Illustrated Tiger and a Knight

c.1225 - 1250

Illustrated Tiger and a Knight


  • Intro

    This is a page from a medieval bestiary, a book that features descriptions of a range of animals, from ordinary creatures such as tigers, goats and bees to fantastical beasts including griffins, mermaids and unicorns. In addition to their often attractive illustrations, bestiaries are appealing because - with their combination of real and misunderstood facts, fantasy, and religious interpretation - they seem to offer us a window into the medieval person's view of the natural world.


    In most bestiaries these animals are described in relation to ideas of Christian morality: the creatures themselves were not as important as the moral truths revealed in their explanation. Indeed, although traditionally seen as a natural history books, recent research suggests that from the 12th century onwards the bestiary was used largely as a source of theological inspiration for sermons, rather than for information about animals.


    This illustration shows a knight stealing a tiger cub from its mother. The text above tells the reader that a tiger can run faster than a knight on a horse. The knight overcomes this problem by throwing a mirror to the tiger, who stops and looks at the reflection, thinking she is looking at her own cub.


    Shelfmark: Harley 4751 f. 3v

Find out more about the Illustrated Tiger and a Knight Here

Explore more timeline content: