Many Medieval Manuscripts Describe Knights Fighting Snails

Grace Higgins | November 4th, 2020

In what appears to be great battles, many medieval manuscripts describe knights fighting with what seem to be snails. There are even drawings to confirm, but no historian really knows what this means at all. No one has cracked the case of why a knight has to fight a tiny little snail. Potentially, there was a massive mythological creature that slithered like a snail. Even then snails are vegetarian so why would people be afraid of them?

smithsonianmag.com

Perhaps farmers would pay knights to save their crops and lettuce from giant snails. The mystery came into the forefront when a group of historians decided to work their way through a whole chest of genealogical rolls. These were scrolls from 13th century England, and they contain a lot of artwork and magnolia on them. The drawings that were most prominent and repeated many times over, were knights engaging in combat with a snail.

In fact, any historian will tell you that manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries in Europe are covered with the same sort of imagery. Armed knights fighting snails are a common image across all these medieval manuscripts. But being a common drawing doesn’t make it any less strange. Scholars have debated for years trying to figure out what these combats mean. Many believe the snail actually represents the Raising of Lazarus, meaning that they represent Resurrection.

Others believe it is a symbol for the Lombards, a group during the middle ages who were known for sinful and treasonous behavior. But the really strange thing is that the knight is often shown to lose the battle. Which has led other historians to put forth a theory that snails represent the poor who are fighting an oppressive aristocracy. Because snails are often seen as a garden pest that’s able to climb anywhere.

The British Library has confirmed that Knights vs Snails come up across nearly all medieval manuscripts found in Europe. No one will really know what they represent, and just maybe it is a medieval sense of humor.

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