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  • Mid Atlantic Frogs? July 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval

      Beachcombing has visited before the kamikaze Irish monks who explored the north Atlantic in the early Middle Ages refusing to steer but trusting the winds (‘God’) to take them where they would. Today he wanted, instead, to focus on an Irish encounter in the vast expanses of that ocean with a group of tiny […]

    Cyclops Origins June 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Cyclops Origins

      Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing about Cyclops. And who can blame him? After all, the encounter between old Round Eye and that smarty-pants pirate king from Ithica is what most children – genuine or grown – remember about the Odysseus: there is something so Roald Dahlish about the disgusting yet […]

    Marco Polo Meets a Dragon? May 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval

    Beachcombing still mouse hunting so a brief and curious passage in Marco Polo 2, 40. It is an extract that scholars – depending on their proclivities – try and ignore or enjoy overly. Leaving the city of Yachi, and traveling ten days into a westerly direction, you reach the Province of Carajan [modern Yunnan on […]

    An Early Sighting of the Loch Ness Monster? April 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    An Early Sighting of the Loch Ness Monster?

    Medieval saints were famous for their encounters with dangerous animals. In their Lives we read of confrontations with wolves, bears, stags and snakes; but also of meetings with more exotic creatures. Beachcombing thinks of St George facing down a dragon or St Brendan and his monks celebrating communion on the back of an enormous sea […]

    The Monster of Mondoñedo April 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The Monster of Mondoñedo

    Summer madness approaches in Little Snoring – just the exams and marking to go and term is over. By way of celebration Beachcombing thought that today he would leave conventional (sic) history behind and partake in recipes for the madness of crowds. Think of what follows as a twenty-first-century entry for the Anarchist’s Cookbook inspired […]

    First Unicorns? April 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    First Unicorns?

    Beachcombing is returning with some relief to familiar territory after the Shakespeare wars of the last couple of days. The subject: unicorns and the earliest human accounts of these mysterious creatures. In the Indus Valley about 3000 BC a series of seals were created that portray an animal with one horn: they predate the mention […]

    Mermaids Sighted from Early Submarine March 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaids Sighted from Early Submarine

    Beachcombing promised a month ago a mermaid text from the Isle of Man that would amaze one and all. And what Beachcombing particularly likes about the following eighteenth-century description is the way that the we have not only mermaids but also a ‘submarine’, using the word very loosely, that makes an appearance a century before such vehicles had […]

    Catching Mermaids on Man February 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Catching Mermaids on Man

    Different peoples build their identity around different facts: the Italians around their food, the French around La France, the Poles (at least in times gone by) around their Catholicism. The Isle of Man, between Britain and Ireland, meanwhile, built its identity, at least in early-modern times, around a belief in the wonderful (phantom dogs, water […]

    Back to the Arabian unicorn December 6, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    Back to the Arabian unicorn

    Beachcombing – three long moons ago – ran an article on a European sighting of two unicorns at Mecca (of all places) in the sixteenth century. Given his bewilderment at the time he feels obliged to add this fascinating fragment that he recently stumbled upon. Strangest of all [the mythical beasties of south-west Arabia] is the Tahish. It is a fearsome […]

    Dog-headed Indians November 26, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Dog-headed Indians

    What do Marco Polo, Augustine, Paul the Deacon, Vincent of Beauvais and the Buddhist missionary, Hui-Sheng all have in common? Well, to keep things short – Beachcombing is on bedtime duty tonight for his insomniac daughter – they all described and (with the exception of Augustine) believed in tribes of dog-headed human beings in lands distant […]

    The Napalm Snake Mystery November 18, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Napalm Snake Mystery

    In ancient and medieval and, indeed, modern times geographers frequently got things embarrassingly wrong for those there-be-dragons areas outside the circuit of their little worlds. So the early Greeks believed that the Gobi desert was full of flightless griffins. The Byzantines were convinced that the air in Scotland was poisonous. And the British in the […]

    The Moas of Cannibal Gorge November 4, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Moas of Cannibal Gorge

    Beachcombing is in an ornithological mood this month. It all started off with the druidic ravens at the Tower of London, then came the hibernating swallows, the parrots of Orinoco, swan-necked Mary Beard and today, to round off the series, he turns to one of his favourite bird stories of all time: the moa of the Cannibal […]

    Christopher Columbus and Mermaids October 16, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Christopher Columbus and Mermaids

    Beachcombing cannot find it in himself to envy Christopher Columbus. All that salt water and all those incipient rebellions must have wreaked havoc on the good navigator’s blood pressure. But in one thing alone Beachcombing confesses to green-eyed rabid jealousy: the great Genovese explorer saw Mermaids, not once, but twice in his life, while the closest poor […]

    Centaur of Volos September 5, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Centaur of Volos

    All centaur-lovers with a honeymoon or a sabbatical coming up should buy a ticket to Knoxville, Tennessee and visit the second floor of the Hodges Library at the University there. Still encased in the Greek mud, in which it sank almost two thousand five hundred years ago, is a centaur, the only one you will […]

    Centaurs in Deepest Arabia August 21, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Centaurs in Deepest Arabia

                      Phlegon of Tralles is not a Greek author of the first rank. Indeed, he rarely comes up in conversation among students of the ancient except for a reported remark concerning the death of Christ. But this small-time second-century writer, who was born in south-west Turkey and who lived […]

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