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I like my Anglo-Saxon wonders and monsters, as you know, but a new study suggests I'd missed this ape impersonator!
I’ve just finished writing a review of a book by Asa Simon Mittman and Susan M. Kim: Inconceivable Beasts: The Wonders of the East in the Beowulf Manuscript.
A remarkable piece of scholarship in many ways, though I expect it will ruffle a few feathers in academic circles, especially with its argument that the naked monsters of the manuscript are not actually naked but are wearing ‘naked suits’!
It’s not as bonkers as it first seems, but as I might get my wrists slapped by the reviews editor for divulging the content of my review before I've even sent it to him (this is cutting edge stuff, I'll have you know!), I’d better not say anything more about these ‘costumes’ of naked bodies.
I will though talk a little about the ‘ape-suit’ in the Beowulf manuscript, as I'm actually silent about it in the review.
Mittman and Kim reckon that a previously unidentified character in the Wonders of the East drawings may well be depicted wearing one.
If you look closely, you can see to the right of the frankly bizarre looking sheep-cum-chicken thing, known as a Lertice, that there is a dark-bodied figure right at the edge of the crumbling page.
Its body does seem, as the two scholars put it, ‘somewhat thicker’ and ‘woollier’ than the more human looking head and hands – one of which, I'm sure you've noticed, is carrying a monster snack, the dismembered lower half of someone’s leg!
The strange thing is that the text that accompanies the drawing makes no mention of this disquieting, furry oddball.
Mittman and Kim argue that it may be another version of the monster at the top of the page, the rather nasty, anthropophagous, human-crunching Hostes, who’s somehow wandered into the lower scene.
Perhaps they’re right. This wacky manuscript is full of transgressions and slippages of space and body.
This has left me wondering, then ...
Maybe what we’re looking at here is something like an Anglo-Saxon gorilla-gram turning up at the wrong party!
I told you this was cutting edge stuff!
I'd love to know what you think of the ape-suit, so be intrepid and leave a comment below.