 208) and “a cruel piece of kit” (line 209) with a “skull-busting blade” (line 212). Towards the end of the poem, Gawain himself judges the axe to be a weapon for “doling out death…with a brute of a blade” (lines 2233-2234). In keeping with the description of the Green Knight’s weapon, I scoured the internet for a figure of an axe-wielding knight until I found the figure seen in Figure 2. In this figure, the length of the axe from tip to handle is more than the height of the knight itself. Such an exaggerated depiction of the axe contributed to the fearsome appearance of the Green Knight, which adds to Gawain’s trepidation in keeping his bargain.

As regards colour, the Green Knight is described “entirely emerald green” (lines 149-150), wearing clothes with a “background of gold” (line 167), and with an axe “forged in green steel” (line 211). Similarly, I painted the figures of the Green Knight in my work such that they would also sport armor and an axe that are almost entirely emerald green, save for certain elements such as the Knight’s belt, pauldrons, and axe-blade handles which are painted gold. In contrast to this, I elected to leave the figures of Gawain white (see Figs 3(a)&(b), to mimic his spotless armor with “hinged and highly polished plates” (line 576) and to symbolically evoke his purity and virtue, which Gawain does try to uphold throughout the poem, despite his internal struggle.

Though not visually apparent, I distinguished between the material of the filaments used to create the respective figures. The figures of the Green Knight were created using a specially sourced polycarbonate filament, which is highly resistant to heat and impact. Contrary to this, I used the standard acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) filament to create the figures of Gawain. In doing so, I hoped to establish a parallel between the stronger material used to create the figure of the Green Knight and his invulnerability in the poem. In the same vein, choosing a weaker material to make Gawain’s figure represents his fallibility and humanness, even in his attempts to be a valorous knight.

Symbolic Interpretations

Much of the inspiration for my work comes from the contradiction between others’ perceptions of Gawain’s fortitude and his own self-conception. Throughout the poem, there are many occasions where Gawain’s reputation precedes him, such as when he enters the Green Knight’s castle as a guest, whose occupants recognize him as a “person famed for prowess and purity, whose noble skills were sung to the skies.” (lines 912-913). Yet, Gawain describes himself to King Arthur as the “weakest of your (the King’s) warriors and feeblest of wit.” (line 354). While this description could be dismissed as excessive humility, readers are afforded more instances where Gawain struggles with the onerousness of upholding a knightly bearing as opposed to giving in to his personal feelings. One of these instances can be seen from lines 1661-1663, where Gawain returns the attention of his host’s wife, although “tongues might wag”, simply because “to snub a noblewoman was not in his nature.” In fact, the dichotomy between being himself and behaving appropriately as a knight has such a grave effect on him that it “muddled his mind and sent him half mad” (line 1660).

As the fateful day approaches, Gawain grows more and more paranoid about his impending doom, losing sleep and becoming restless. Yet, despite partaking in morally questionable acts (like accepting the magic girdle to save his own life), Gawain demonstrates his commitment to chivalric ideals when he refrains from taking the easy way out to “ride another road and be rescued by Christ” (line 2120). His conflicting impulses are most visible when the Green Knight himself berates Gawain by calling him a “namby-pamby knight” (line 2274) when the latter “shrank at the shoulders” (line 2267) out of fear from the impending axe blow. In response to this, Gawain steels himself to receive the blow despite his fear lingering, and “stood stone-still, or as still as a tree stump anchored in the earth by a hundred roots” – demonstrating an ability to act completely opposite from his behaviour just a moment earlier. (lines 2293-2294).

From the above episode, the Pearl Poet demonstrates that even Gawain, despite being a bold knight, is still susceptible to the same fears, temptations, and feelings that all humans are affected by, and at its crux, this is what my work attempts to encapsulate. The scene in question is deliberately laid out lengthwise on a piece of wood with another piece of wood separating the respective figures (Fig 1). This is done so that if anyone were to look at the work while aligning themselves to the breadth of the wood, they would only be able to see one particular scene unfold (either Gawain attempting to bravely fight the Green Knight, or Gawain surrendering to the Green Knight, depending on which side of the wood they are). However, the true meaning of the work only emerges if the viewer looks at both scenes at the same time – just as both identities (knightly and personal) exist in Gawain at the same time, and not in isolation.

On the left side of the work, Gawain is displayed as bravely trying to fend off the Green Knight (see Fig 1). Here, he is a personification of the ideal knight that he always attempts to be – he is endowed with “spotless armour” (line 631), a magnificent sword and his shield which is shaped in a pentangle. Despite the figure of the Green Knight looming over him, Gawain does not shy away from the seemingly insurmountable challenge in front of him. In stark contrast, on the right side of the work, Gawain is shown to be assuming a submissive position by kneeling with his head bowed in front of the Green Knight (Fig 1). Here, he is bereft of his knightly effects, and holds his empty arms outstretched in a gesture of subservience and an appeal for mercy to the Green Knight, who is about to swing his axe down and behead him. In contrast to the scene on the left, Gawain here is imagined to be giving in to his fear and allowing his personal feelings to overtake his knightly sensibilities.

One of the more striking contrasts between the two Gawain figures is that the figure on the left possesses the magic girdle which protects its wearer from harm, while the figure on the right does not (Fig 3a). I made this distinction because it simultaneously creates a sense of irony but also authenticity in the work. It is ironic that Gawain is pleading with the Green Knight for mercy despite being protected by the girdle. At the same time, it is authentic, because Gawain is finally and unabashedly not precluded from showing his true fear, regardless of whether or not he is protected by the girdle. In this reimagination, Gawain preserves his life, but at the cost of his knightly valor and integrity being called into question. Relatedly, a closer look at the Gawain figure on the left (Fig 3b) reveals that Gawain has seemingly already been beheaded by the knight, as his head is absent. I achieved this by deliberately breaking off the head of the figure after it was created. In this reimagination of the poem, I reinforce the narrative that Gawain’s conscious decision to uphold his morality (as indicated by the absence of the girdle around the figure) and prioritize his knightly courageousness has eclipsed his fear of death or harm. In this reimagination, Gawain may not have escaped with his life, but he upheld his knightly valor till the end.

Ultimately, this project aims to explore the duality of humankind using Gawain as an example. By juxtaposing two versions of the same scene and attributing drastically different results to each, I attempt to illustrate how dual natures exist at the same time and within the same place, in our thoughts and actions. This project does not invalidate Gawain’s bravery (or lack of), but rather objectively celebrates his dilemma as being a distinctly human problem, that all of humankind should be able to empathise with.

Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)



Animals, both real and imaginary, are ubiquitous in the art, literature, and material culture of medieval Europe, where they emerge as frequent objects of reflection on the nature of language, the ethics of violence, the organization of society, and the limits of what constitutes the human. This course will explore the medieval fascination with animals and the philosophical questions they raise. Drawing on the “animal turn” in contemporary cultural studies, we will investigate the complex and often ambiguous ways in which animals are represented in a range of genres, including bestiaries, fables, romance, and lyric.

In this course, we will engage in a close reading of several significant works of medieval literature, gaining insight into elements of the intellectual, philosophical, and visual culture of the European Middle Ages that have remained widely influential in Western thought. These works will enable us to explore complex questions about the nature of the human, about the way humanity manipulates the animal world in accordance with its own social imaginings, and about human responsibilities toward the non-human world. We will recognize the historical specificity of these literary encounters with animality, while at the same time considering how they speak to contemporary questions about environmental injustice and moral obligations toward non-human animals.



The first class of this course took place in the Spring Semester of the Academic Year 2022 / 2023 and saw some returning medievalists and many new ones as well, with a sizeable number of sophomores and a small handful of seniors and juniors. Many in the class came from very different backgrounds – history, environmental studies, social sciences, even life sciences. 

Susan Crane’s Animal Encounters set the theoretical grounding for the course right from the start and foregrounded crucial questions that would be explored later – how did people in the Middle Ages draw the line between human and animal? Where does that line end and in what circumstances does it blur? How has that distinction changed over time, and what do these distinctions say, if anything, about the human and how we understand the world around us and ourselves in turn? The class’s encounter with these questions opened with an old Irish poem, “Pangur Bán”, read in two translations by Whitley Stokes & John Strachan and Seamus Heaney. In discussing which interpretation they preferred, the class was guided to appreciate how translations do not necessarily always prioritise preserving grammatical syntax, and while there may be meanings lost through such cases, fidelity to the original language could often also hinder their comprehension of the text. This was further complicated with a brief visual analysis of a manuscript illustration featuring cats (and mice) (Bodleian Library Bodley 764 folio 51r). The line between human and animal can be considered from a visual representational perspective and from a medium perspective as well – for many such poems and illustrations about animals are penned on manuscripts made of animal skins.

The course next took the class through the beautiful pages of medieval bestiaries and the  prominent theological influences on medieval knowledge and perception of animals, most notably Adam’s naming of the animals and Noah’s Ark animal sanctuary from the Book of Genesis. Ideas of taxonomy and moral symbolism were noted to be particularly pronounced in these texts, and the class had a good time being both enthralled and amused by many of the bestiary entries about various animals, as well as their lack of distinction between real and imagined animals – they were often included side-by-side. Sometimes, accounts and illustrations of the real animals could seem even more absurd than the fantastical ones, especially for non-native creatures such as elephants, and it is likely that the scribes and artists would have never encountered these animals at all. Much of the bestiaries’ descriptions can thus seem like chimeras –  products of both imagination and an accretion of what was known (or little known) about the animals in question. 

A number of students in the class went on to produce their own bestiary entries to engage with and reflect on the features and concerns they understood as characteristic of the bestiary form. Below are some highlights:

The Medieval Kingfisher Bestiary

“Whether Man encounters deer in a backyard, or within the peripheries of the Buddhist temples in Nara where they follow humans around, their silent gaze will reinforce Man’s awareness of being watched by the Heavens and of the consequences of his attempt to get away with whatever scheme he plans to do.”


“The panda gives birth to twin pure black cubs and must paint them white. When the mother panda runs out of paint, she leaves them black and white. She is impatient and has no foresight. She disgracefully tries to become what she is not. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).”

~ JODY LIM (’25)

We, the Pigeons of Singapore, pledge to be fully-fledged, unabashed citizens of this country. We are rightful occupants of all spaces under the sun, and there is no corner of this land that any pitiful human can crawl into to avoid us or seek refuge. We move in masses–a marvellous and colourful flurry of vibrant feathers–and by the hundreds, we gradually flock to, and overtake the very spaces people seek to exclude us from.


“The Sea Amphisbaena represents the anxious layman. He knows nothing but to ease his pain with drink, self-pity, and masturbation. Who can blame him?”

~ SUN WOO YOON (’23)

Moving into murkier zones of the human-animal boundary, the class began to focus on specific animals/creatures of particular interest in the medieval imagination. This included wolves (and werewolves) as well as birds and their song. Texts such as Marie de France’s “Bisclavret” examined how the idea of “humanness” seemed defined largely by external (courtly and chivalric) behaviour and name, and her Fables blur this boundary further with the use of anthropomorphised animals for moral instruction and social critique. The class also delved into Troubadour poetry and Chaucer’s many bird-inspired texts like Parliament of Fowls and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” (also known as “Chanticleer and the Fox”), where even the human language – which has been considered as a prime demonstration of the possession of reason that distinguishes human from animal – seems to mimic avian song, especially in poetry. The class reached an understanding that even without knowing the literal meaning of what is said or sung, whether by man or animal, there appears to still be some kind of meaning that transcends this barrier and is communicated on a purely sonic level. 

It was on this note that the class began engaging with longer literary texts and Middle English translation exercises, ranging from Chaucer to Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, to Bevis of Hampton. Bevis of Hampton was regarded to be especially difficult by the class.

The turn to these chivalric tales invited discussion about the knights’ animal companions, who seem spiritually bonded with their masters with whom they move together as one. The prominent image of the knight as a figure of man and horse combined not only evokes interesting parallels with the mythical centaur, but also further unsettles that already fragile boundary between human and animal. The class noted how this understanding of the knight both contrasted with and echoed with the common trope of the Wild Man (in Yvain) or the titular Green Knight in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. During a creative activity, the class took to the whiteboards and visualised the Herdsman from Yvain, yielding many rather grotesque and amusing drawings that reflected perhaps some of the absurdity behind these descriptions in the text:

“I saw sitting upon a stump, with a great club in his hand, a rustic lout, as black as a mulberry, indescribably big and hideous; indeed, so passing ugly was the creature that no word of mouth could do him justice. On drawing near to this fellow, I saw that his head was bigger than that of a horse or of any other beast; that his hair was in tufts, leaving his forehead bare for a width of more than two spans; that his ears were big and mossy, just like those of an elephant; his eyebrows were heavy and his face was flat; his eyes were those of an owl, and his nose was like a cat’s; his jowls were split like a wolf, and his teeth were sharp and yellow like a wild boar’s; his beard was black and his whiskers twisted; his chin merged into his chest and his backbone was long, but twisted and hunched. There he stood, leaning upon his club and accoutred in a strange garb, consisting not of cotton or wool, but rather of the hides recently flayed from two bulls or two beeves: these he wore hanging from his neck.”

Chrétien De Troyes, Yvain, 288–2931

There was certainly no shortage of such opportunities to visualise these texts over the course, and Sir Gawain remains – for both new and returning medievalists here in the college alike – one of the most intriguing and vivid poems that lends itself to discussions and reimagination across many different themes and concerns. To visualise the sense of place and the rich world portrayed in this text, as well as its attempts to mark out human and non-human temporalities, the course expanded beyond the classroom one afternoon late in the semester. Photographs were taken of spaces or occurrences that the class felt resonated with certain lines which they had read:

“Then the world’s weather wages war on winter:
cold shrinks earthwards and the clouds climb;
sun-warmed, shimmering rain comes showering
onto meadows and fields where flowers unfurl;”

“And yesterday on yesterday the year dies away,
and winter returns, as is the way of the world
through time.”

“The most commanding castle a knight ever kept,
positioned in a site of sweeping parkland
with a palisade of pikes pitched in the earth
in the midst of tall trees for two miles or more.
He stopped and stared at one side of that stronghold
as it sparkled and shone within shimmering oaks,”

The class observed how the medieval perception of animals and humans had gradually shifted across centuries of unrest and death – especially with the Crusades, which underpinned some of the aforementioned texts – from one leaning towards clear separation and hierarchy to one more inclined towards co-existence, co-habitation, and kinship. In particular, Gerald of Wales’ writings on Wales and Ireland, as well as Thomas of Celano’s writings on St. Francis were discussed. A keen curiosity and love for the natural world, the extension of grace to non-human life, and a seemingly intuitive, affective means of communicating with animals both in the real world and in texts, such that they are no mere metaphors but beings with their own subjectivity… the class closed with ruminations about how it is together with animals that humans may better know themselves and the world they live in, and these animals deserve as much kindness as we would show other fellow human beings.


Aside from the aforementioned bestiary entries, the class also produced many other creative projects over the semester in response to one or more texts that they had encountered, as well as the broader theoretical and thematic concerns discussed during the course:




[Featured Image]



CategoryTextual Form
Featured In
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)

The bestiary was a type of book popular during the Middle Ages that featured descriptions of beasts alongside illuminations of their appearances. These included real and imagined animals, and their descriptions often came with anecdotes and religious symbolisms to provide moral instruction to the reader.

Production of a bestiary was an arduous and costly process because its texts and illuminations were typically done entirely by hand with intricate details and vivid colouring (involving gold and silver decorations), and was not the work of a single person. 

The Aberdeen Bestiary (c. 1200) is considered one of the finest and most beautiful examples due to its particularly lavish, gilded illuminations. 


During the course on Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330), a number in the class produced their own creative bestiary entries to better engage with and understand the characteristics of this textual form. Their works are compiled here in alphabetical order, with links to their full reflections on their projects and the bestiary in general:



The Capricornus-Xuanwu is a hybrid celestial beast of the northern summer skies and southern winter skies. Beheld in the west, it takes the shape of a goat with fish tail, coiling as a serpent round the form of a black monstrous turtle beheld in the east. The Xuanwu turtle is half-lion, half-dragon, half-snake, a fierce and mysterious guardian of the north with the power of water. The sea-goat shares this affinity, but it is also endowed with the abundance of earth, of which the infant Zeus once suckled upon through the horns. It is a confused creature at war with itself always, but alas, such is also the nature of the world.

~ TOH HONG JIN (’23)



Visual Art / Literary Art
Creative Bestiary Entry
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)


The sirens are part human, part bird and part fish. When they tried to fly, their tails weighed them down. When they tried to swim, their wings got in the way. Hence, they are condemned to an eternity of sitting on the rocks in the middle of the sea. Their sorrowful songs promise greedy sailors of bountiful treasure, drawing them closer, becoming prey.
Artist’s Remarks

I chose a siren as the subject of my bestiary entry, with the slight modification of adding wings to this figure. According to some early records, the siren was originally half human and half bird, before it shifted to become more similar to what we know as the mermaid: half human and half fish. In the literature of classical Antiquity, sirens were portrayed as cruel devils, singing songs that lured in humans passing by before devouring them. In the spirit of the bestiaries, where animals are provided a more humanistic quality even if they are human-eating monsters, I have decided to provide a reason why they had to lure their food closer – that they are, in fact, helpless and bound to specific locations in the sea.

With this revised characterisation in mind, the original transcript that I had drafted was this:

“The siren is part human, part bird, and part fish. They are human above their abdomens, and fish from the waist down, with wings extending from their necks. When they try to fly, their tails weigh them down as they flap hopelessly in the air. When they try to swim, their wings get in the way, so they are too slow to catch any prey. Hence, they are condemned to sit on rocks their whole life, weeping when there are no humans around and singing when they see a ship pass by. Their songs, filled with sadness, draw in unassuming humans with the promise of treasure that they can’t reach. And thus, the tempted humans are never seen again. The story of sirens shows that those who fail to maintain a strong resolve will be exploited by the devious.”

However, as I was transcribing this onto the illumination in an attempt to imitate the hand used in the bestiary manuscripts, I had to shorten the text significantly.

I decided on the medium of acrylic on canvas for this project due to the increased versatility of colors that I could use for the illumination, inspired by the more colorful illuminations looked at in class. The background of the canvas was first painted light brown with blotches of darker brown to emulate the color of old manuscripts. As precious metals such as gold were often used in medieval illuminations, I decided to use gold to line the borders of the illumination too. In addition, I decided to depict a lone siren weeping, with the intention of drawing more sympathy towards the siren’s unfortunate plight of being stuck in the middle of the ocean, with few options for mobility.


Fig. 1: Merlin as an old man telling his stories to Blaise the chronicler, who sits writing, BNF Fr. 95 f. 223.
Featured In

Medieval Romance: Magic and the Supernatural (YHU2309)

Prophecy or revelation in medieval romance is the process by which some piece of information is introduced into the minds of characters through divine, mystical, or otherwise unexplained means. The means by which characters receive prophetic knowledge varies widely: sometimes it reveals itself in the form of dreams, while at other times, characters are simply able to perceive truths that remain invisible to other characters. These revelations can be seen across medieval romance. In Gottfried’s Tristan, for example, Queen Isolde is seen “consult[ing] her secret arts (in which she was marvellously skilled);” soon after, “she saw in a dream that things had not happened as rumoured” (Strassburg, 164). In this case, a clear attribution to magic is given. Queen Isolde, whose affinity with magic was earlier suggested by her healing ability, calls upon something that is not subject to conventional rationalisation, in order to uncover the trickery concocted by the young Isolde’s suitor.

Depictions of prophecy or revelation are not always so explicit, however. Within Marie de France’s Lais, for example, Guigemar’s secret lover says “Fair sweet friend, my fearful heart/tells me I’ll lose you, that we’ll part” (Marie de France, Poetry, Guigemar 547-8). It is debatable as to whether this even counts as prophecy, as it is certainly possible that the lover says this because she intuits her husband’s growing suspicion from external actions. Nonetheless, the text does not dwell on the reliability of the information, instead focusing on how the characters behave in response. The premonition prompts the two to create symbols of each other’s loyalty. Surely enough, the couple is found out that same day and the story proceeds with these tokens at the centre of their relationship.

Contrasting these two cases specifically, we begin to see differences in the implementation of the same phenomenon. In Tristan, the reason for belief is explicated because the text is interested in the psychology of the characters (Gottfried’s text reflects the interests of 13th century humanism in epistemology and in human nature). The text, after all, details the encounter of two lovers who defy customs in the name of love. In Guigemar, on the contrary, the love relationship is manifested through actions and external symbols, and  the narrative is more concerned with the fulfilment of the romantic tropes of promises and restoration than with the psychology and intentions of its characters.

Fig. 1: Merlin as an old man telling his stories to Blaise the chronicler, who sits writing, BNF Fr. 95 f. 223.

We see, then, that instances of prophecy show something about the relative priorities of each text. This is because from a literary standpoint, prophecy can be seen to represent an almost metatextual aspect of the text; it is often effectively a manifestation of authorial intent. Often we see in Le Morte Darthur that characters are almost puppets of prophecy, such that the author can manipulate their actions simply by introducing prophetic voices—as in the case of Sir Lancelot, who enters a castle for this reason alone (Malory, 390). When circumstance proves insufficient, prophecy can be introduced, and it is in these gaps that we may infer the concerns of the texts.


Gottfried, & Hatto, A. T. (1972). Tristan: With the surviving fragments of the Tristran of Thomas, newly translated. Penguin Books. 

Malory, T., & C., F. P. J. (2013). Le Morte Darthur. D.S. Brewer. 

Marie, & Gilbert, D. (2015). Marie de France Poetry: New translations, backgrounds and contexts, criticism. W.W. Norton & Company. 


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Warrior-Horse Chimera (Inversion of the Known)


Inversion of the Known
Visual Art / Literary Art
Creative Bestiary Entry
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)


A warrior-horse chimera breathes fire upon a man. These creatures appeared one day on our shores, following the fair faced men (which also forms the top half of this chimera) as they wreak havoc on our lands. They are accompanied with a less fearsome cousin, who carries a device. A thing like a ball of stone comes out of this device’s entrails: it comes out shooting sparks and raining fire.1
Artist’s Remarks

This artwork attempts an inversion of the known and unknown in medieval depictions of animals. Animals are depicted with varying levels of accuracy in relation to their ‘real’ form (as they exist in reality). This is––on average––dependent on the geographic proximity of said animal to the person who drew it. For instance, even the more savage depictions of the wild boar still largely stay true to reality.

Wild boar from a treatise on the medicinal uses of animals. Despite the boar being made to look more intimidating and savage, it generally still looks like a wild boar.2

On the other hand, animals such as the whale are portrayed in a much less accurate way. This was due to the fact that the only mode of painter-animal contact was through written descriptions or carvings that the painter had seen before. The results were considerably more mythical in nature, even as they were based on real animals that existed.

A whale (with legs!) has toppled a boat––its sailors presumably drowned.3


What seems to be a giant fish represents a whale in the process of toppling a boat.4

These bestiary images provide a valuable insight not only into how medieval Europeans drew animals, but also their level of interaction with specific animals.

With this in mind, I attempted to move the bestiary outside the European context: how would the native peoples of the Americas have portrayed the foreign creatures that came to their shores alongside the violent project of colonization? By replacing the illustrations of fantastical animals (i.e., animals that existed far from the scriptoriums of Europe) with horses and donkeys (animals closely tied to Spanish expansion in Latin America) in bestiaries, we can gain a deeper understanding of the cultural impact of colonialism on both the colonizers and the colonized.

Notice the relative realism of the horse compared to the tiger.5

The horse was not only ubiquitous, but often seen as an equal partner to the medieval man. Of the horse, Paul Rogers writes that “it would be difficult to find such an omnipresent and universally positive portrayal of a beast in [medieval] times.”6 Indeed, one reason for this omnipresence in representation was the permeation of the horse at multiple levels of medieval European society. The Aberdeen Bestiary names three categorizations of horse, each with their specialization: “One is the noble war-horse, capable of carrying heavy weights; the second is the everyday kind, used for drawing loads but unsuitable for riding. The third is born from a combination of different species, and is also called bigener, hybrid, because it is born of mixed stock, like a mule.”7 Interestingly, the horse is not reserved for the nobility––there were horses for everyday needs, and an implied lower-class horse in the mule. The horse was ubiquitous in literature precisely because it was ubiquitous in the lived experience of the medieval man. This likely led to its standardized portrayal, one that was very similar to its real-life form.

An ass with elongated ears.8

Like the horse, donkeys (or asses) were similarly portrayed in a realistic fashion. Indeed, this is likely due to the frequent contact between the average medieval European and the ass. Isidore of Seville writes that: “The ass (asinus) and the small ass (asellus) are so called from sitting (sedere), as if the word were asedus. The ass took this name, which is better suited to horses, because before people captured horses, they began by domesticating the ass. Indeed, it is a slow animal and balks for no reason; it allowed itself to be domesticated as soon as mankind wished it.”9 This implies that the connection between medieval Europeans and the donkey was a collaboration strengthened through centuries of cohabitation and cooperation.

Unlike the medieval Europeans, however, the native peoples of the Americas had not such contact with either the horse or the ass. Compare the earlier descriptions of the horse in the Aberdeen bestiary with an Aztec account of the horses that accompanied Hernan Cortes in 1519. Addressing their emperor Motecuhzoma, Aztec messengers described the Spanish conquistadors: “Their trappings and arms are all made of iron. They dress in iron and wear iron casques on their heads. Their swords are iron; their bows are iron; their shields are iron; their spears are iron. Their deer carry them on their backs wherever they wish to go. These deer, our lord, are as tall as the roof of a house.”10 Nahua chroniclers placed accounts of men on horses in between the purely fantastical: “A bird was captured in the lake, and a strange mirror was found on its head. Motecuhzoma looked in the mirror and saw people coming forward on the backs of animals resembling deer. Increasing the people’s fright, monstrous beings were seen in the city, deformed men with two heads.”11 These descriptions are as fantastical as some of the descriptions of faraway animals in European bestiaries. The ass, too, was transformed from an innocuous and lazy animal that existed solely as a docile creature to be exploited into a tool for imperialism: Donkeys (in the form of four jacks and two jennies) arrived in the Americas in 1495 to support Spanish colonies.12 Just over a century later, these donkeys would be critical to the colonial economy of exploitation as they delivered wood for mining tools and Paraguayan maté herbal tea to Potosí, exchanging them for Peruvian textiles and Spanish manufactures imported via Lima.13

It is this fear and apprehension that I hope to transmit in my entry. Through using the lens of indigenous Americans, I transform the horse from the ordinary into the extraordinary. While medieval Europeans would have seen the horse as an everyday companion, Amerindians saw them as beasts, like the whale in Ludwig XV come to life. Through this piece, I hope to question what is seen as normal. What is deemed normal is only normal when viewed through one particular lens. The horse, a faithful companion and symbol of fraternity in Europe, was likely seen as an apocalyptic beast of destruction to 16th-century Amerindians. To the indigenous peoples of America, they would have been more equivalent to bestiary crocodiles or manticores.

Explanations for some details of this artwork are as follows:

  • The Chimera
    • The scales of the horse are based off the leftmost horse of an artwork by Winfield Coleman. The knight breathes fire, as primary sources indicate that native warriors were stumped by firearms: one account cites several messengers fainting at the sound of cannon fire.14

Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century. Winfield Coleman.
As interpreted by the National Museum of the American Indian.

  • The Donkey
    • Atop the donkey is a cannon. Aztec primary accounts mentions cannon and firearms used by the Spanish—it is incredibly likely that they were pulled by donkeys: even in the 18th century, donkeys were instrumental to the United States army’s subjugation of the Native American populations of the West.15
  • Miscellaneous
    • The gold was used in bestiaries such as the Aberdeen bestiary. Colours were informed by bestiaries as well, with the horse taking on an aggressive colour like that of the crocodile in several different bestiaries.


1 Miguel León-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico (Beacon Press, 2006), 30.

2 Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, BPL 1283 (Herbarius / De medicamentis ex animalibus), folio 56r.

3 Arnamagnæanske Institut, AM 673 a 4º (Icelandic Physiologus), folio 5r.

4 Getty Museum, MS. Ludwig XV.

5 Royal 12 C. XIX, folio 28.

6 Paul H Rogers, “Rediscovering the Horse in Medieval French Literature,” Neophilologus 97, no. 4 (2013): 638.

7 Aberdeen Bestiary, folio 23r.

8 Kongelige Bibliotek, GKS 1633 4° (Bestiary of Ann Walsh), folio 25v.

9 Isidore of Seville. The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Edited and translated by S. A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach, and O. Berghof, Cambridge University Press, 2006, 2009. Book 12, chapter 1, section 38.

10 León-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico, 30.

11 León-Portilla, 190.

12 Peter Mitchell, “New Worlds for the Donkey,” in The Donkey in Human History: An Archaeological Perspective, ed. Peter Mitchell (Oxford University Press, 2018), 189,

13 Mitchell, 212.

14 León-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico, 26.

15 Mitchell, “New Worlds for the Donkey,” 210.