Monday, November 12, 2007

Medieval Bees

Today's Weird Medieval Animal is the bee. Interestingly, Jennifer Lynn Jordan assumes that the bees are "freakishly large" in the image she includes, but isn't it just as likely that the beekeeper is freakishly small? Those letters in the manuscript are as big as his head!

Bees were pretty important to the Anglo-Saxons and other northern Europeans (and I assume they were valued further south, but I'm no expert as we get closer to the Mediterranean). I've given a lot of thought to why this might be, and I think the main reason might be that it was one of the few sources of sugar in Europe before the discovery of the New World. No sugar cane, no chocolate, no vanilla ... heck, not even any tobacco! It seems that the only material pleasures left would be sex, wine, salted pork, and honey. Combine the three, and you've got Heorot Hall on a weekend.
For those interested, here's a beekeeper's charm, along with a few others.


  1. Oh true. I completely overlooked the fact that this manuscript was from Munchkinland!!

  2. Michelle of Heavenfield8:56 PM

    Well, you can make sugar from tree sap, usually Maple trees. According to Wikipedia, Maple trees grow in England but not the rest of the Isles. I don't know if that is native or imported though.

    Anyway, bees are much easier and you get that handy bees wax. Hard to write on wax tablets without wax...

  3. Much nicer candles than tallow ones, too...

  4. Anonymous10:10 AM

    The best maple sap for sugar comes from species native to North America, however.