The Knight and the Lion

People in the Middle Ages had lots of ideas about monsters and strange or scary people.

Here are some of them...

There were plenty of giants in stories told in the Middle Ages. This is King Arthur fighting the Giant of the Mont St Michel in Normandy.


There were other monsters too, such as the Basilisk (right), an evil creature, half-cockerel and half-snake. It slithered along the ground but held up its cockerel's head to fix people with its burning eyes, which could hypnotise the monster's victims so they could not move. Wherever its slimy tail dragged on the ground the plants withered and died and the earth cracked. The Basilisk's breath could poison water. According to one story, when Saint Patrick met a Basilisk, he killed it by holding up his shining shield, so that the monster saw its own reflection and gazed into its own terrible eyes.


Early explorers brought back tales of strange races of people living in distant parts of the earth. Some, like the pygmies, really did exist, but others, like the Dog-faced man (left) have never been found since.

Medieval maps showed some of these people, and where they were believed to live. The 13th Century Map of the World (Mappa Mundi) in Hereford Cathedral shows a Sciapod (right) from the East of India, who uses his one enormous foot to shelter himself from the hot sun.


There is the Mandrake (left), half man and half plant, growing on the banks of the River Nile in Egypt. The Mandrake was believed to scream when pulled from the ground and to be able to cure people who could not have children.

A Hermaphrodite was a creature thought to be half-man, half-woman. There were the Anthropophagi (right), people whose heads grew below their shoulders and the Gangines who lived by breathing the scent of apples. Their digestion was so delicate that this was their only food. The position of the countries shown on the map is quite different than we know them today. This is because the map-makers believed that Jerusalem had to be at the centre of the world, since it was the holiest city on earth.

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