Medieval bestiaries used to function as a bit of a naturists’ guide. The first two entries I wrote, the ouroboros and sphinx were for Sommer Leigh’s MonsterFest in October 2011. I liked the research enough that I thought I’d continue working on them periodically, though it’s been a lot less of “less” than “more.” The other thing I realized while writing up the sphinx was that there are super-categories of beasts in various ways – case in point, composite creatures. Sphinxes include elements of lion, human, and eagle, as well as other possibilities. At the top of the page are links to descriptions of these super-categories, which will grow as I find or identify new ones. This is a discovery for me, so as it grows there may be more editing that happens. The lower section of the page will have links to the individual entries.
The idea of a bestiary that I’ve grown up with is that is an encyclopedia of fantastical creatures – the Monster Manual of its day, except that unfortunately for those poor, naïve fools of the time, the critters they described weren’t real. This is, in the most generous of readings to my own self, the stingiest, least generous understanding of other people’s minds and motivations. It elevates not only me (I’m smarter than they were because I know that dragons don’t exist) and my own era (we’re so advanced!), but it does so based on the evidence of conversational science and history (they didn’t have Pepto Bismol back then, ergo science has progressed) combined with the concrete example before me: the flawed bestiary itself. As though our era were completely spotless.