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A Medieval Bestiary

Author(s): J. L. Schrader
Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, Vol. 44, No. 1, A Medieval
Bestiary (Summer, 1986), pp. 1+12-55
Published by: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Stable URL: .
Accessed: 18/05/2013 15:24

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byj L. Schrader


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T he word "BEASTS"should
properlybe used for lions, leop-
ards, tigers, wolves, foxes, dogs,
monkeysand others that rage about
with tooth and claw.They are accus-
tomed to freedomby nature, and they
go whereverthey want to go.

L EOthe Lion, mightiestof beasts, that they do not get angry unlessthey their own accordextractthe meat. A
will stand up to anybody.He is are wounded. The compassionof lions, lion turns up its nose at yesterday'sdin-
the Prince of All Animals.The on the contrary,is clearfrom innu- ner and will go awayhungryfrom food
courageof these creaturesis seatedin merableexamples-for they spare the that has been left over.
theirhearts. Theirbrowsand tail-tufts prostrate;they allowsuch captivesas In the roar of this beast is such
are an index to theirdisposition. they come acrossto go back to their naturalterriblenessthat many animals,
Althoughthey fear the creakingof own country; they preyon men rather which could escape his chargeby their
wheels, they are frightenedby fires than on women, and they do not kill speed, are paralyzedby the verysound
even more so. childrenexceptwhen they are very of his voice. A sick lion searchesfor a
Scientistssay that Leo has three hungry. monkeyto eat, by which means he can
principalcharacteristics:His firstfea- Furthermore,lions abstain from be cured. A lion fears a cock, especially
ture is, that he lovesto roveon the tops over-eating;they only take food and a white one. He is harassedby the tiny
of mountains.That way the smell of drink on alternatedays and, when they sting of a scorpion,and snake poison
approachinghuntersreachesup to have eaten too much, they pop their kills him.
him, and he disguiseshis spoorwith his paws carefullyinto their mouthsand of A lion, like the king he is, disdains
tail. The lion'ssecond featureis, that to have a lot of differentwives.
when he sleeps, he seems to keep his Below:Lion graspingcalf, columnsupport.
eyes open. The thirdfeatureis, that Italian (probablyReggioEmilia),12th cen-
when a lionessgives birthto her cubs, tury.Opposite:Lion, fresco.Spanish (Bur-
she brings them forth dead and lays gos Province),about 1230
them up lifelessfor three days-until
theirfather,coming on the thirdday,
breathesin theirfaces and inspirits
them. Justso did the FatherOmnipo-
tent raiseOurLordJesusChristfrom
the dead on the thirdday.
It is said the littersof these crea-
turescome in three. Shortlions with
curly manes are peaceful;tall ones with
plain hair are fierce.
So far as theirrelationswith men
are concerned,the natureof lions is


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T IGRIS the Tigergets his name by a gallopinghorse he is on the point she again throwsherselfwith all her
from his rapidpace; for the Per- of being overcomeby the speed of the might into followingthe horsemanand
sians, Greeksand Medesused to tigress,and seeing that no safetycan be quicklythreatensto catch up with the
call an arrowtygris.And from him the expectedfrom flight, cunninglyinvents fugitive.Again he delaysthe pursuer
RiverTigrisis named, becauseit is the the followingruse. He throwsdown a by throwingdown a second ball, nor
most rapidof all rivers.The beast can glass ball, and the tigress,fooledby her does the memoryof his formertrick
be distinguishedby his manifold own reflection,assumesthat the image preventthe mother'stendercare. She
specklings,by his courageand by his in the glass is her little one. She pulls curls herselfroundthe empty reflection
wonderfulspeed. up, hoping to collect the infant. But and lies down as if to suckle the cub.
Now the tigress,when she finds only delayedby his hollowmockery, And so, deceivedby the zeal of her own
that one of her cubs has been stolen dutifulness,she loses both her revenge
from her lair,instantlypressesalong and her baby.
the tracksof the thief. But the cub-
Tigerswith ramiformtongues, capital.
stealer,seeing that even though carried Spanish (SegoviaProvince),about 1160

PANTHER has a truly
colorand is most
fear,flees into the cavesof the earth. white variegation.It only has babies
There, unableto bear the smell, it once, becausewhen the cubs have
beautiful,and excessivelykind. becomes torpidand remainsimmobile struckroot in the mother'swomb and
The only animal it considersan enemy as in death. begin to wax with the strengthof birth,
is the dragon. The true panther,OurLordJesus they become impatient.So they tear the
Whena pantherhas dined and is Christ,snatchedus from the powerof womb as being an obstacleto delivery.
satiated,it hides awayin its den and the dragon-devilon descendingfrom This dischargesthe litter,since it is
goes to sleep. Afterthreedays it awakes the heavens.He associatedus with spurredby pain. Thus, when the sub-
and emits a loud belch, and a very himselfas sons by his incarnation, sequentseed of generationis infused
sweet smell-like the smell of allspice acceptingall, and gave gifts to men, into it, it does not adhereto the
-issues from its mouth. Whenthe leading captivitycaptive. damagedand scarredparts and is not
other animalshaveheard the noise, The pantheris an animal with accepted.
they followthe pantherwhereverit small spots daubedall overit; hence it
goes, becauseof the sweetnessof this can be distinguishedby circleddots Spottedpanther,detailfromtheUnicorn
scent. Only the dragon, smittenwith tapestryseries (see inside covers)
upon tawny and also by its black-and-


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T he ANTALOPS [Antelope] is an antelopebegins to play with the Here-
animal of incomparablecelerity, cine with its horns, and, while doing
so much so that no huntercan so, entanglesthem in the twigs. When
everget near it. It has long horns it cannot get free itself aftera long
shaped like a saw,with the resultthat it struggle,it cries with a loud bellow.But
can even cut down very big trees. the hunter,hearing its voice, comes and
When it is thirsty,it goes to the kills it.
great RiverEuphratesand drinks. Now
thereis in those parts a shrubcalled Antelopeon a shieldsurroundedby ivy
leaves,ceramicdish. Spanish (Manises,
Herecine,which has subtle, long twigs. ValenciaProvince),about 1430-70
Coming thereforeto the shrub, the


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T ryswift because n
mall animal like a kid, exceed- principalities, nor powers, nor thrones,
ingly swift, with one horn inth4 nor dominions could keep up with him,
middle of his forehead. No hunter can nor could Hell contain him, nor could
atchhifri. Biithe can be trapped by the most subtle devil prevail to catch or
he following stratagem. contain him; hut, by thesole willof the
virgir is led to where he lurks, Father, he came down into the virgin
nd there she is sent off alone into the womb for our salvation.
ood. He quickly leapsinto her lap The unicorn often fights with ele-
nd embraces her, and hence he gets phants and conquers them by wound-
aught. ing them in the belly
Qur Lord Jesus Christ is also a um- Unicornwith a dog on its back, aquamanile.
orn spiritually. The fact that it has just German(Saxony),about 1400
ne horn on its head means what He
imself said: "The Father and I are

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AGRIFFIN is a winged quadruped. to horses. But it will also tear to pieces
This kind of wild animalis born any human beings that it happens
in Hyperboreanparts, or in across.
mountains.All its bodily membersare
like a lion's,but its wings and mask are Griffinwithina Greekborder,enameled
like an eagle's. It is vehementlyhostile 1100-50

T here is an animal called an they munch it up, it seducesthem, and cannot get up again. Hence he leans
ELEPHANT, which has no desire she immediatelyconceives. againsta tree when he wants to go to
to copulate. Now the elephantand his wife sleep, for he has no joints in his knees.
Its nose is called a proboscis(for representAdamand Eve. For when For this reasona hunterpartly saws
the bushes), becauseit carriesits leaf- they were pleasingto God, beforetheir througha tree, so that the elephant
food to its mouth with it, and this looks provocationin the flesh, they had no may fall down when he leans against it.
like a snake. knowledgeof sin. When, however,the It is a fact that elephantssmash
themselves with wife ate of the Treeof Knowledge, whateverthey wind their noses round,
tusks. No animals can be which is what Mandragorameans, and and whateverthey squashwith their
ivory larger
found. The Persiansand the Indians, gave one of the fruitsto her man, she feet they blot out.
collectedinto woodentowerson them, was immediatelymade a wandererand They neverquarrelabout their
sometimesfight each other with jav- they had to clearout of Paradiseon wives, for adulteryis unknownto
elins as if from a castle. They possess account of it. them. Thereis a mild gentlenessabout
vast intelligenceand memory.They When the propertime for being them, for,if they happen to come
march about in herds. And they copu- deliveredarrives,the motherelephant acrossa forwanderedman in the des-
late back-to-back. walks out into a lake, and the water erts, they offerto lead him back into
remain pregnant for comes up to her udders. Meanwhile, familiarpaths. If by chance they do
two years, do not have babies more the fatherelephantguardsher while become involvedin battles, they take
than once, and only haveone at a time. she is in labor,becausethereis a cer- care of the casualties,collectingthe
tain dragonthat is inimical to ele- woundedand exhaustedinto the mid-
They live three hundredyears. If one
of them wants to have a he
baby, goes phants. Moreover,if a serpenthappens dle of the herd.
with his wife eastwardtowardParadise, by, the fathertrampleson it and kills it. Elephantwitha howdah,fresco.Spanish
and thereis a tree therecalled Man- He is also formidableto bulls-but he about1120-40
dragora.She first takes of the tree and is frightenedof mice, for all that.
then gives some to her spouse. When If an elephanttumbles down he


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T his is an animal called the YENA of a night and studiesthe tone of voice This beast has a stone in its eye,
[Hyena], which is accustomed of those inside with carefulear, for it is also called a yena, which is believed
to living in the sepulchresof the able to do imitationsof the human to make a person able to foreseethe
dead and devouringtheir bodies. Its voice. In orderthat it may preyupon futureif he keeps it underhis tongue. It
natureis that at one momentit is mas- men called out at night by this ruse, it is true that if a yena walks roundany
culine and at anothermoment femi- copies the sound of human vomiting. animalthreetimes, the animal cannot
nine, and hence it is a dirtybrute. Such dogs as it has called out like move. For this reasonthey affirmthat it
It is unableto turn round, except this, it gobblesup with hypocritical has some sort of magic skill.
by a completereversalof its body, sobs. And if by chance sportingdogs
Hyena,detailfromtheUnicorn tapestry
becauseits spine is rigid and is all in should crossits shadowwhile they are series(seeinsidebackcover)
one piece. It frequentsthe sheepfoldsof hunting it, they lose their voicesand
shepherdsand walks roundthe houses cannot give tongue.

STAGS are enemiesto serpents. hurry acrosswith the greatestpossible oppositedirection.All stand stock still,
When they feel weighteddown by speed. for which reasonthey make themselves
illness, they suck snakes from Whenit is the stag'sappointedsea- an easy mark for archers.
their holes with a snort of the nostrils son to rut, the malesof this speciesbell It is known that stags neverget
and, the dangerof theirvenom having with a furyof concupiscence.Although feverish,so ointmentsmade from their
been survived,the stags are restoredto the femalesmay be impregnated marrowwill settle heats in sick men.
health by a meal of them. Aftera din- beforehand,theydo not conceiveuntil Weread that many people who have
ner of snake, they shed theircoats and the time of the starArcturus.Nor do been accustomedto eating venison
all theirold age with them. theybring forththeirbabiesjust any- from their early days have been
Stags listenadmiringlyto the where, but they hide them with tender immortal,and immuneto fevers,but it
music of rusticpipes. Withtheirears care, and, havingtuckedthem up in fails them in the end if they happento
prickedup, they hear acutely;with the some deep shrubberyor undergrowth, get killed by a single wound. The ren-
ears lowered,not at all. theyadmonishthem with a stampof the net of a fawn killed in its mother's
When they change their feeding foot to keep hidden. Whenthe littleones womb is capital against poisons.
groundsfor loveof a foreignpasture,if havebecomestrongenoughforrun- Recumbent stagsurrounded by a vine-scroll
by any chance they haveto crosshuge ning, the mothersteachthem to trot motif,brassplate.German,lastquarterof
riversor seas, each restshis head on the and accustomthem to leapingoverhigh the15thcentury
haunchesof the one in front; and, since places.
the one behind does the same thing for Upon hearing the cry of hounds,
him in turn, they sufferno troublefrom stags place themselvesahead of a wind,
the weight. Thusly supported,they so that their scent may blow in the


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APER the Goat is an animal that
gets called this becauseshe
strivesto attain the mountain
crags (aspera captet).
Others call her Caprea, because of
the rattling (of the dry droppings
entangled in the pelt-or of her
hooves?). But the latter are wild goats,
which the Greeks used to call Dorcas
because they can see so very acutely.
These linger on the highest mountains
and can recognize approaching people
from far away, distinguishing the way-
farer from the sportsman.
Goat performingmusic, margin illustration
from the HoursofJeanned'Evreux,Queenof

L RSUSthe Bear,it is said, pro- mutual embraces,they copulatein the even by wounds; and afterbearing,
duces a formlessfoetus, giving human way.The winterseason they lie hid for threemonths. Then,
birth to somethinglike a bit provokestheirinclinationto lust. The coming out into the free daylight,they
of pulp, and this the motherbear males respectthe pregnantfemales sufferso much from being unaccus-
arrangesinto properlegs and arms by with the decencyof a privateroom, tomed to the light that you wouldtake
licking it. She pups on the thirtiethday, and, though in the same lairs for their them to be struckblind.
from whence it comes that a hasty, lying-in, these are dividedby earth- Bearslook out for the hivesof bees
unformedcreationis broughtforth. worksinto separatebeds. They bring and long for honeycombsvery much.
A bear'shead is feeble; the great- forth very tiny pulps of white color, They grab nothing moregreedilythan
est strengthis in the arms and loins, for with no eyes. They graduallysculpture honey.Whenthey haveeaten mandrake
which reasonthey sometimesstand these by licking; and meanwhilethey they die-unless, for fear that the
upright. If bears are afflictedwith a cherishthem to theirbosoms so as to poison shouldgrow strongenough to
seriousinjury,they know how to doctor drawup the animal spirit, being destroythem, they hurryoff and eat
themselvesby strokingtheirsoreswith warmedby this carefulincubation. ants to recuperate.
a herb, so that they are curedby the During this time, with absolutelyno
mere touch. Bear,fresco.Spanish (SoriaProvince),
food for the firstfourteendays, the about 1120-40
They do not make lovelike other sleeplessshe-bears get so deeply
quadrupeds,but being joined in drowsythat they cannot be woken up,


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beast called a MANTICORAis
born in the Indies. It has
threerowsof teeth that meet
alternately;the face of a man, with
gleaming, blood-redeyes; a lion's
body; a tail like a scorpion'sstinger;
and a shrillvoice that is so sibilantthat
it resemblesthe notes of flutes. It han-
kers afterhuman flesh most ravenously.
It is so strongin the foot, so powerful
with its leaps, that neither the most
extensivespace nor the most lofty
obstaclecan contain it.
Manticore,voussoirof an arch. French
(Languedoc),12th century

~iV_ ULPIS the Fox neverruns
tar -i . . . r<>~
.*}~ p
/ straight
but goes on his way
tortuouswindings. He is
...... - ..... .... ~~>i~ ~-'~;. ,a fraudulentand ingeniousanimal.

i|li(,.?^&, " ..' * .A i . iii

- <hi. ? - mself on the groundand holds his

- breath. The birds seeing that he is not
_"~~ ~-' ~ ''~-~ '
'~~~down ~~~'~'~~~~
-~ to sit on him. As you can guess,
- - ~<.:. ~ " ~;~
*-! * i' ~ -he grabsthem and n gobblesthem up.
~reath. ;_6
The Devil has this same nature.

.ii -~ thbr hmargin e illustrationd

Foxseizhingacock, from
: ? t
,~-tt/p:*. r , the Hours oftJeanne dEvreux


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T he wordLuPuS,a Wolf,is breathor the shepherdswake up, she of being caught. Nor is this hair, for
derivedfrom the Greek,Licus. goes upwind. And if a twig or anything which people are always trying to catch
Thev are called that in Greek else shouldmake a noise when her foot it, of any use unless taken off alive.
on accountof theirbites. pressesit, she bites her own foot. The devil bears the similitude of a
The wolf'sstrengthis seatedin his A wolf'seyes shine at night like wolf: he who is always looking over the
chest and jaws; in his loins thereis lamps, and its natureis that, if it sees a human race with his evil eye, and
reallyverv littleof it. His neck is never man first, it strikeshim dumb and tri- darkly prowling round the sheepfolds
able to turn backward. umphs overhim like a victoroverthe of the faithful so that he may afflict and
Wolvesonlv copulateon twelve voiceless.But also, if it feels itselfto ruin their souls.
days in the whole year.They can suffer have been seen first, it loses its own
Rampantwolf on a shieldsurroundedbv
hungerfor a long time, and aftermuch ferocityand cannot run. brionvleaves,ceramicdish. Spanish (Valen-
fastingthey eat a lot. It is reportedthat on the backside
cia), about 1450-1500
The femalewolf goes to the fold of this animal thereis a small patch of
like a tame dog, at a foot'space, and, aphrodisiachair,which it plucks off
lest the sheepdognotice the smell of her with its teeth if it happensto be afraid

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\N ~oanimalis more sagaciousthan dog refusedfood and died of hunger. showshis sagacityin followingthe
CANIS the Dog; for he has more The hound of King Lisimachusthrew scent, as if enunciatinga syllogism.
perception than other animals, itself into the flameswhen its master's By rejectingerror,the dog finds truth.
for he alone recognizes his own name. funeralpyrehad been lightedand was Dogs, moreover,haveoften pro-
He esteems his master highly. burntup by the firein companywith duced evidenceto convictculpritswith
There are numerous breeds of him. proofsof murderdone-to such an
dogs. Some track down the wild crea- When a dog comes acrossthe extentthat theirmute testimonyhas
tures of the wood. Others guard the trackof a hare or a stag, and reaches frequentlybeen believed.
flocks of sheep vigilantly against the branchingof the trail, or the criss- Its way of life is reportedto be
infestations of wolves. Others, the crossof the trail becauseit has split perfectlytemperate.What is more, the
house dogs, look after the palisade of into more parts, then the dog puzzles tongueof a puppy makes a salvefor
their masters, lest it should be robbed silentlywith himself,seekingalong the men'sintestines,if they are wounded.
in the night by thieves; and these will beginningsof each differenttrack. He In licking a wound, the tongueof
stand up for their owners to the death. a dog heals the same.
They gladly dash out hunting with The dog'snatureis that it returns
master, and will even guard his body to its own vomit and gobblesit up
when dead, and not leave it. In sum, it again. And if it happensto crossa river
is a part of their nature that they can- carryingsome meat or anythingof that
not live without men. sort, when it sees its reflectionit opens
So much do dogs adore their its mouth and, while it hastensto pick
owners, that one can read how, when up the other bit of meat, it loses the one
King Garamantes was captured by his it had.
enemies and sold into slavery, two hun-
Above:Dog at the feet of his deceasedmas-
dred of his hounds, having made up a
ter,detailof a sarcophaguslid. Spanish
party, rescued him from exile out of the (Schoolof Lerida),1299-1314. Below:
middle of the whole battle line of his Recumbentdog, heraldicbadge inscribed
foes, and fought those who resisted. (in Spanish)"loyal."Spanish,15th century
When Jason was killed in a quarrel, his


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-921_7 gentleflockof Ovisthe
Sheep, wooly,defenselessin
T~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I I
name.body and placidin mind, gets . its
ab oblatione-from the burnt
sacrifice-because in the old days
among the ancientsit was not bulls but
!~i'!~iy Asheep that wereofferedup.
They call some of them bi-dents,
and these are the ones that havetwo
longerteeth among the eight.
. ^, 00 0 $ ,On the approachof wintera sheep
gets hungryat pastureand roots up the
grassinsatiably-because it foresees
the severityof the winterahead and
hopes to stuff itselfwith greenfodder
beforeall herbageshall fail it underthe
nipping frost.
Sheep,detailof a millefleurs
Franco-Flemish, late15thorearly16th

Bk 2~~~~~~~k

A RIES the Ram perhapsgets his

name from Ares, the God of
War-and hence, the males
among the flocksare sometimescalled
in LatinMares(Mars),or else the beast
may get its name becauseit was or ig-
inally immolatedon altars-from . ..';"
whence "Aries"becausehe was sacri- :: .- '
ficedaris (with altars)-and thus we ;.,

get that ram in scripturewho was

offeredup at the altar (ad aram).
Ram representingthe zodiacsign Aries,
detailfrom the BellesHeuresof Jean, Duke
of Berry.Franco-Netherlandish,about


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1W.V e get the name of APERthe like the stars of that name [Ursus instinct a change for the betterin the
WildBoar from its savagery Majorand Ursus Minor,constellations sky, they look out carefullyand stick
(aferitate),by leavingout the that were thoughtto resemblea wagon their necks from the stalls, all gazing
letterF and putting P instead. In the drawnby oxen]. The kindnessof oxen out at once, in orderto show them-
same way, among the Greeks,it is for their comradesis extraordinary,for selveswilling to go forth.
calledsuagros,the boorishor country each of them demandsthe companyof There are fiercebulls of the wild
pig. For everythingthat is wild and that other one with whom he has been ox in Germany,which have such
rude we looselycall "boorish." accustomedto drawthe plough by the immensehornsthat, at the royaltables,
neck-and, if by any chancethe sec- which have a notablecapacityfor
carvedescutcheon. last
French(Herault), ond one is absent, then the firstone's booze, the people make the receptacles
thirdof the12thto early13thcentury kindly dispositionis testifiedby fre- for drink out of them.
quent mooing. Oxon a shield,detailof a ceramicdishwith
Greekscall Bos the Ox by the
of boaenand the Latins
When rain is impending,oxen
know that they ought to keep them-
thearmsof theBabaufamily.Spanish
(Manises,ValenciaProvince), about
call these creaturestriones selvesat home in their stables. More- 1450-70
becausethey tread the earth underfoot over,when they foreseeby natural

A dam gave CAMELStheir name these there is a cushioningcounterac- both for the past want and for whatever
with good reason, for when they tion for the walkers,with no hard lack may come in the futurefor a long
are being loaded up they kneel impedimentto putting down the foot. time. They go for dirty watersand
down and make themselvesloweror They are kept for two purposes. avoidclean ones. In fact, unlessthere
humbler-and the Greekfor low or Some are accommodatedfor carrying shouldbe foulerdrink available,they
humble is cam. Or else it is becausethe a burden. Othersare more speedy,but themselvesstir up the slime with busy
creatureis humped on the back and the cannot be given loads beyondwhat is trampling,in orderthat it should be
wordcamurmeans "curved"in Greek. fitting; nor are the latterwilling to do muddied. They live for a hundred
The Bactriansbreedthe strongest more than the accustomeddistances. years.
camels, but Arabiabreedsthe largest When they come into season, they If they happento be sold to a
number.The two kinds differin this, are so unbridledby the matterthat strangerthey growill, disgustedat the
that the Arabianshavehumps on the they run mad for the want of love. They price.
back. detesthorses. They are good at putting camel,ordromedary,
These Bactriansneverwear away up with the wearinessof thirst, and fresco.Spanish(SoriaProvince),about
theirhooves.They have fleshysoles indeed, when the opportunityto drink 1120-40
with concertina-likepads, and from is given them, they fill up with enough


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. ..


, ,,

.. ,.

,.,, ,.

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- I

Ql, .


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T he spiritednessof HORSES is In this particularkind of animal, foot, and tremblingin its limbs. The
great. They exultin battlefields: the length of life is greaterin the male. latteris an indicationof courage,
they sniff the combat;they are Indeed, we read of a horse havinglived becausethen it is easilyexcitedfrom a
excitedto the fightby the sound of a to be seventyyears of age. Wealso find stateof deepestreposeand, once speed
trumpet.They recognizetheirenemies it noted that a horse went on copulat- has been got up, it can be maintained
in battleto such an extentthat they go ing to the age of forty. withoutdifficulty.Colorto be looked
for theiradversarieswith a bite. Some At birth, a lovecharmis delivered for principallyin these animals:bay,
will let nobodyon theirback except with the foal, which they carry on their golden, ruddy,chestnut,deer-colored,
their master. foreheadswhen they are dropped.And pale yellow,grey,roan, hoary,silver,
The horse of Alexanderthe Great, if this weretaken away,the mother white, flea-bitten,black. Next in order
called Bucephalus,wouldneverdeign would not on any accountgive her therecomes a mixed coloron a ground
to carry anybodyexcepthis master. uddersto the foal to be suckled. of black or bay; lastly,a piebaldor a
Thereare many storiesof him in It is a commonbeliefthat four stripeis the worst.
battles,in which he broughtAlexander things are necessaryin well-bred The pace of a horse is judged from
safelyout of the most terrible horses. These are: figure,beauty,merit the twitchingof the ears, its spiritfrom
scrimmages. and color.Figure:the body powerful the twitchingof the limbs. The deeper
The horse of CaiusCaesarwould and solid in strength,the heightconve- a horse dips his nostrilswhen drinking,
havenobodybut Caesaron his back. nient to it, the flanklong and narrow, the betterhis prospectsas a sire. The
Whena victoriousadversarywas the haunchesvery large and round,the virilityof horsesis extinguishedwhen
tryingto plunderthe King of the chest spreadingwidely,the whole knot- theirmanes are cut.
Scythiansafterbeing engagedin single ted with a mass of muscles,and the
Opposite:Bridledhorse, aquamanile.North
combat, he was cut to pieceswith kicks hoof dry and firmedwith an arched
German,late 14th or early 15th century.
and bitesby the king'smount. When horn. Beauty:that the head be small Above: Hunter on horseback and three
King Nicomedeshad been killed, his and sound with the skin holdingclose dogs, detailof a fresco.Spanish (Soria
steedrid itselfof life by fasting. When to the bone, the ears shortand lively, Province),about 1120-40
theirmasteris dead or dying, horses the eyes big, the nostrilswide, the neck
shed tears-for they say that only the erect, the mane and tail dense, and a
horse can weep for man and feel the firmcurveon the hooves.Merit:that it
emotionof sorrow. shouldbe audaciousin spirit, swift of


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S he is called Mouserbecauseshe 7. j
is fatalto mice. The vulgarcall,
her CATUS the Cat becauseshe
catches things (a captura)while others
say that it is becauseshe lies in wait , ;
(captat),i.e. becauseshe "watches." ;; , :~.., .
So acutelydoes she glare that her eye :
penetratesthe shadesof darknesswith .

a gleam of light.
Catplayingwitha spindle,marginillustra-
tionfromtheHoursofJeanned'Evreux _

he is called a WEASEL (Mustela)

as if she were an elongated
mouse. When she lives in a house,
she movesfrom place to place with
.. subtle
~~::'"?-~~~4 .. cunning aftershe has had her
babies, and lies each night in a dif-
ferentlair.She pursuessnakes and
There are two kinds. One keeps
i'~i'~~ Z~~~~~~~~~-~~~ afar off in the forest, and the other wan-
ders about in houses. Some say that
they conceivethroughthe ear and give
::"'.:i~;][~~~~~i~~~~~ ~birth throughthe mouth, while, on the
other hand, others declarethat they con-
ceive by mouth and give birth by ear.
Weaselsare said to be so skilledin
medicinethat, if by any chancetheir
babies are killed, they can make them
come aliveagain if they can get at


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* S~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~,~



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N ow all BIRDSare called birds, roads (vias), but straythroughany by- (alae) becausethe birds nourish
but thereare a lot of them-for, way.They are called the WingedOnes (alant) and fostertheir chicks with
just as they differfrom one (Alites)becausethey mount with wings them, by folding them up in these.
anotherin species, so do they in diver- (alis) to the high places and reachthe It is known that the names of
sity of nature.There are so many sorts heavenswith a rowingof plumes. many birds are inventedfrom the
of birdsthat it is not possibleto learn The "wings" are the things in sound of their voices. The particular
everyone, nor indeed is thereanybody which the feathersallow exerciseof kind of song they have suggestswhat
who can penetratethe desertsof flight. Moreover,they are called wings men should call them.
Scythiaand Indiaand Ethiopia,to An odd thing is that the offspring
know theirspeciesaccordingto their of all birds are born twice: firstwhen
differences. the eggs are laid, then when they are
They are called birds (a-ves) formedand hatched by the heat of the
becausethey do not followstraight mother'sbody.


QUILAthe Eagle is said to have the sunbeam is rejectedas being

such wonderfuleyesightthat, degenerate.Nor is it consideredworth
when poised abovethe seas on educating such a molly-coddle.
motionlessplume-even out of human The mercyof a certainmere
sight-he can see the little fishesswim- plebeianbird softensthis spartan
ming and, coming down like a thun- headerdown into the fountain, he dips behaviorin the royalfowl. A bird
derbolt,can carry off his capturedprey himselfthreetimes in it, and instantly whose name is coot picks the baby up,
to the shore. he is renewedwith a great vigorof whetherit has been thrownout or just
And it is a true fact that when the plumageand splendorof vision. not recognized,and adopts the eagle's
eagle growsold and his wings become It is claimedthat an eagle presents child and feeds and nourishesit with
heavy and his eyes become darkened his young to the sunbeamsand holds the very same maternalzeal she shows
with a mist, he goes in searchof a the childrenup to them in mid-air with for her own offspring.
fountain, and, over against it, he flies his talon. And if one of them, when
Above:Eagle with outstretchedwings, lec-
up to the height of heaven, even unto strickenwith the sun'slight, uses a tern from a pulpit. Italian(Schoolof Pisa),
the circle of the sun, and there he fearlessgaze of his eyes in staring at it, 14th century.Opposite:Eagle amid acacia
singes his wings and at the same time that one is made much of, becauseit blossoms,undersideof a ceramicdish.
evaporates the fog of his eyes, in a ray has provedthe truth of its nature. But Spanish (Manises,ValenciaProvince),
of the sun. Then at length, taking a the one that turnsaway its eyes from about 1430-65


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RUS the Cranetakes its name

from its peculiarnote. For it is
with such a cry (grus)that they
make a low,continualmutteringsound
to each other.
Cranesgo about in propermili-
tary formations. And, lest therebe a
high wind that might preventtheirlight
bodies from going straightahead to
theirdestination,they eat sand and
pick up small stonesto give themselves
ballast.Then they rise quicklyto the
heights, so they can see the territory
they want to reach.
Craneskeep a watchfulguard at
night. Youcan see sentriesplacedin an
orderlyway, and, while the remainder
of the comrade-armyis sleeping, these
march roundand roundto investigate
whetherany ambushesare being
They keep themselvesawakefor
theirguard duty by holdingstonesin
theirclaws and share the night watches
equally,taking overin turn. If thereis
an emergency,the sentriesshout.
Youcan tell a crane'sage by its
color,for in old age it becomesblack. T he VULTURE does not make
Crane,detailof a ceramicdish. Spanish rapidflightson accountof the
size of its body.
1450-1500 Now vultures,like eagles, notice
cadaverseven when they are beyond
the seas. They see from a height, while
flying, many things that are hidden
from us by the mountainsin between.
Vulturesare said not to mingle in
a conjugalmannerby way of nuptial
intercourse.The femalesconceive
withoutany assistancefrom the males
and generatewithoutconjunction.The
childrenthus born continue to a great
age, so that theirlife is prolongedeven
to a hundredyears.
The bird can breedwithouta
male, and nobody disprovesit. Yet
when the betrothedVirginMaryher-
self so produces,people questionher
Vulturesare accustomedto fore-
tellingthe death of men by certain
signs. The augursare warnedwhenever
two lines of battleare drawnup against
each other in lamentablewar-for the
birdsfollowin a long column, and they
show by the length of this column how
many soldiersare to die in the struggle.
Vultures,capital. Spanish (Segovia
Province),about 1160


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nly from India can one get a It learnsotherwordsby rote. old, it learnswhat you point out to it
PSITIACUSor Parrot, which is a A parrot'sbeak is so hard that if quicklyenough and retainsit tena-
greenbird with a red collarand you hurl the bird onto a rock from a ciously,but afterthat it begins to be
a large tongue. The tongueis broader height, savesitself by landingon its
it distraitand unteachable.
than in otherbirds, and it makes dis- beak with its mouth shut tight, using
tinct soundswith it. If you did not see the beak to absorbthe shock. Actually, Parrots,detailof a brocadedcloth. Italian
(Sicily),13th century
it, you would think it was a man talk- its skull is so thick that, if it has to be
ing. It greetspeopleof its own accord, taughtanything, it wants an occasional
saying "What-cheer?"or "Toodle-oo!" crackwith an iron bar. Up to two years


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ENIX [Phoenix], the bird of Ara-
bia, is unparalleledin the whole
world. It lives bevondfivehun-
dred years.
When it notices that it is growing
old, it builds itself a funeralpyreafter
collectingsome spice branches;and on
this, turningits body towardthe raysof
the sun and flappingits wings, it sets
fireto itself and is consumed.Then ver-
ily, on the ninth day afterward,it rises
from its own ashes!
It makes a coffinfor itselfof frank-
incense and myrrhand other spices,
into which, its life being over,it enters
and dies. From the liquidof its body a
worm now emerges, and this grad-
ually growsto maturityuntil, at the
appointedtime, the phoenixassumes
the oarageof its wings, and thereit is
again in its previousspeciesand form!
The symbolismof this bird
P ELICANUSthe Pelicanis a bird
thereforeteachesus to believein the
that lives in the solitude of the
River Nile, whence it takes
Risingphoenixes amongfloralsprays,detail its name. The pelican is excessively
of a brocadedcloth.Italian(probably devoted to its children. But when these
Lucca),14thcentury have been born and begin to grow up,
they flap their parents in the face with
their wings, and the parents, striking
back, kill them. Three days afterward
the mother pierces her breast, opens
her side, and lavs herself across her
young, pouring out her blood over the
dead bodies. This brings them to life
In the same way, Our Lord Jesus
Christ calls us into being out of noth-
ing. We, on the contrary, strike him in
the face.
That was why He ascended to
the height of the cross and, His side
having been pierced, there came from
it blood and water for our salvation
and eternal life.
The Pelicanin Her Pietyvsurroundedbv a
vine-scrollmotif, brassplate. South
Netherlandish (Dinant or Malines). 15th


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T he SIRENAE [Sirens], or Har-
pies, so Physiologus says, are
deadly creatures made like
human females from the head to the
navel, while their lower parts down to
the feet are winged. They give forth
melodioussongs that are very lovely,
and thus they charm the ears of sailor-
men and allure them. They entice
these poor chaps by a wonderful sweet-
ness of rhythm and put them to sleep.
At last, when they see that the sailors
are deeply slumbering, they pounce
upon them and tear them to bits.
That is the way ignorant and
incautious human beings get tricked by
pretty voices, when they are charmed
by indelicacies, ostentations and plea-
sures, or when they become licentious
with comedies, tragedies, and various

Harpies,capital. Spanish (Segovia

Province),about 1160

PERDIXthe Partridgeis a cunning,

disgustingbird. It is such a per-
verted creature that the female
will steal the eggs of another female.
But when the young are hatched and
hear the call of their real mother, they
instinctively run awav from the one
that is brooding them and return to the
one that laid them.
Partridges cover their setts with
thornv shrubs, so that animals that
might attack them are kept off by the
twigs. The females mostly carry away
their young to foil their husbands,
because the latter often attack the
young ones when they are fawning on
them impatiently.
Desire torments the females so
much that even if a wind blows toward
them from the males they may become
pregnant by the smell.
When partridges notice that they
have been spied out, they turn over on
their backs, lift clods of earth with their
feet, and spread these so skillfully over
themselves that they lie hidden from

Partridgesamong flowers,detailfrom the

Unicorn Tries to Escape, from the Unicorn
tapestry series


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A CCIPITERthe Hawk is even
betterequippedin its spiritthan
in its talons, for it showsvery
greatcouragein a very small body.It is
avid at seizingupon others, whenceit is
called the ravisher,the thief.
Peoplesay that the hawk is unnat-
urallyspartantowardhis offspring,for
when he sees that the youngstersare fit
to try flying, he offersthem no food in
the nest but beats them with his wings
and drivesthem from the nursery,so
that they shall not turn into sluggish
He gives up feedingthem to make
them audaciousin the art of robbery.
Hawks,ornamental brasses(probably
a chandelier).


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hat old bird CORNIX the Crowis
called by its Greekname among
the Latins. Soothsayersdeclare
that it deals with the troublesof men
throughomens, that it disclosesthe
paths of treachery,and that it predicts
the future.
It is very wrong to believethat
God entrustshis secretsto crows.
Amongthe many omens attrib-
uted to this bird, they speciallymention
the foretellingof rain by its voice.
Let men learnto lovetheirchil-
drenfrom the exampleand from the
sense of duty of crows.They diligently
followtheirsons as an escortwhen they
fly, and fearingthat the babies might
pine away,they lay food in and do not
neglect the choreof feedingfor a long
lastquarterof the12th

B EES (Apes)are born withoutfeet, Bees arrangefor theirown king. poison as well as honey,if provoked.In
for they only grow their feet and They createa popularstate, and, theirthirstfor revenge,they lay down
wings later on. althoughthey are placed undera king, theirown lives in the woundswhich
They are skilledin the art of mak- they are free. A king bee is formedwith they make.
ing honey.They live in definitehouses. clear naturalsigns, so that he can be The moistureof honev-dewis
They build theirhomes with inde- distinguishedby the size of his body pouredinto the mid-most recessesof
scribabledexterity,making them out of and by his appearance. the hives and little by little, it is refined
variousflowersand fillingcountless Such bees as are disobedientto into honey.Althoughit was originally
cells with spun wax. They havekings, the laws of the king punishthemselves liquid, it begins to take on the sweet,
armies-they go to war. on being condemnedto penance, so mellifluoussmell throughthe thicken-
Manypeople haveproventhat that they die by the woundsof their ing of the wax and the scent of the
these creaturesare born from the own stings. flowers.
corpsesof cows. The fleshof dead Bees havestings and can produce Not only is honeydelightful,but
calves is beatenin orderto bring them it is healthy.It mollifiesthe throat,it
forth, so that out of the rottingblood heals wounds, it is administeredas a
maggotsmay be createdthat finally medicine for internalulcers.
turn into bees. One ought more accu- Whiletheirking is safe, bees never
ratelysay that bees are born from oxen, alterdecisionsor changetheirminds.
hornetsfrom horses, dronesfrom But if the king is lost, they abandonthe
mules, and wasps from donkeys. trust of preservinghis kingdomand
Aloneamong everyspeciesof the tear themselvesawayfrom his honev-
living, bees have children that are store, becausehe who held the officeof
commonto all. All inhabitthe same chief is destroyed.
dwelling, all are enclosedbehind the Bees flee from smoke and are irri-
thresholdof one fatherland.Workis tated by noise.
mutual to all, food is communal,labor
and the habit and enjoyment of flight Bee, detailof an intaglio-carvedgame piece.
North German,about 1200-50
are all held equally.


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NGUIS the Snake is the origin of
all serpents,becausesnakes can
be folded and bent and are
COLUBER(another name for
snake) is called this becauseit glides
with serpentinecoils (colubrosus)into
slipperycourses. It is knownas "the
slipperyone" becauseit slips away
crawling,and like a fish, the tighterit is
held, the more it crawls.
SERPENS gets its name becauseit
creeps (serpit)by secretapproaches
and not by open steps. It movesalong

D RACO the Dragonis the largest

of all serpents,in fact of all liv-
ing things on earth. The Greeks
call it dracontaand hence it has been
turnedinto Latin underthe name
When the dragonhas come out of
its cave, it is often carried into the sky,
and the air near it becomes ardent. It
has a crest, a small mouth and a nar-
row gullet throughwhich it draws
breathor puts out its tongue. Its
strengthis not in its teeth but in its tail,
and it inflicts injuryby blows rather
than by stinging. So it is harmlessas
regardspoison. But they point out that
poisons are not necessaryto it for kill-
ing, since if it winds roundanyoneit
kills him straightaway.Even the ele-
by very small pressuresof its scales.
phant is not protectedfrom it by the The ones that havefour legs like
size of its body; for the dragon, lying in lizardsand newts are not called ser-
wait near the paths along which ele-
pents but reptiles.Serpentsare reptiles
phants usually saunter,lassoestheir that crawlon theirbelly and breast.
legs in a knot with its tail and destroys Of these creatures,how many poi-
them by suffocation. sons thereare, how many species, how
Dragonsare bred in Ethiopia many calamities,how many griefs, and
and India, in placeswherethereis per- what a lot of differentcolorsthey have
petual heat. got!
The Devil is like this dragon. He is
often borne into the air from his den, Crozierwitha serpentvoluteandSaint
and the air roundhim blazes, for the
12thto early13thcentury
Devil in raisinghimselffrom the lower
regionstranslateshimselfinto an angel
of light and misleadsthe foolishwith
false hopes of glory and worldlybliss.
Above:Dragonbeingspearedby a boy,can-
dlestick.Mosan,late12thcentury. Opposite:
Feathered two-footeddragonor wyvvern,
aquamanile. German,late12thto early


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T he BASILISKis the king of ser- Nevertheless,basilisksare con- them hydrophobiaand drivesthem
pents-so much so, that people queredby weasels. Men put these into mad. It can kill with its noise and burn
who see it run for their lives, the lairs in which they lie hid, and thus, people up, as it were, beforeit bites
because it can kill them merelyby its on seeing the weasel, the basiliskruns them.
smell. It destroysa man even if it looks away.The weasel followsand kills it- Finally,a basiliskis striped
at him. At the mere sight of a basilisk, God nevermakes anythingwithouta lengthwisewith white marks six inches
any bird that is flying past cannot get remedy. in width.
acrossunhurt, rather-although it The basilisk, like the scorpion,
Basilisk,voussoirof an arch. French
may be far from the creature'smouth also frequentsdesertplaces, and before
(Languedoc),12th century
-it gets frizzledup and is devoured. people can get to the riversit gives


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T he ASPgets its name becauseit
injectsand spreadspoisonwith
its bite. Indeed, it alwaysruns
about with its mouth wide open and
steaming,the effect of which is to
injureother speciesof animals.
Now it is said that when an asp
realizesit is being enchantedby a
musical snake-charmer,who summons
it with his own particularincantations
to get it out of its hole, the asp, unwill-
ing to come out, pressesone ear to the
groundand closesthe otherear by
stickingits tail in it. Thus, not hearing
the magical noises, it does not go forth
to the chanting.
Such indeed are the men of this
world, who pressdown one ear to
worldlydesires,and truly by stuffing
up the other one they do not hear the
voice of the Lord.
Aspbeingtrampledby a lion,carvedrelief.


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~ :~~~:~~3~~?~`
~ Y 4~~-'d
L~~q I ~~I~~'~~"
Fi~~~Fi~ ji~~& T~~~ ~PT1~ ~~

;~~P3FLl't~~~ ?~W~~i;J~~~:-.




7 - ~ ~ ~ ~
- ~ ~ :

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T his is called an AMPHIVENA
(Amphisbaena)becauseit has
two heads. One head is in the
right place and the otheris in its tail.
Withone head holdingthe other,it can
bowl along in eitherdirectionlike a
hoop. This is the only snake that stands
the cold well, and it is the firstto come
out of hibernation.
Two-headedcreature,perhapsan amphis-
baena, voussoirof an arch. French
(Languedoc),12th century

he snake SCITALISgets that

name because it is so splendid in
the variegation of its skin that a
man stops dead on seeing its beautiful
markings. Owing to the fact that it is a
sluggish crawler and has not the power
to overtake people by chasing them, it
captures them as they stand stupefied
by its splendor. Moreover, it glows so
much that even in winter time it dis-
plays the blazing skin of its body.
Opposite:Scitalia,or scitalislikecreatures,
detailof a brocadedcloth. Italian (Sicily),
13th century


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T heSALAMANDRA has its name does not consumeit, but becauseit fruitsget infectedwith venom, and
because it prevails against fire. actuallyputs out the fireitself. thus it kills the people who eat them.
Indeed, it lives in the middle Of all poisonouscreaturesits Even if it falls into a well the powerof
of the blaze without being hurt or strengthis the greatest,for,although its toxin slays those who drink the
burnt-and not only because the fire others may kill things one at a time, the water.
salamanderkills most at one blow. If it
slowlytwines itself about a tree, all the (left rearleg is missing). WestEuropean,
15th or 16th century

T is a land worm
which we classify with worms
rather than with snakes. It is a
stinging creature, and is called the
Archer in the Greek language because
it plunges in its tail and injects its poi-
sons with a curving wound (aculeus:
arcuatus). The oddest thing about a
scorpion is that it will not bite you in
the palm of your hand.

Scorpion,from a bas-de-pageof the calen-

dar from the HoursofJeanned'Evreux


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F ISH (Pisces) are known as reptiles
becausethey have the same
shape and naturaldispositionfor
swimming about. Howeverdeeply they
plunge into the abyss, in swimming
they are slow movers.
AMPHIVIAare a kind of fish that
havethe habit of walking about on dry
land or swimmingabout in the sea; i.e.,
they live in the wateror on the shore,
like seals, crocodiles,and hippos.
Among all the kinds of animalsliv-
ing in the sea, we have knowledgeof
one hundredand forty-four.
Fishrepresenting thezodiacsignPisces,
detailfromtheBellesHeuresof Jean,Duke
of Berry

here is an ocean monstercalled a bushes begin to growthere. Sailing the smallerfishesnotice the odor,they
WHALE (Cetus) becauseof the ships that happen to be going that way crowdtogetherin the mouth. Naturally,
frightfulnessof its body and take it to be an island and land on it. when the monsterfeels his mouth to be
becauseit was this animalthat swal- Then they build themselvesa fire. But full, he shuts it at once. Thus he swal-
lowedJonah;and its belly was so great the whale, feelingthe hotnessof the lows them down.
that people took it to be Hell. fire, suddenlyplungesdownwardand Fancifulwhale,fromtheborderof a stained
This animal lifts its back out of pulls the anchoredship with it into the glasswindow.French(Ile-de-France),
the open sea and then anchorsin one depths. about1320
place; and on its back, what with the Wheneverthis monsterfeels hun-
shingle of the ocean drawnthereby gry opens its mouth and exudesa
gales, a level lawn is producedand pleasant-smellingbreath;and when


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M -ULLUS, the Red Mullet, is D ELFINES the Dolphinshavethat Thereis a speciesof dolphinin the
called that becauseit is soft particularname eitheras a RiverNile, with a saw-shapeddorsal
(mollis) and very tender.They description,becausethey follow fin, that destroyscrocodilesby slicing
say that lust can be cooledby eating it, the human voice, or else becausethey up the soft parts of the belly.
and they also dull the eyesight.People will assembletogetherin schoolsfor a
Dolphinsdancingatop waves,detailof a
who frequentlyconsumemullet smell symphony concert. fresco.Spanish (BurgosProvince),early
of fish. If a mullusis drownedin wine, Nothing in the sea is fasterthan 13th century
those who drink the stuff afterwards they are, for they often outrunships,
get a loathingfor wine-drinking. leaping out of the water.Whenthey are
Fish, detailof a ceramicdish. Spanish
sportingin the wavesand smashing
into the masses of comberswith a
1430-70 headlongleap, they are thoughtto por-
tend storms.

ANCERthe Crabadopts a cun- relaxing, the crab investigates to find remote from all wind and safe from the
ning stratagem,due to his out whether at any time the oyster rays of the sun. Then the crab, secretly
greed. He is very fond of oysters opens that double shell of his in places casting in a pebble, prevents the clos-
and likes to get himselfa banquetof ing of the oyster, and thus, finding the
theirflesh. Althougheagerfor dinner, lock forced, inserts his claws safely and
he understandsthe pursuitis as diffi- feeds on the flesh.
cult as it is hazardous.It is difficult Some people relate that if ten
becausethe fleshof the oysteris con- crabs are compounded with a handful
tained within very strongshells. of basil, all scorpions in the neigh-
Nothing can open the closedoysterby borhood will be gathered to that place.
force, and thus it is dangerousfor the There are two kinds of crab, river ones
crab to insert his claw.Betakinghim- and sea ones.
self to artfulness,therefore,the crab
lays an ambushwith a plot of his own. Crab,from a bas-de-pageof the calendar
Becauseall speciesdelightin from the HoursofJeanned'Evreux


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TO, 4i~: ?$ 4


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