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  • October 2010
    M T W T F S S
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The First Monstrumologist

Almost forgot to post this today….

When I took home my copy of The Monstrumologist the other day, the title remined me of something cool, historic, and kind of Halloweeney.

Most people are unaware that the manuscript that contains the text of the Old English poem Beowulf , the Nowell Codex, also contains other texts and pieces of poetry. One of these is called the Liber Monstrorum, or ‘The Book of Monsters’.

Thought to have been composed in the north of England in the 7th or 8th century, the Liber is a collection (or more specifically, a catalog) of ‘monsters’ and where in the world to find them. Where did the author get his information you may ask? Most of it is taken from classical mythology – centaurs, gorgons, things like that.  However, interesting bits like the following pop up here and there:

…..And there are monsters of an amazing size, like King Hygelac, who ruled the Geats and was killed by the Franks, whom no horse could carry from the age of twelve. His bones are preserved on an island in the river Rhine, where it breaks into the Ocean, and they are shown as a wonder to travellers from afar.

Beowulf readers will recognize King Hygelac, and this reference to him may be why Beowulf  and the Liber were bound together, because they were ‘read-a-likes’ – King Hygelac, Grendel, the dragon…monsters, monsters, and more monsters.

The hyperlink on Liber Monstrorum  above takes you to an online version. Give it a read. Think about what the medieval author – this first Monstrumologist – would say about our modern fascination with vampires, werewolves, and things that go bump in the night.

Happy Halloween!

Steve – Lawrenceville


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