Bevis Slays the Dragon of Cologne, Unwavering


Bevis Slays the Dragon of Cologne, Unwavering
An Interpretation of Bevis of Hampton
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)

Artist’s Remarks

As a creative response to the medieval chivalric romance Bevis of Hampton, I have produced a painting depicting the scene where Bevis takes on one of his most formidable challenges of slaying the dragon of Cologne. The painting consists of a human figure, representing Bevis, at the bottom left, with a dragon flying overhead on the right. The scene is set high in the sky amongst the clouds, with Bevis standing on a clifftop with a waterfall behind him to the bottom left of the painting. My work focuses on a few of the major themes in the poem, such as man versus nature, divine empowerment, as well as chivalry and bravery.

Through referencing the characterisation of the dragon in the poem, I explore its depiction as a supernatural animal antagonistic to humanity. The dragon is characterised as a creature of evil that is hated by humanity, described as “bothe leith and grim” (2666), its menacing qualities linking it to ideas of death and destruction. In my work, I parallel this association with evil through the colours used to paint both the dragon and the right half the painting, which utilises dark shades of black, grey and blue. The darker blue colour helps situate the setting of the painting, as it recalls the colours of a stormy sky. The black and greys are used to create ominous clouds around the dragon, which together with the stormy sky help heighten the drama of the scene and create a menacing aura that surrounds the dragon. The dragon is painted with darker shades of green to achieve a similar effect that is further heightened by the dragon’s glowing red eye.

Despite its supernatural associations, the dragon is still seen as an animal of the wild to be conquered by man. The dragon is said to reside “at Coloyne under a clive”, hence I chose the chose the setting of my painting to be that of a cliff edge. My painting closely follows the description of the dragon in the romance: for example, around the dragon’s mouth, I depicted four hornlike structures to represent its “eighte toskes”, with four on either side of its head. While the colour of the dragon was not explicitly stated, I decided to paint it in a greenish colour, a reference to its ability to spit venom (2711). I used lighter shades of green and yellow for the webbings of the wing to create an iridescent quality to mimic the shine described in the poem. I followed along with the description of the tail in the poem, painting it as long and thick, appearing almost snake-like. Although the dragon was described as a maned creature, I decided to replace the hair with horns and spike, as I felt that a haired dragon resembled more closely the common depictions of Chinese dragons. The horns also helped enhance the dragon’s fearsome quality and were painted in locations such as around the neck area, similar to that of a lion, and along the top of its spine, to reference the parallel to a stallion.

Divine empowerment is especially prominent in Bevis’ fight with the dragon. Having been incapacitated many times by the dragon, each time Bevis’ strength is renewed through prayer and the presence of a well with healing properties that a “virgine hadde bathede in” (2805). His miraculous renewal of strength after each fall can be seen as an allusion to baptism and a sign of the power man holds over animals bestowed by God, as seen in the bestiary depictions of Adam naming the animals. I chose to depict this through the use of brighter white clouds and a light bluish grey sky over the silhouetted figure of Bevis on the left of the painting. I also chose to include light rays shining down on Bevis to represent God’s empowerment and blessing over him in his fight. While the poem depicts the healing water source as a well, I decided to instead represent it as a waterfall. I felt that this would be more appropriate to my chosen setting of the wilderness cliffside. The waterfall with its flowing water felt closely related to the idea of water as a purifying element, as wells are often associated with more stagnant groundwater. With its brilliant blue and white highlights, the waterfall appears to have a bright iridescent quality that helps connote its imbued magical healing properties. The divine empowerment Bevis experiences was hence mainly depicted through the natural landscape, creating an interesting contrast from the previously discussed opposition of man and nature. In my painting, aspects of nature seem to be also aiding Bevis in his fight against the dragon, echoing biblical moments where God appears to humans through natural elements such as the burning bush (Exodus 3).

Lastly, my painting also aims to explore Bevis’ chivalry and bravery in his battle with the dragon. Despite the horrifying nature of the dragon, Bevis chooses to continue with his quest even after the giant Ascopard backs out on him. In my painting, Bevis is depicted as a lone figure confronting the dragon.  He stands tall atop the cliff with a spear in hand that will later be shattered, as referenced in the poem (2771). Bevis is depicted with a flowing cape behind him, an added feature that I felt added to his heroic quality. Despite the poem’s description of the dragon’s monstrous size, I noticed that depictions of St George slaying the dragon often portray the creature as a smaller animal (Fig 1.).

Fig. 1: St. George Defeating the Dragon, Johann König, 1630, Oil on Copper.

While this could convey man’s conquering of nature, I chose to stick with the actual proportions described in the poem in order to heighten the bravery of Bevis through the juxtaposition of size. The dragon takes up the entire upper right of the painting, while Bevis appears as a small figure near the bottom left. This diagonal composition helps create a tension in this confrontation as the ominous form looms overhead, yet the smaller unfazed Bevis still stands tall in the face of his giant adversary, reinforcing his bravery as unwavering.


Herzman, Ronald B. “Bevis of Hampton.” Four Romances of England, Edited by Graham Drake and Eve Salisbury, 1999,

Holy Bible, American Bible Society, New York, 2002

How Saint George’s Dragon Got Its Wings – Jstor Daily.

The Crusader Knight Bevis and Arondel


The Crusader Knight Bevis and Arondel
Performing Art (Song)
An Interpretation of Bevis of Hampton
Real and Imagined Animals in Medieval Literature (YHU2330)



And Beves rod on Arondel
That was a stede gode and lel
He smot hit with spures of golde
Thanne thoughte that hors, that he scholde
Tho laide thai on with eger mod
And slowe Sarsins, as hii wer wod
Beves and is ost withinne a stounde
Sexti thosent thai felde to grounde

Pax in Nomine Domini

And Bevis rode on Arondel
Who was a fine and loyal steed
He struck it with golden spurs
The horse knew what it was meant to do
They attacked with keen vigor
And killed Saracens as though they were berserk
Bevis and his host, within that time
Fell sixty thousand to the ground

Peace in the Name of the Lord


Arondel thar Ivor bestrit
That hors wel sone underyit
That Beves nas nought upon is rigge
The king wel sore scholde hit abegge
And er hii mighte that hors winne
Thai laughte him with queinte ginne
No man dorste come him hende
Thar that hors stod in bende

Ivor mounted on Arondel
That horse very soon knew
That Bevis was not upon its back
The king soon paid for it painfully
And before they could catch that horse
They had to trap it with clever tricks
No man dared come near
Where that horse stood in fetters


Whan that hors herde nevene
His kende lordes stevene
His rakenteis he al terof
And wente in to the kourt wel kof
Arondel ne wawede no fot
Til Beves hadde the stirop
Beves in to the sadel him threw
Tharbi that maide him wel knew

When that horse heard the sound
Of his rightful lord‘s voice
He broke away from his fetters
And galloped quickly into the court
Arondel did not move a foot
Until Bevis had the stirrup on
And threw himself into the saddle
With that the maid knew him well


“Mahoun thee save!” seide Saber
“Fro whanne kometh this fair deistrer?”
Aboute he ternde the deistrer
Up behinde lep Saber
And smot the Sarasin ded adoun
With the pik of his bordoun
To the King Ivor he gan grede
“Lo, Arondel ich a wei lede”

Pax in Nomine Domini

“Mohammed save you!” said Saber
“Where did this fair steed come from?”
The Saracen turned the steed around
Up leapt Saber onto its back
And struck the Saracen down and dead
With the spike of his staff
To King Ivor he did implore
“Behold, I shall lead Arondel away”

Peace in the Name of the Lord


To his stable Beves gan fare
Arondel a fond thar ded
That ever hadde be gode at nede
Tharfore him was swithe wo
In to his chaumber he gan go
And segh Josian drawe to dede
In is armes he gan hire folde
And thar hii deide bothe ifere

Bevis walked to his stable
And found Arondel dead,
Who had always been there in need.
For this he had such great sadness.
He began to go into his chamber
And saw Josian also nearing death.
He embraced her in his arms
And there the both of them died together.


An hous here sone made of riligioun,
For to singe for Sire Bevoun
And ek for Josian the fre
God on here saules have pité
And also for Arondel
Yif men for eni hors bidde schel
Thus endeth Beves of Hamtoun
God yeve us alle Is benesoun!

And their son established a monastic house
To sing prayers for Sir Bevis
And also for Josian the gracious
May God have pity on their souls
And also for Arondel
If men should pray for any horse
Thus the end of Bevis of Hampton
May God give us all His blessing!

Artist’s Remarks

Bevis of Hampton may appear to an unknowing audience as yet another chivalric romance at first glance, but its extensive geographical setting and significant attention to the encounters between medieval Europe and the Middle East set the tale apart. While Bevis’ adventure takes the forefront, the tale never shies away from the violence and religious tensions of its time. It includes Bevis’ slaying of some sixty thousand Muslims, his refusal to convert to Islam in Armenia, and his eventual conversion of the entire Armenia to Christianity. This creative adaptation takes the form of a song and seeks to draw out the underlying context and tone of the Crusades and trace the subjectivity of the horse Arondel in Bevis of Hampton through a musical marriage with the troubadour Marcabru’s similarly themed poem Pax in Nomine Domini. This piece reflects on how chivalric identity can be perceived as a composite figure of man and horse, and explores the intimate connection, perhaps even participation, of the animal in heroic quests and religious violence during the Middle Ages.

The song’s lyrics tell an abridged version of Arondel’s involvement in Bevis’ adventures throughout the tale that fleshes out the deep sense of loyalty and intimate coordination of the human (Bevis’) and animal bodies in their actions, as well as the extent of violence inflicted by this composite Crusader knight of Bevis and Arondel (and their companions) on others, notably the “Sarasins” (a medieval term used to refer to those who practised Islam, especially the Arabs and Turks). Split into six verses, the song begins with an introduction to Arondel and a key moment in the earlier part of the tale where together, Bevis and Arondel slayed a total of “[s]exti thosent” Saracens. This is possible due to an almost telepathic connection between the two; the line “Thanne thoughte that hors, that he scholde” shows how Arondel is able to perceive his master’s intention and thereafter move in synchronisation with it. The second, third, and fourth verses each highlight an instance where Arondel demonstrates his loyalty to Bevis and perhaps even plays a crucial role in moving the narrative forward. The third verse in particular shows Arondel becoming a trope common in medieval romances—a sign for separated lovers to recognise each other. However, the tale employs this trope in an unusual manner, where Arondel is both the sign and an additional, non-lover entity who undergoes the process of recognition to reunite with Bevis. It is only upon their recognition that the lady Josian herself recognises and reunites with Bevis (“Tharbi that maide him wel knew”). The final two verses then shift to examine the impact of Arondel’s death upon the story. Interestingly, Arondel’s death seems to herald both Bevis and his lover’s deaths, as well as the conclusion of the tale. Even more curious is how the tale consecrates not just the knightly hero and his lover at the end, but Arondel as well. A most intriguing line—“Yif men for eni hors bidde schel”—follows, hinting at the narrative’s self-awareness of how absurd it may appear for a horse to be dedicated such religious importance and further gesturing towards the importance of the horse in construing the knight as a composite of man and animal.

In compiling the different episodes involving Arondel, some were inevitably left out to ensure that the song is able to function as a standalone narrative and as one that retains the original tale’s structure—we are introduced to the central figure, taken along on various quests and battles, made to witness their death, and compelled into a meditative mood with the closing religious tone. Minor edits were made to the Middle English lines, often for clarifying or reducing redundancy in pronouns and references to characters. These lines were also mostly incorporated with their original pairings in the tale so as to keep them as rhyming couplets, for their sonic symmetry renders them more song-like and thus easier to transpose into music. A notable exception occurs in the fifth verse, where the rhyming couplet pattern is intentionally broken by the line mentioning Arondel’s death to depict its rupture of Bevis’ knightly identity (“To his stable Beves gan fare / Arondel a fond thar ded”). Two lines of “Pax in Nomine Domini” (literally “Peace in the name of the Lord”) are retained from Marcabru’s original work to serve as brief interludes dividing the song into a structure of “introduction / episodes of Bevis and Arondel’s bond and violence / Arondel’s death and aftermath”. Furthermore, this Latin phrase also maintains the solemn tone of the song and accentuates the tale’s context of the Crusades. Further inspiration is drawn from the often flexible order of verses in troubadour poetry that Marcabru is known for to guide the act of gathering and shuffling lines from the original Bevis of Hampton tale in writing this song.

The song borrows the melody of Marcabru’s “Pax in Nomine Domini” poem, with minor alterations to better accommodate the Middle English words, for a perfect fit is difficult given linguistic differences from Old Occitan. Performance of the song’s vocals is largely monophonic and accompanied by harp chords and tambourine jingles using GarageBand. Both instruments are natural picks given their popularity in both Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages. In the context of this performance, these instruments are also utilised for their evocation of seemingly dualistic qualities. The harp adds a tender tone to bring out the close bond of affection between Bevis and Arondel, while arousing a melancholic mood over the deaths and bloodshed mentioned throughout the lyrics. The tambourine evokes a sense of folk music that calls to mind the tale’s linguistic style, which can resemble oral storytelling due to its repetition and fairly narrow vocabulary, yet simultaneously suggests a sense of ritual and praise that is consistent with the tale’s heavy biblical overtones in its celebration and consecration of Bevis’ deeds.

The first verse begins with sparse instrumentation so that attention is drawn to the declarative introduction of Bevis and Arondel’s story and relationship. Following the interlude of “Pax in Nomine Domini” sung a capella, the next three verses are sung in a more dance-like rhythm, accompanied by regular harp chords and then tambourine jingles. The harp accompaniment evolves into strumming after the third verse, which speaks of Arondel’s liberation from the fetters imposed upon him by King Ivor. The fifth verse slows the song’s tempo dramatically to give pause to Arondel, Bevis, and Josian’s deaths. Here, the harp instrumentation is stripped bare: the harp chords begin with three notes, reduced to two upon mention of Arondel’s death, and cease being chords altogether upon mention of Josian’s death. A barely audible low “A” note is held for most of the verse to add a foreboding mood. The final verse picks up the tempo slightly and is accompanied by only the tambourine to accentuate the silence after the end of the main characters’ deaths, and simultaneously to mark their consecration and reflect on the tale’s ritualistic performance of knightly identity through its repetitions and episodic narrative. Overall, the song pays tribute to many musical and poetic forms as discussed above, but with no strict adherence to a specific tempo even within each verse. Performed in freestyle, the song draws out the more chaotic, “animalistic” side of the medieval knight figure in a tale full of heroic deeds and chivalric violence alike.



Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Saracen”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 Feb. 2022, Accessed 29 April 2023.

Eckert, Ken. “Bevis of Hampton”. Chaucer’s Reading List: Sir Thopas, Auchinleck, and Middle English Romances in Translation. 2011. University of Nevada Las Vegas. PhD dissertation.

Savall, Jordi. “Marcabru (1100-1150): Pax in Nomine Domini”. YouTube, uploaded by Eric Boulanger, 9 May 2012,


[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.


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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.