MS M.890, fols. 15v–16r

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Fountains Abbey bestiary

England, probably North Yorkshire
ca. 1325–1350
227 x 152 mm

Gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, 1958

MS M.890, fols. 15v–16r
Page description: 

Left Page (Fol. 15v)
The Perindens Tree: The perindens tree, thought to grow in India, was thought to serve as a haven for doves, who are safe from marauding dragons shown devouring those who have strayed from its protective branches. The perindens tree was seen as an allegory of Christianity: the tree was God sheltering the faithful Christians (the doves) from the devil (the dragons).

Dragon: The text describes how even the elephant’s huge size cannot save it from the dragon, “the most monstrous serpent of all,” which is equated with the devil. It is not clear why this elephant is shown with round upright ears and a beak, especially since more recognizable examples are depicted elsewhere in the manuscript (fols. 2r-v).

Right Page (Fol. 16r)
Basilisk: The basilisk, a winged snake with the head of a cock, hovers over two men who are likely dead. The basilisk kills by scent alone and can paralyze its prey with a glance.

Viper: A viper gives birth at the bottom left, its young bursting forth from its side. This was thought to be the origin of its name, as it gave birth by force (vi pariat).

Aspidochelone: The legendary aspidochelone, a great whale or sea turtle, was so huge that when it rose from the sea, sailors would land on it, mistaking it for an island. They would meet their doom when the great sea creature descended into the deeps — an example of those who are drawn in to trust the Devil, and are in turn undone.