Human history is replete with tales of monsters that have lived beside us, in fact, so popular was the belief in such monsters they’ve not only been immortalised in the pages of our myths and legends but, in a number of instances, been embodied within our culture itself.
In Basilisks and Beowulf: Monsters in the Anglo-Saxon World, Tim Flight takes us on a tour of man’s fascination and adoption of our monsters, from the early days of the Anglo-Saxon period and beyond. Yet, where did these monsters originate?
To discover this, Tim Flight delves through historical sources and (in some cases) first-hand evidence to uncover how people used these creatures in an attempt to understand the new (post-Roman) world in which they lived. Although many of the monsters have pervaded not just our literature, but also our subconscious, such as Grendel in the fabled tale of Beowulf, the tales themselves helped serve as a means of moralising the early days of Christianity and the eternal battle between good and evil.
However, such monsters were not always figurative, and the author is mindful that in these early days, not all monsters dwelt in the imagination, with tales of black beasts (one tale has since become more infamously renowned as the Beast of Bodmin) have served as warnings on treading into the unknown, or the wilderness as parts of the land would have been. The tales of these beasts thus serving as not only to keep to the path of righteousness, but also a metaphor for man versus nature itself.
Basilisks and Beowulf: Monsters in the Anglo-Saxon World by Tim Flight is a highly enjoyable account of the creatures from our past which helped create the people we are today and underline our culture and a must-read for history lovers everywhere!
- Basilisks and Beowulf: Monsters in the Anglo-Saxon World by Tim Flight is out now and published by Reaktion Books (£10.99). To order a copy go to reaktionbooks.co.uk