A Poetic Medieval Bestiary of the Strange & Supernatural



A Poetic Medieval Bestiary of the Strange & Supernatural


For this group project, I wrote bestiary-inspired poems about the Plague Doctor and the Sea-monk, two ‘creatures’ that preoccupied the minds of Medieval citizens. Bestiaries in the Middle Ages documented animals that were both real and mythological and linked them to moral lessons. In medieval culture, these creatures became more associated with their moral connotation than their actual biological features. I selected photos and descriptions of each creature from bestiaries of the time and also included contemporary research that explored modern understandings of medieval figures. Using background research on the role of Plague Doctors during the Bubonic Plague, also known as “The Black Death,” and various mariners’ ‘discovery’ of the Sea-monk, I created poems that reflected moral and Biblical allegories about each figure, mimicking what actual Medieval bestiaries did at the time. I was responsible for designing the layout of our digital copy and was inspired by the manuscripts I had come across in my research. I re-used elements such as smaller-scale photos of the ‘beast’ since these were usually small sketches found in medieval travellers’ notebooks. I also included the large capital letter at the beginning of each paragraph as a nod to medieval manuscripts but also to signal our focus on strange and supernatural beasts that are now considered inhabitants of fairytale or fantasy worlds. I did this to demonstrate the fact that these beasts are still a part of our modern literature, and we may not know just how much proto-scientific medieval bestiaries still influence our literary culture.


Alyssa Mendonca