Life in Newburgh on Ythan

By Talpa

The skull of Reynard The Fox

One of the greatest treasures held by the library of Aberdeen University is the Aberdeen Bestiary an illuminated manuscript, crafted in England around the year 1200. A Bestiary is a collection of short descriptions about all sorts of animals, real and imaginary, birds and even rocks, accompanied by a moralising explanation. This is what it has to say about the fox:

Of the fox The word vulpis, fox, is, so to say, volupis. For it is fleet-footed and never runs in a straight line but twists and turns. It is a clever, crafty animal. When it is hungry and can find nothing to eat, it rolls itself in red earth so that it seems to be stained with blood, lies on the ground and holds it breath, so that it seems scarcely alive. When birds see that it is not breathing, that it is flecked with blood and that its tongue is sticking out of its mouth, they think that it is dead and descend to perch on it. Thus it seizes them and devours them. The Devil is of a similar nature. For to all who live by the flesh he represents himself as dead until he has them in his gullet and punishes them. But to spiritual men, living in the faith, he is truly dead and reduced to nothing. Those who wish to do the Devil's work will die, as the apostle says: 'For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' (Romans, 8:13) And David says: 'They shall go into the lower parts of the earth: they shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.' (Psalms, 63:9-10) 

You can see the ancient and beautiful illustration of Reynard, set in a frame with a background of burnished gold, here.

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