jump to navigation
  • Mermaid Monday: Early Welsh Mermaid October 23, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback


    Mermaid images from medieval Britain and not particularly common. There are quite a few medieval carvings, some explored in an interesting  2013 book Of Sirens and Centaurs by Alex Woodcock. But actual drawings or paintings are rare. This is why this fabulous doodle in a fourteenth-century Welsh manuscript is so exciting. The manuscript in question is NLW MS 20143A, dated c. 1350: page 24v. It is a copy of the Laws of Hywel Da with 115 folios. The mermaid – our only drawing of a Brittonic siren? – has a number of interesting features. The breasts and the long hair signal this out as a female rather than a male, though the chin and the nose don’t particularly suggest the seductive qualities for which mermaids were so famous. Let’s put that down to the rustic excellence of the piece. What this blogger finds most curious is the object in the mermaid’s left hand. She is holding what, it has been suggested (Jason Evans* via twitter), is a selfie stick… But what is it really? Like the plant on the other side of the page, the object encompasses the hanging words on the last line: so a banner or standard is out – these are illusions caused by the presence of three letters.   The best bet has to be a triton of some sort. Or can someone suggest something better: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com

    PS If you are unexcited by the mermaid and its stick thing, what about this ‘dog-fish (?) on the page before (24r)?

    *Jason put this mermaid picture on folklorethursday. Thanks to him.

    31 Oct 2017: lots of emails suggesting that the mermaid has a net in her hands (Floodmouse, Bruce T, Southern Man, Mermaidy). Perhaps yes.