When Mollusks Attack
We don’t know why images of armed knights fighting snails are common in 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts.
Through a tweet from one of my favorite authors, William Gibson, I found my way to a post by Sarah J. Biggs at the British Library. “One of our post-medieval colleagues noticed a painting of a knight engaging in combat with a snail.”
Images of knights fighting snails are all over these priceless books, Biggs writes. “But the ubiquity of these depictions doesn’t make them any less strange.”
Her brief essay, Knight v Snail, fraught with gastropods and gallantry, refers to an article by Carl Purdym. He proposes that the imagery was a joke. “Medieval readers thought there was something funny…but none of them bothered to write down what that was.”
So we have the setup. But we’ve lost the punchline. And our poor, peculiar, and staggered business—the focus of this month’s Inside Publishing theme here at Writer Unboxed—has earned a chance to take comfort in the obscurity of such a medieval meme.
Our authors at last may be pulling up alongside those snails and gaining the right to a little modern mysteria of their own: making creative decisions without the bias or prejudice of the publishing realm.
And yet we’re still trying to work out the punchline, to decide what it all means. [Read more…]