Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography of Printed and Online Primary Sources for the Middle Ages

Source Details

Ziolkowski, Jan, ed., trans., Talking Animals: Medieval Latin Beast Poetry, 750-1150 (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P)

Text name(s): The Cock and the Wolf; The Peacock and the Owl; The Bear, Wolf, and Fox; Comic Visions; Meter; The Ram; The Battle of the Birds; The Fox and the Hen; What Do the Swans Do?; Weep, Dogs; To Erluin; The Quarrel of the Flea and Fly; The Altercation of the Spider and Fly; The Ass Brought Before the Bishop; The Cock and the Fox; The Flea; Gout and the Flea; The Hawk and the Peacock; The Lombard and Snail; The Louse; The Prose of the Ass; The Sad Calf; The Sick Lion; The Swan Lament; The Swan Sequence; The Testament of the Ass; The Testament of the Piglet; The Wolf; The Wrangle of the Dwarf and Hare

Number of pages of primary source text: 64


Dates: 750 - 1150

Archival Reference: 

Original Language(s): 

  • Latin


Translation Comments: 

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • Europe
  • France
  • Germany


Record Types: 

  • Literature - Verse

Subject Headings: 

  • Carolingians
  • Clergy - Anticlericalism
  • Clergy - Monks, Nuns, Friars
  • Clergy - Priests, Bishops, Canons
  • Literature - Comedy / Satire
  • Nobility / Gentry
  • Recreation


  • Index
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Introduction


From Aesop’s fables to the later medieval romances of Reynard the fox, tales featuring talking animals as their main characters were popular throughout the Middle Ages. Though seemingly childish, animal poetry was often a vehicle for satiric criticism of the nobility, the courtly ideal, monks and the clergy, or for more general moral lessons. This monograph on the medieval Latin genre of talking beast poetry appends 64 pages of translated poems by a variety of authors from the 8th to the 11th centuries.

Introduction Summary: 

The 241 pp monograph to which these poems are appended presents close readings of many of the poems in its appendices. The author argues that the Latin beast poetry of the central Middle Ages was more than just elaborations upon the ancient tradition of Aesop’s fables on the one hand, or clumsy anticipations of the more sophisticated romances of Reynard the fox on the other. Rather, the author suggests that these poems should be understood as a separate subgenre of animal poetry, an experimental stage, which, although characterized by a wide variety of forms, and a seeming dearth of commonality, are intended to perform a similar task: to combine and reconfigure existing genres in order to instruct and to entertain. The author considers various developments in the poems, such as increasing length and narrative complexity, the relationship of these poems to the fable genre and to oral or educational poetry. He also considers individual recurring motifs, including the insect debate, the fraus fraudatus moral (he who deceives will be deceived, often demonstrated in tales of foxes and wolves), and the wolf-monk as anticlerical satire.

Cataloger: MCB