Medieval Death Trip

A Podcast Exploring the Wit and Weirdness of Medieval Texts

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MDT Ep. 76: Concerning a Glimpse into 15th-Century School Life

Woodcut of a Tudor Grammar School
XJF265591 Schoolroom scene in Tudor times (litho) (b/w photo) by English School, (16th century); Private Collection; ( Schoolmaster seated holding a birch, usher (assistant) beating a boy; classroom is divided up in ages and stages of learning;); English, out of copyright

We return from our hiatus with an exploration of life in Tudor grammar school classroom, as described in a compilation of translation exercises composed for his students by a master of the Magdalen School, Oxford.

Today’s Text:

Image: Woodcut of a Tudor grammar school (via

MDT Vacation Bonus: Dragonslayer Film Commentary

As a treat to all of our listeners while the regular show is on vacation for July, here’s the commentary track I made for the 1981 film Dragonslayer. This was originally released this past winter just to our Patreon supporters, but now everyone can get have chance to enjoy it. Note that this includes a long introduction featuring a reading of the legend of St. George and the Dragon. If you want to jump straight to the actual commentary synced to the film, you’ll need to skip ahead to around the 18-minute mark of the file.


MDT Ep. 75: Concerning More Challenges to the Throne of Man

Photo of Maughold Head by Adie Jackson.

This episode we encounter another saintly curse, this time at the hands of St. Maughold, the patron saint of the Isle of Man, and on our way to that miracle story, we catch up on the trials and tribulations of the Manx dynasty of Godred Crovan since we last saw them in Ep. 44. As a bonus, we’ll also hear the origin story of St. Maughold, a.k.a. MacCuil the bandit, a.k.a., Cyclops, as recorded in Muirchu’s Life of St. Patrick.

Today’s Texts:

  • The Chronicle of Man and the Sudreys. Edited by P.A. Munch, translated by Alexander Goss, vol. 1, The Manx Society, 1874. Google Books.
  • Muirchu. Life of St. Patrick. St. Patrick: His Writings and Life, edited and translated by Newport J.D. White, Macmillan, 1920.


  • Kinvig, R.H. The Isle of Man: A Social, Cultural, and Political History. Charles E. Tuttle, 1975.
  • Mood, A.W. The Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man. Brown & Son, 1891.

Image: Photo of Maughold Head by Adie Jackson (CC BY-SA 2.0)

MDT Ep. 74: Concerning Bad Bishops, Buried Treasure, and an Unchaste Priest

Detail from British Library MS Royal 6 E VI  f.246v.

This episode we go to Durham with its greatest chronicler, Simeon, to first hear about the short, shameful, and Cuthbert-cursed 10th-century episcopate of Bishop Sexhelm, and then we pick up about a hundred years later with the similarly flawed bishop brothers, Aegelric and Aegelwin. Finally, we wrap up by seeing what happens when a priest who just slept with his wife gets unexpectedly called upon to perform Mass.

Today’s Texts

  • Simeon of Durham. Simeon’s History of the Church of Durham. Church Historians of England, edited and translated by Joseph Stevenson, vol. 3, part 2, Seeley’s, 1855, pp. 619-711. Google Books.
  • The History of Ingulf. The Church Historians of England, edited and translated by Joseph Stevenson, vol. 2, part 2, Seeleys, 1854, pp. 565-725. Google Books.


  • Hutchinson, William. The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham. Vol. 1, G. Walker, 1817. Google Books.
  • Symeon of Durham. Libellus de exordio atque procursu istius, hoc est Dunhelmensis, ecclesie: Tract on the Origin and Progress of this the Church of Durham. Edited and translated by David Rollason, Oxford UP, 2000.
  • Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologia, 2 Part 2, Q. 76, Art. 1. Available at, which reproduces the text of the Second and Revised Edition, 1920, literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province.

Image: Detail from British Library MS Royal 6 E VI  f.246v.

MDT Ep. 73: Concerning a Mouse and a Frog

Illustration by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder (1567), from The British Museum via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

This episode, we turn to another genre of wisdom literature: the fable. We look at four versions of the fable of the Mouse and the Frog from across one-and-a-half millennia, with quasi-classical versions from the Vita Aesopi and the Romulus Aesop and medieval elaborations on the story by Marie de France and Robert Henryson.

Today’s Texts:

  • Life of Aesop. Translated by Anthony Alcock,, 4 Aug. 2018,
  • “The Mouse and the Frog.” The Comedies of Terence and The Fables of Phædrus, translated by Henry Thomas Riley, George Bell & Sons, 1891, p. 456. Google Books.
  • Marie de France. “The Mouse and the Frog.” The Fables of Marie de France, translated by Mary Lou Martin, Summa Publications, 1984, pp. 36-42.
  • Henryson, Robert. “The Taill of the Paddok and the Mous.” The Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson, edited by David Laing, William Paterson, 1865. Google Books.


Adrados, Francisco Rodríguez. History of the Graeco-Latin Fable. Translated by Leslie A. Ray, vol. 1, Brill, 1999.

Daly, Lloyd W., translator and editor. Introduction. Aesop Without Morals, Thomas Yoseloff, 1961, pp. 11-26.

Fox, Denton, editor. The Poems of Robert Henryson. Clarendon Press, 1981.

Kiser, Lisa J. “Resident Aliens: The Literary Ecology of Medieval Mice.” Truth and Tales: Cultural Mobility and Medieval Media, edited by Fiona Somerset and Nicholas Watson, Ohio State UP, 2015, pp. 151-167.,

  • Jacobs, Joseph. The Fables of Aesop. Vol. 1, History of the Æsopic Fable, 1889, Burt Franklin, 1970.
  • Mann, Jill. From Aesop to Reynard: Beast Literature in Medieval Britain. Oxford UP, 2009.
  • Martin, Mary Lou. Introduction. The Fables of Marie de France, translated by Mary Lou Martin, Summa Publications, 1984, pp. 1-30.
  • O’Connor, Flannery. “Writing Short Stories.” Mystery and Manners, FSG, 1970, pp. 87-106.
  • Skillen, Anthony. “Aesop’s Lessons in Literary Realism.” Philosophy, vol. 67, no. 260, Apr. 1992, pp. 169-181. JSTOR,[Greek text of the fable in the Vita Aesopi, Ch. 21:]Vita Aesopi. Edited by Antonius Westermann, Williams and Norgate, 1845, p. 54. Google Books[Romulus Latin Text in:]”Mus et Rana.” Phaedri Fabularum Aesopiarum libri quinque, quales omni parte illustratos publicavit Joann. Gottlob. Sam. Schwabe. Accedunt Romuli Fabularum Aesopiarum libri quatuor, quibus novas Phaedri Fabellas cum notulis variorum et suis subjunxit, edited by J. B. Gail, vol. 2, 2nd ed., N.E. Lemaire, 1826, p. 386. Google Books.

Music by Chris Lane.

Image: Illustration by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder (1567), from The British Museum via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

MDT Ep. 72: An Icelandic Vision of the Afterlife

Detail from Bodleian Library MS Douce 134, f. 87r.

This episode we take a look at Sólarljóð, an Old Norse poem that mixes a Christian tour of heaven and hell with the stylings of eddic poetry. We also consider what it might have in common with one of the fugues of the Great Revival.

Today’s Text

  • “Song of the Sun.” The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson, translated by Benjamin Thorpe and I.A. Blackwell, Norrœna Society, 1906, pp. 11-120. Google Books.


  • Cobb, Buell E., Jr. The Sacred Harp, A Tradition and Its Music. U of Georgia P, 1978.
  • Larrington, Carolyne, and Peter Robinson. Introduction to “Anonymous, Sólarljóð.Poetry on Christian Subjects, edited by Margaret Clunies Ross, Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7, Brepols, 2007, pp. 287-357.
  • “Sólarljóð — Anon SólVII.” Skaldic Project.
  • Wright, Thomas. St. Patrick’s Purgatory: An Essay on the Legends of Purgatory, Hell, and Paradise, Current During the Middle Ages. John Russell Smith, 1844. Google Books.
  • Zaleski, Carol. Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times. Oxford UP, 1987.

Image: Detail from Bodleian Library MS Douce 134, f. 87r.

Audio Credit: “Greenwich” performed by Cork Sacred Harp, from the first Ireland Sacred Harp Convention, 2011. Used under CC-BY-3.0 license.

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