Young Writers Society

E - Everyone

On The Existence of Unlikely Races

by MJRutherford

On Whether Man Like Monsters reported by  Geographers really Exist

Aethel Fledeck, Brother of Jarrow

Northumbrian Monk of the Early Eighth Century?

Original Manuscript: 589430 -B

Translator: Edgar Rutherford

I write now of things pertaining to the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge so that brothers and laymen alike might be edified by this exercise in reason. For some decades now the brothers have taken on a task that benefits both our understandings of heaven and earth, the material and the immaterial. The rigorous effort to preserve texts from both Rome and Greece has been an experience that the brothers have taken much joy in; the contemplation of these texts has answered many questions but has perhaps left us with more queries that we could not imagine asking before we set out on this venture. A tailor from the village who often comes by the monastery to buy cabbages had asked me why we thought it worthy to devote so much time to texts written by pagans who had not come to a knowledge of the light of Christ. This tailor – a good but unlettered man – had often taken interest in the learnings of the monastery and I had joyfully relayed some of the history and geography I had obtained, especially those things which pertain to better understanding the histories of the various nations mentioned within holy scripture. I used this knowledge as a means of defending the order’s decision to copy these texts and distribute them throughout Britannia and Hibernia. I argued that these books of old did not hinder our study of the word but rather added new light and context to our studies which had been lost for centuries. Our dear tailor eventually came around and agreed. However, his contentious spirit took a hold of him once more and he put forward another question. “what about these monsters on the edge of the world? Surely you – learned monk – do not fall for such obvious fantasies?” He replied with an indomitable spirit and likeable arrogance. You see, dear brothers previously I had relayed with him stories of creatures from the far ends of the earth, dog headed men once worshipped in Egypt, ‘Blemmynes’ those headless cannibals of Maturia and Ethiopia, Giants in India, Pygmies in Africa, I had spoken to much in the excitement of previous conversations and had shown a lack of restraint which certainly was not Christ like. Nonetheless, the damage had been done but to my luck, this tailor is no superstitious heathen and had not spoken to the other town folk about it. Should the folk of Tyne learn these things, the tail spread its wings quickly and everyone from Bamburgh to Whiteby will speak ridiculous tales of monsters and cannibals. Yet this concern is not the subject of my writing, I write to answer the question of whether indeed these creatures exist.

We know that God - divinely perfect and loving – is no author of confusion and therefore why would he seek to blur the bounds between beast and man, lest the saints should not be able to identify those beings which have the spirit of a beast and live only a few years on earth before they return to the dust and the spirit of man which lives forever and is judged according to his works and faith. Man – being fallen and in need of salvation – ought to be identified clearly, so that those brethren fulfilling the commission of Christ might reach them. The Picts, Norse Men and those who dwell in the dark forests east of the Franks are lost in darkness and in sometimes appear as though they share more with beast than man, however, we know that they are still men; they meet in communes, reason together and build homes for themselves. They, though lost in the darkness of pagan ways, are men of our likeness and only those with prejudice will deny this. I am of the Angles, a people who not long ago were as savage as any Norseman or Pict and are cousins of the folk of the Eastern forests. All man is made in the image of God, we are one and all in need of Christ. Therefore, should we blaspheme and say that God has the appearance of a dog? For if a dog headed man is indeed a dog, then the dog, with its wildness and foolishness shares such characteristics with God. However, these men merely appear as dogs, and it is said that they reason among themselves, build communes and even worship primal deities. Not all of these races are beast like either, are not Giants and Pygmies merely extremes of the standard human stature. We know that Norse folk are great in height and Jews short in stature, they both are men with similar likeness but differentiating features. Should we then be surprised if there are men who radically differentiate in appearance of ourselves? Nay! Perhaps, the middle ground is this: some of these peculiar races exist and others do not. How then do we know which exist and which do not? In our holy scriptures, Joshua fought with Giants, men now seemingly long gone from the Earth. Therefore, Giants must have walked the earth in those days for the word of the Lord speaks of it! However, perhaps they no longer exist, and the stories which the geographers of old recorded are merely memories retold of a bygone era. These memories too tend to be embellished themselves as they travel across land and time. Perhaps, the dog headed men are not manlike at all and it is only exaggeration which has given them that status. Could it be possible that in the far reaches of Asia and Africa there are animals in the likeness of creatures we know who stand upright?

Yet, standing upright does not endow a beast with a soul, for our souls are the result of our reason, the body of a beast, whether it has two or four legs, has nothing to do with an ability to reason. I once read an account that a dragon in the forests of Mercia used to seek the company of travellers and merchants to speak too. This is obviously foolishness, yet even still, I would argue more for that dragon’s soul than the soul of a creature that looked like man but could not reason. For the dragon could speak in the complex tongues of men and as such had an intellect which could also comprehend good and evil. If a beast can comprehend good and evil than he is as man, a wilful being in need of Christ. It would be a good work then to send men to beasts of comprehension, because they are not really beasts at all, rather they are children of Adam, long lost in the memories of men and scattered afar from Babel. Concerning the Blemmynes if they are not men but monsters, then by eating men, they are not cannibals. If a lion devours a man, he does so as a man devours a fish, without prick of conscience for he knows he is placed on a higher ring of the worldly hierarchy, he is not a traitor to his own. What application then can be made? The tales of these creatures so reported by the great men of old should be treated with caution and discrimination. If we say they are not real, and they are, we have falsely testified of a thing in the presence of God. Perhaps, he will send one to our doorstep so that we might bring Christ to him. However, we ought not to bring the knowledge of them to the laity, lest they slip into the confusion of their forefathers. For it would seem more likely that these creatures are a fantasy in the minds of men and as such it is not worthy of much more study, lest we spend time contemplating in fallacy.

Grace and Peace be upon those who read this letter in Lindisfarne and Ripon, I and the brothers send regards. May the Spirit of Truth guide you in your meditations.

~Aethel Fledeck

Note: You are not logged in, but you can still leave a comment or review. Before it shows up, a moderator will need to approve your comment (this is only a safeguard against spambots). Leave your email if you would like to be notified when your message is approved.

Is this a review?



User avatar
1154 Reviews

Points: 133174
Reviews: 1154

Sun Jan 26, 2020 12:57 am
lliyah wrote a review...

You really do a good job making this seem authentic, I have to say initially I was fooled! Great language use, though I have to say it's a bit hard to discern the scope / story of the piece.

A few reactions:

a good but unlettered man
- I loved that description.

previous conversations and had shown a lack of restraint which certainly was not Christ like
- would love to know what he means by "lack of restraint" also it should read "Christ-like" or "Christlike"

Yet this concern is not the subject of my writing,
It's a bit annoying that it seems like the first third is not the "concern" of the speaker's writing - I would phrase this a different way to make sure that the reader doesn't feel like they've wasted their time in the opening portion.

We know that God - divinely perfect and loving – is no author of confusion
I have some issues with the religious and historical authenticity of that proposition. An 8th Century Monk would likely not say that "God is no author of confusion" - this is more of a post-rationalist phenomenon. In fact, the early church and the Orthodox were very into talking about how God was a mystery. It was in the later centuries when the church got a little more dogmatic, and then also had to respond to rationalism and make it seem like all God and religion could be understood. If you read the book of Job, God pretty much says himself, humans don't need to understand all God does, confusion is okay - because God knows what God is doing. There are definitely other reasons that a monk could come up with for why God wouldn't want to "blur the lines between beast and man" maybe preserving the dominance of the human in creation.

lest the saints should not be able to identify those beings which have the spirit of a beast
- this also seems like a weird rationale - why would a saint have issues determining the two spirits and for what purpose. Some of the saints like Francis were big fans of animals anyways.

Perhaps, the middle ground is this: some of these peculiar races exist and others do not.
- this is unclear to me what is being said.

This whole piece definitely gives me the vibes of old missionary statements where they tried to make it seem like African Religion was all about cannibalism and other "gruesome immoral practices" - which was definitely a thing that a few misinformed reporters did for a while, and then no one fact-checked them so it was a wide-spread belief with not many (if any) actual cases of them running into cannibals - with such stereotypes being supported by those like Georg Hegel. I think you've got the time period a bit wrong though? 8th Century just seems so early for this.

The third paraphraph gets very interesting with the turn here, "If a beast can comprehend good and evil than he is as man, a wilful being in need of Christ. It would be a good work then to send men to beasts of comprehension, because they are not really beasts at all, rather they are children of Adam" where the speaker considers that they might not actually be beasts.

I think this is an interesting piece of literature because you're able to get into the mindset/time frame of when a lot of difficult stuff was happening in the church and culture's perception of "other places" mostly stemming from being very misinformed. It's interesting to think about what might have went through their head. Unfortunately though, I think the piece needs some interpretative or narrative lens at the end - what is the reader supposed to get from this that they wouldn't gain better from reading an actual similar account from the time period? It's a well written piece, a cool thought-exercise, but I'm left a bit confused on what it's impact-value is.

Keep on writing, you've got a great capture of language and interesting style!

- alliyah

User avatar

Points: 214
Reviews: 4

Tue Oct 29, 2019 11:10 pm
View Likes
ColdOne says...

Hi there. I want to start off my saying that this was wonderfully writen. It really gave me the feel that some one from the renaissance era. Saying that, I might have also enjoyed the read due to the fact it had something to with angelonmy. Anyway, I think you did a good job, and should contine writing.

MJRutherford says...

Cheers, Cold One!

User avatar
11 Reviews

Points: 306
Reviews: 11

Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:55 pm
View Likes
Benji wrote a review...

Hey there! I want to start this review off by saying that I enjoyed the read thoroughly, it emulates the writings of any notable man in the 1800s and captures the emotions one would have writing such a trivial subject perfectly and the pace is solid for a page of theological+philosophical examination, whether or not this is pure fictional, it made me ponder and imagine, easily so with such vivid imagery and depth. You capture the nuances of those times so good, it didn't feel cheesy or out of place, but very much so like the homilies I know and love, thanks for the great read! Excited for more

MJRutherford says...

Thanks Benji! I appreciate your kind and thoughtful review

I have to ask. Does every question or statement regarding the quote generator end up in the quote generator?
— WeepingWisteria