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Hunting in Medieval literature: Satisfaction of Conquest or Thrill of Pursuit?

Hunting in Medieval literature: Satisfaction of Conquest or Thrill of Pursuit?


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Hunting in Medieval literature: Satisfaction of Conquest or Thrill of Pursuit?

By Katherine Correa

The Adelphi Honors College Journal of Ideas, Volume 11 (2011)

Introduction: In the medieval period, hunting was a pastime reserved exclusively for the nobility. While hunting in ancient civilizations was the primary way of obtaining food, furs, and other useful animal parts, hunting among medieval nobles was viewed as an invigorating sport and as a means of entertainment. Since the hunt for an animal and the pursuit of a lover share several characteristics, namely, the chasing of an elusive subject, the strategic combination of stealth and audacity, the perseverance of enthusiasm, and the triumph of finally attaining a trophy, the hunt is used repeatedly as a symbol for the pursuit of a lover in medieval literature. In this study, I propose that just as hunting moved away from its utilitarian function and became a method of self-expression, so too the “hunt” for erotic love became, in the medieval period, less about gaining a marriage partner and more about satisfying forbidden passions.

In Anglo-Saxon literature, hunting provides a twofold opportunity for a male warrior: one, to assert his strength over a male of equal strength, and two, the chance to earn fame by bringing home a trophy, or souvenir to commemorate the conquest. for example, after defeating Grendel in the epic poem Beowulf, Beowulf triumphantly drags Grendel’s arm home to mount in the mead hall.

Hunting in medieval literature, however, suggests a radical break from this view of hunting as an exertion of male strength and trophy-winning. While it was undoubtedly a triumph for a medieval hunting pack to kill the desired animal (especially a cunning one), such texts as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Thomas Wyatt’s “Whoso list to hunt” strongly suggest that the thrill of pursuit, not the satisfaction of conquest, is the real incentive to hunt in the medieval period.


Watch the video: Para Bellum: The Jarl leads the Nords to conquest! (July 2022).


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