Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic


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But then an enraged and nearly implacable swineherd shows up. Click on the image above for a sense of how the hunt begins. Listen to me. Brother pig, listen to me, please. The Lord will help us in need. Think, brother, of the few opportunities we have to do good. And keeps screaming. What he offers them may be less a charitable donation than an all-too vividly rendered carcass, made inedible by its own coagulated blood.

So much for Brother Pig. Forgive the long quote:. In the middle of the movement, after we hear the main melody the Joy theme in three orchestral and three vocal variations, something unexpected happens at this first climax, which has bothered critics since its first performance years ago.

Borrowed from the military music for wind and percussion instruments that 18th century European armies adopted from the Turkish Janissaries, the mode becomes that of a carnivalesque popular parade, a mocking spectacle. And after this point, everything goes wrong, the simple solemn dignity of the first part of the movement is never recovered. However, what if things do not go wrong only at bar , with the entrance of the marcia Turca? What if, instead, something was wrong from the very beginning?

Here they are, the real humanity. And does the same not hold for Europe today? He who cannot accept our peace, our charity, let him steal weeping, footless and pigless, away from our circle. Let his screams be heard as joining our prayer. Not quite, I hope: with Elukin in hand, we should read more carefully, read in the heterogeneous present of medieval Jews without having their future, our present, so clearly in mind.

We read with a hope at once retroactive and future-oriented, knowing that what we think of as the past tied singly to the future could have gone another way and indeed went other ways in its own present, where we have York but also the York before that , where Jews made a community among Christians, where I imagine not every Jew and not every Christian was recognizable, primarily, as such.

In a society in which Jews hired Christian nursemaids, we have to rethink the primacy of religious divisions. Medieval Norse whaling was not a romatic affair of man versus beast as Melville might have us believe. The ending does not work, though, not quite. Here are Finke and Shichtman :. As much as I recommend Cinematic Illuminations —and I do, highly—I suggest that this reading, part of a larger project of reading the Grail itself as an irreducible anamorphic blot, needs to attend more to where the film actually stops.

When the Passion Play ends, Rohmer cuts, quickly, and here, truly jarringly, to Perceval riding again in the forest, continuing his wandering, no longer in a quest for his mother, now dead, but on a quest for…what? Such an ending recalls, of course, the ending of any number of Westerns one version here ; it also invites continuation, a properly medieval approach to a Perceval narrative.

And it sank many boats and terrified the passengers of many others, driving them from their course and carrying them off to great distances. It had consequently become a matter of concern to the Emperor Justinian to capture this creature, but he was unable by any device to accomplish his purpose. Unfortunately, he also leaves us without any details as to how Justinian tried to have the whale captured.

I can only imagine at some point some poor soldiers were tasked with attaching a huge net between two ships or trying to harpoon it. Also of interest is the word used to describe this creature. Could the Byzantines have seen this connection as well? Porphyrius the whale was said to have met a rather anti-climactic demise. Procopius describes that the whale became so caught up in chasing after a group of dolphins that it unintentionally beached itself.

Fifty years of harassing ships, yet it seems to have forgotten where the land was. Procopius vividly describes what happened next:. There it ran upon some very deep mud, and, though it struggled and exerted itself to the utmost to get out of it as quickly as possible, it still was utterly unable to escape from this shoal, but sank still deeper in the mud. Now when this was reported among all the people who dwelt round about, they straightway rushed upon the whale, and though they hacked at it most persistently with axes on all sides, even so they did not kill it, but they dragged it up with some heavy ropes.

And they placed it on wagons and found its length to be about thirty cubits, and its breadth ten. Then, after forming several groups and dividing it accordingly, some ate the flesh immediately, while others decided to cure the portion which fell to them. The people were evidently terrified of it. Despite this fear and loathing, the people were not above eating the monster, which probably says something about Byzantine attitudes towards dietary limits.

Nevertheless, R. Porphyrius the whale, fl. The other bit of sea folklore that Procopius gives us pertains to rumors about magnetic islands. Top and continuing down right side: Almighty God stripped himself, when he willed to mount the gallows Courageous before all men [I dared not] bow. Left side: I [lifted up] a powerful king The lord of heaven I dared not tilt Men insulted the pair of us together; I was drenched with blood Top and continuing down right side: Christ was on the cross But eager ones came thither from afar Noble ones came together; I beheld all that: I was terribly afflicted with sorrows: I bowed.

Left side: Wounded with arrows, They laid him down, limb-spent; they took their stand at the head and feet of his corpse There they looked down upon the lord of heaven A full visionary experience of the monument requires the beholder who must be literate in Anglo-Saxon runes to suspend his knowledge that what stands before him is stone, and to understand it instead as the True Cross, which was, of course, hewn from wood.

Rather than speaking of its material origins, as in the Franks Casket, the Ruthwell Cross seems to ignore or deny them such that the beholder is hit more forcefully with a vibrant dissonance between medium and message. That dissonance may have been further compounded if, as was the case with contemporary stone monuments, the cross was painted to evoke the flesh and clothing of people, the plumage of birds, green climbing vines, and gem-like ornamental details Figure That was very long ago, I remember it still, That I was cut down from the edge of the wood, Ripped up by my roots.

They seized me there, strong enemies, Made me a spectacle for themselves there, commanded me to raise up their criminals. Men carried me there on their shoulders, until they set me on a hill, Enemies enough fastened me there. I saw then the Savior of mankind Hasten with great zeal, as if he wanted to climb up on me. Men buried us [i. Instead, it endures. The ability of objects to withstand all manner of injuries and yet continue to exist is a common theme in the riddles. The Ruthwell Cross, like its historical antecedent, has survived considerable change over the course of its history. It was moved out to the churchyard in , re-erected in , and fitted with a new transom, complete with contemporary masonic symbols, in It was installed, rather awkwardly, back inside the church in , and has remained there ever since.

In its dressing, erection, felling, recovery, and subsequent glorification as a treasure of the past, the history of the Ruthwell Cross fascinatingly parallels the True Cross that it mimics. Both crosses are always subject to the desires of men, a passivity that accords with how objects are presented through the riddles.

Things are still defined by what they do in the hands of humans. The question of what is human and non-human about things is a constant tension within contemporary thing theory: any prolonged consideration of objects seems inevitably to lead us back to the human. The recent work by Harman, Bryant and Bogost represents an effort to glimpse things as they exist outside human consciousness, and the riddles seem similarly to be an attempt to recognize the ultimate self-sufficiency of objects, even if the human nature of that knowledge cannot be denied.

Things in the riddles largely have a passive existence, with one notable exception that lies at the very heart of the riddles: things speak, they tell stories. The poem begins with the narrator declaring his need to recount the dream, and later in the poem we find that he was in fact commanded to do so by the Rood. The Cross, through all its transformations, stands most importantly as a witness.

Crucial to the act of witnessing, particularly among objects, is an ability to persist through periods of time, to withstand change so that the story the object has to tell can be heard again.

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The Alfred Jewel accomplished that task, though only by a certain amount of luck, for its golden letters might very well have been melted down into an inarticulate mass. Stone, however, exists in a temporality inconceivable to humans. In fact, the Ruthwell Cross, for all its obdurate stoniness, should be seen as an object that exists most fully in the flux of time. If we are to fold the logic of the riddles into our thinking, the Ruthwell Cross speaks either of its virtual existence as the Cross and of the sand, the rock, the chisels, the paint, the rituals, the destruction, the excavation, the renovation, and, yes, the scholarly fetishization that make up its being.

The riddles, it seems, only complicate the question, as their circumlocutionary logic compels us to see these objects as their materials, as their history, as the things they do, as the things they resemble—really, as anything but themselves. The riddles insist that we only know things through metaphor, and they reveal that process by constructing metaphors that seem strange and arbitrary.

Overbey, and the anonymous reviewer for Different Visions. Deep thanks are also due to the Material Collective. Martina Bagnoli, Holger G. Klein, C. For a review of the competing theories, see David A. The literature on the topic is vast. David F. Johnson and Elaine M. Treharne Oxford: Oxford University Press, , pp. Michael Lapidge and James L.

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Relevant works by other authors, and those by Latour, Harman, and Bryant, are cited as needed below. The prose prologue, which comes first in the manuscripts, provides an introduction to the grammatical form of the work. The verse preface then speaks to the overall aims of the riddle collection, both poetic and philosophical. Stork, Through a Gloss Darkly , p. Luke White and Claire Pajaczkowska.

Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, , pp. Bennett argues that human fantasies of mastery over the nonhuman world are underwritten by a perception of it as dead matter. Translated in Stork, Through a Gloss Darkly , p. Heinrich Keil, Leipzig: B. Tevbneri, , pp. Stephen A.

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Barney, et al. New York: Cambridge UP, , p. Calvin B.

Sardine Feeding Frenzy: Whale, Shark, Dolphin and Sea Lions - The Hunt - BBC Earth

Kendall Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, See The Old English Physiologus , ed. The translations of the inscriptions on the casket are notoriously difficult. Here I follow Raymond I.

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Page, An Introduction to English Runes , 2 nd ed. Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, , p. Amy L. Somewhat curiously, this possibility is largely disregarded in recent scholarship without explanation.

The case, while admittedly speculative, is strong enough at least to warrant fuller consideration. Webster, The Franks Casket , pp. Page, Introduction to English Runes , p. Joe Roman and Stephen R. I am grateful to Prof. Neuman de Vegvar for making this paper available to me pre-publication. Accordingly, Webster, ibid. Karkov, Art of Anglo-Saxon England , pp.

I am grateful to Dr. Karkov for making this paper available to me. For example, Augustine uses the figure of Mary as ark in his discussion of Psalm Catherine E.


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Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic
Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic
Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic
Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic
Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic
Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic Monstrous Fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea: Whaling in the Medieval North Atlantic

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