Eat Scripture, Dragon (Mmm… Marginalia #85)

The blog has seen a lot of traffic from bibliophillic circles lately, thanks to a well-traveled pair of posts from a few weeks back. So I thought in recognition of all that attention, I’d offer my new readers a little tip.

Are you, like St. Margaret of Antioch,* plagued by unwanted dragons? Worried they’re going to just swallow you whole again right after God has miraculously delivered you from their bellies? Don’t be! Just take a cue from the illuminator of Joffroy d’Aspremont’s Psalter (Bodleian Library MS Douce 118):

One well-placed holy Bible, and all your dragon-related worries instantly vanish. Let him try swallowing virgins with a mouthful of scripture.**

Actually, the longer I look at his face, the more I find myself taking the dragon’s side.  Those saints are always so full of themselves (especially the way they selfishly don’t want others to be full of them).  All he wanted was to swallow a virgin whole.  Is that so wrong?***

*As you all know, St. Margaret of Antioch was a fourth-century Christian virgin martyred because she refused to give it up to an interested Roman suitor (as per the usual pattern with young female martyrs). In retaliation, said suitor devised various tortures, including having her fed to a dragon.  She escaped, of course, as no saint can be killed on the first go, especially if the first go is as symbolic as being fed to a dragon, but the exact details of her escape varies according to the version you read.

Arranged in order of increasing badassery, Margaret either 1) made the sign of the cross and the dragon refused to eat her, 2) preached the word of God and commanded the dragon to leave her alone, 3) jammed her cross in his mouth so he couldn’t swallow her, 4) got swallowed but gave the dragon such terrible indigestion from the holiness of her crucifix that he spat her back out, or 5) got swallowed but escaped because her crucifix caused the dragon’s belly to explode.
**The image of the book is a bit hard to make out because the gold from the illumination is reflecting the flash (or some other lightsource in the room) and looks black.  Incidentally, this is why you really need to see manuscripts in person to get the full effect.
***I’m serious, I don’t know if it’s wrong or not.  I’d consult my Bible, but it’s currently wedged into a cockatrice’s beak.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • The Questing Damosel

    I think it's high time for a "St. George's Guide to Slaying Dragons." Excerpts from various female martyrs could be used for the "maiden" question involved with the dragons. Although I suppose that Lady Sybil Vimes would launch an immediate protest re said book while stating that "the poor creatures are utterly misunderstood!"

  • tenthmedieval

    All he wanted was to swallow a virgin whole. Is that so wrong?

    Did not Captain Beefheart himself, after all, say, "Rather'n I wanna hold yer hand, I wanna swaller yer whole"? He did, in case you're wondering, and he certainly makes it sound positive.

  • Vellum

    I still think in terms of sheer badassery (is that a word? badassery? it should be a word if it isn't one), St. Samson of Dol wins — he took out FOUR dragons. I'd say that's pretty impressive.

  • Sheryl

    You have featured many hilarious images on Got Medieval, but I think that dragon's face, stuffed full of Bible, is my absolute favorite so far.

  • nakedphilologist

    Nom nom nom, tasty scriptures?

  • Katrina

    I included this piece in the October history carnival here http://katrinagulliver.posterous.com/29434368

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