small tidal estuary

Some mysterious motifs

Themes that have intrigued audiences for three thousand years

moonlit playing on a dead calm sea

…and were still popular in Europe in the late Middle Ages

Snakes and dragons

Medieval Romance

Sir Eglamour of Artois

14th century, Middle English: 15th and 16th century manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, Lincoln Cathedral Library, British Library, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

It was not long before the dragon itself suddenly appeared and knocked Sir Eglamour off his horse. The knight got up and set his shield against the blows that rained down on him, and from the fire that came out of its mouth.


Medieval Arthurian Legend

Morgan le Fay and the Lady of the Lake

12th century–15th century, Old French | Medieval English.

'She is therefore called Morgan the goddess… '

Birds and animals

Medieval Romance


13th century, Old French: 14th century Middle English versions at Cambridge University Library, Lincoln Cathedral Library, British Library.

The lioness cared for the baby as though it was one of her own cubs.

Exchange of identity

Medieval Arthurian Legend

Old French pre-Vulgate Lancelot

13th century, Old French.

The boys became the greyhounds and the greyhounds took on the appearance of the boys.


Medieval Arthurian Legend

Chrétien de Troyes: The Knight of the Lion

12th century, Old French. Middle English translation, 14th century, British Library.

'Tell Sir Gawain that it was the Knight of the Lion who has rescued his nephews and that he knows me well, and I him, although he would not recognise me.'

Dead and yet alive

Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

There are those in many parts of England who say that King Arthur is not dead, but was taken, by the will of our Lord Jesus, into another place; and men say that he will return and that he shall win the Holy Cross. I cannot say that I am convinced of this, but I would rather say – "but rather I wolde sey: here in thys world he chaunged hys lyff."

Hidden origins

Medieval Arthurian Legend

Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur

15th century, late-Medieval English.

'What is your name?' asked King Arthur.

'I could not tell you,' replied the young man.

'It is truly a marvel that such a fine-looking young man as you does not know his own name,' said the king.

Concealed identity

Medieval Arthurian Legend

Of Arthour and of Merlin

14th century Middle English. National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.2.1, the Auchinleck Manuscript; Lincoln's Inn Library, Hale MS 150.

At once, the beggar changed his appearance and it was clear that it was indeed Merlin.

Apples and pomegranates

Middle English Breton Lais

Sir Orfeo

14th century, Middle English: National Library of Scotland, British Library, Bodleian Library Oxford.

Beneath an apple tree, as she sleeps in an orchard, Eurydice is visited by the King of the Otherworld.


Medieval Romance

The Romance of Sir Bevis of Hampton

12th century Anglo-Norman Boeuve de Haumton | 14th century Middle English: National Library of Scotland, Cambridge, Manchester, Naples.

The giant was incredibly strong and over twenty feet tall. He picked up a stick, walked over to the gates and had a good look at Bevis.

Lakes and seas

Old French Tales from Brittany

Marie de France: The Story of Guigemar

12th century, Old French: British Library, Bibliothèque Nationale Paris.

In the boat was a large bed, and at its prow were two candelabra filled with lighted candles.

Rings and circles

Medieval Romance

The Story of Floris and Blancheflour

12th century, Old French | 13th century Middle English retelling in manuscript copies at Cambridge University Library, British Library, National Library of Scotland.

'Take this ring, son. While you are wearing it, you need fear nothing. Fire will not burn you, the sea will not drown you and iron and steel will not be able to cut you.'

The Hurlers, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, England

hunting Little Egret, Isle of Wight, England

Avebury stone circle, Wiltshire, England