, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 581–589 | Cite as

Bad Animals and Faithful Beasts in Bevis of Hampton

  • Kenneth D. Eckert


Most medieval Europeans lived closely alongside animals in a way modern city-dwellers do not, and unsurprisingly the literature features animals in debate poems and fabliaux. Animals even receive their own literary subgenre, the bestiary. The popular Auchinleck Manuscript romance Bevis of Hampton (c. 1330) similarly features animals charged with spiritual significations. The Bevis poet does not let his fauna talk, at times stressing their animality in realistic touches—lions get hungry—yet also gives them moral agency, personifying and endowing them with fantastic and deadly powers. Dragons are “real” in the story and live for centuries without aging and fly between countries. Beyond having narrative functions, the animals of Bevis symbolize the themes of the poem and the spiritual choices and trials which Bevis repeatedly faces.


Bevis of Hampton Medieval romance Animal literature Middle English Auchinleck manuscript 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Calkin, S. B. (2005). Saracens and the making of English identity: The Auchinleck Manuscript. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Charbonneau, J., & Cromwell, D. (2009). Gender and identity in the popular romance. In R. L. Radulescue & C. J. Rushton (Eds.), A companion to medieval popular romance (pp. 96–110). Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  3. Chickering, H. D., Jr (Ed.). (1977). Beowulf. Toronto: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  4. Fellows, J. (2008). Middle English and Renaissance Bevis: A textual survey. In Fellows & Djordjevic (pp. 80–113). Cambridge: Brewer.Google Scholar
  5. Fellows, J., & Djordjevic, I. (Eds.). (2008). Sir Bevis of Hampton in literary tradition. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  6. Finlayson, J. (1999). The marvellous in Middle English romance. Chaucer Review, 33(4), 363–408.Google Scholar
  7. Hanna, R. (2005). London literature, 1300–1380. Cambridge: University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Herzman, R.B., Drake, G., & Salisbury, E. (Ed.), (1999). Bevis of Hampton. Four romances of England. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications. Accessed 6 April 2012.
  9. Jordanus. The Wonders of the East (1843). Yule, H. (Trans.). London: Hakluyt Society.Google Scholar
  10. Ker, W. P. (1908). Epic and romance. New York: Dover Publications, 1957.Google Scholar
  11. Lim, G. (2009). “‘My horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!’: Valuing Arondel in Bevis of Hampton”. Conference paper. 44th international congress on medieval studies, May 2009. MI: Kalamazoo.Google Scholar
  12. McDonald, N. (Ed.). (2004). Pulp fictions of medieval England. Manchester: University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Rouse, R. A. (2008). For king and country? The tension between national and regional identities in Sir Bevis of Hampton. In Fellows & Djordjevic (pp. 114–126). Cambridge: DS Brewer.Google Scholar
  14. Said, E. W. (1978). Orientalism: Western conceptions of the Orient. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  15. Saunders, C. (2008). “Gender, virtue, and wisdom in Sir Bevis of Hampton.” In Fellows & Djordjevic (pp. 161–175).Google Scholar
  16. Seaman, M. (2001). Engendering genre in Middle English romance: Performing the feminine in Sir Beves of Hamtoun. Studies in Philology, 98(1), 49–75.Google Scholar
  17. Spenser, E. The Faerie Queene (2006). In S. Greenblatt (Ed.), The Norton anthology of English literature, 8th ed (vol. B). (pp. 708–901) New York: W. W. Norton and Co.Google Scholar
  18. Tertullian. De baptismo (1964). In E. Evans (Trans.), Tertullian’s homily on baptism. London: S.P.C.K.Google Scholar
  19. Weiss, J. (1979). The major interpolations in Sir Beues of Hamtoun. Medium Aevum, 48, 71–75.Google Scholar
  20. Wilcox, R. (2004). Romancing the East: Greeks and Saracens in Guy of Warwick. In McDonald (pp. 217–240). New York: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Keimyung Adams College Keimyung UniversityDaeguKorea

Personalised recommendations