In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews 303 civilisation which was not fully literate and which is usually only seen through the eyes of its enemies, or in the literary imagery of its Icelandic descendants. At times one may quibble over the framework into which the material has beenfitted.The chapter 'Getting to know the Vikings' is really a very succinct discussion of technical problems of complex textual issues. 'Chronicles' is a fair tide, nevertheless, insofar as it conveys the sense of a positivist approach to history/though one might hesitate to describe skaldic poems, as the author does, as 'the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time'. Page is very frank in his admission of the dubious historicity of a few favourite pieces, all the same, and where his evidence is really more relevant to medieval Iceland than to Viking Age Scandinavia, such as in the chapter 'Setdement and landholding', he makes this clear enough. The work is divided thematically, with extensive selections from sources. N e w translations are made of all the material. In the case of some texts, such as Ohthere's Voyage or the Libellus Islendorum, this is not so important, as fine translations are already available. S o m e of the translations, however, especially of the eddic and skaldic poems and of the varying recensions of Landndmabok, provide invaluable, accurate versions of sources which have rarely been available to students. The reviewer is struck by the tremendous utility of this book for the undergraduate student, on account of the quantity of original primary material which it offers for key themes of Viking history and literature. This makes it an outstanding book in a subject area where good books are far outnumbered by poor ones. The British M u s e u m Press deserves special credit for facilitating the production of a work which tackles the highly technical problems of the earliest sources for Viking history. It is a must for undergraduate reading lists. Jonathon Wooding University of Western Sydney Salisbury, Joyce E., The beast within: animals in the middle ages, New York, Routledge, 1994; paper; pp. x, 238; 15 figures; R R P AU$32.95; distributed by the L a w Book Co. Ltd. This book's central thesis is that the human attitude to animals changed significantly during the thousand years of the Middle Ages (c. 400-c. 1400): whereas at the beginning of the period there was a clear-cut and widely 304 Reviews accepted distinction between the human and the animal, by the end of the period belief in this distinction had more or less disappeared and humans had come round to 'a notion that w e have more in c o m m o n with animals than w e might like to admit' (p. 2). This argument is presented from two angles, thefirsthalf of the book dealing with medieval attitudes to actual animals, the second mainly with mythical animals. Chapters one to three deal with, respectively, animals as property, animals as food, and animal sexuality. Chapter four covers the literary and didactic uses of animals: in fables, in the Physiologus and the bestiaries, in beast epic, in the exempla of the preachers. Chapter five focusses on monsters and hybrids and on human/animal metamorphoses. A brief conclusion poses the question 'What is human?' and attempts an answer through looking at saints, who present an ideal of what humans can be. The book's chief value lies in the scope and detail of the material collected. Reference is made to a wide range of laws governing animal values in various societies (pp. 32-36); the graph showing animal functions in illuminated manuscripts was compiled from an examination of 'over 6,000 illuminated manuscripts in the Hill Monastic Library collection' (p. 128); that showing the comparative frequencies of various animals mentioned in exempla collections was compded from 'lists of 5400 exempla found in the 37 central collections' (p. 134). One cannot but be impressed by the thoroughness of the research that has gone into the collection of the data. The interpretation of the data, however, is sometimes forced and sometimes self-contradictory. Consider, for example, the question of bestiality and the law. Salisbury proposes...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 303-305
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.