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Medieval Hunting and Fishing Practices and the Court Epics
By William John Slayton
PhD Dissertation, Rice University, 1970
Introduction: A check through the bibliographical material dealing with hunting in regard to both the courlty epics and the actual practice of the Middle Ages yields the somewhat surprising conclusion that no work has yet been done in which the two spheres of actual hunting procedure and literary portrayal of hunting practice are compared. Though there exist numerous treatments dealing with subjects in both these realms, the boundary between them is never crossed in any one work. Thus, in the area of actual practice, research can be found concerning hunting methods and treatises; animals and weapons employed; the role of the hunt in the lives of emperors, kings, and other nobles; and the laws which regulated medieval hunting procedure. On the other hand, in the realm of portrayal of the hunt in medieval courtly literature, there can be found such subjects as hunting procedures in general, animals in Middle High German literature, motifs in which hunting is prominent, hunting imagery, and treatments of a multitude of individual aspects of hunting as found in literature.
In the absence of any attempts to reconcile the two areas of reality and literature as far as hunting is concerned, it would seem that a valuable contribution could be made if these two realms were compared. If this were done, there would be greater understanding of the significance which the descriptions of hunting in the medieval court epics had for the nobility of that time, for whom the epics were intended.