Ain’t He a Stinker? (Mmm… Marginalia #72)

Just in case anyone thought that Warner Brothers invented the prankster animal pursued by ineffectual hunters meme, take a look at this misericord from St. Beverly Minister and be set right:

Tricky anthropomorphic animals, they’ve been around a lot longer than Bugs and Daffy.*  Monkeys, of course, are the most common mischievous non-humans, followed closely by foxes like Reynard.

One final note.  A couple of people have contacted me recently to let me know, in a generally friendly fashion, that the figures I’m calling monkeys are actually apes.  And you’re right, mostly, and usually it’s because I just think monkey is a funnier word than ape.  Though for many a medieval artist, monkeys and apes are pretty much interchangeable.  But not all.  Witness this image from Morgan Library MS M 167:

An ape and a monkey in the same margin at the same time! What more could you ask of me?**

*And the “why I oughta…” fist-shake is clearly pretty old, too, if that’s the correct reading of the dude on the right’s upraised hand.
**Aside from timely updates, I mean.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • limpey

    I always felt a little pang of sorrow for that poor Elmer Fudd. But I can imagine figure shaking his fist saying, "Damn you, you wrascally monkey!" And those medieval illustrations where what the people are saying takes the form of little scrolls rolling out of their mouths makes me think that medieval audiences would have loved comic books and cartoons.

  • stu

    Just one small piece of needless pedantry. As someone who lives only a couple of miles away, and who did his PhD on the place, I can say that it's not "St Beverley" Minster.

    The Beverley in question is not the name of the patron saint (that would be St John. Though curiously enough, according to most sources, not St John of Beverley), but the name of the town. It started off as Beverlac, thanks to the small, furry mammals that inhabited the surrounding marshes. Possibly hunted by an early Elmer Fudd as they went.

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