StoryGraph Sunday: Basilisks and Beowulf

StoryGraph Saturday is a weekly thing where I randomly choose a book from my To Read pile on StoryGraph and show it off to both remind myself that it’s there and to show it to you in case you might find it interesting, too.


Basilisks and Beowulf: Monsters in the Anglo-Saxon World
by Tim Flight
Nonfiction/Folklore
336 pages

From The StoryGraph:

An eye-opening, engrossing look at the central role of monsters in the Anglo-Saxon worldview.


This book addresses a simple question: why were the Anglo-Saxons obsessed with monsters, many of which did not exist? Drawing on literature and art, theology, and a wealth of firsthand evidence,
Basilisks and Beowulf reveals a people huddled at the edge of the known map, using the fantastic and the grotesque as a way of understanding the world around them and their place within it. For the Anglo-Saxons, monsters helped to distinguish the sacred and the profane; they carried God’s message to mankind, exposing His divine hand in creation itself. At the same time, monsters were agents of disorder, seeking to kill people, conquer their lands, and even challenge what it meant to be human. Learning about where monsters lived and how they behaved allowed the Anglo-Saxons to situate themselves in the world, as well as to apprehend something of the divine plan. It is for these reasons that monsters were at the very center of their worldview. From map monsters to demons, dragons to Leviathan, we neglect these beasts at our peril.


Well, this sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Of course I’m interested in learning about the role of monsters in folklore and mythology, wherever it comes from. There is a grain of truth in every myth, and it’s always fascinating to explore where those grains of truth might have come from. I

4 thoughts on “StoryGraph Sunday: Basilisks and Beowulf

  1. I completely agree. This does sound fascinating, and I do always enjoy wondering about, and then learning about, where some of these things might have come from. Interesting, too, how very similar creates exist in very different cultures. I often wonder if they evolved differently in each culture or if there was cross-polination that spread them from culture to culture, or perhaps a bit of both.

  2. I’m sure there was some amount of cross-pollination, as ancient people traveled more than we give them credit for, and they would have taken their stories with them. So I am looking forward to seeing what sorts of theories the author has about the origins of the various monsters.

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