NARRATOR: Just as the medieval imagination was piqued by exotic animals in faraway places, audiences were also fascinated by legendary peoples believed to inhabit the edges of the world. Curator Larisa Grollemond:
LARISA GROLLEMOND:You can see that each individual race has been assigned a quadrant, and the text that runs vertically along the sides identifies the people and their physical difference or their behavior.
NARRATOR: On the left-hand page in the upper left quadrant are people of small stature—the Trokosites —who rode deer. Below that you can see the Blemei, whose faces were in their torsos, and they were essentially headless. At upper right are a similar people with eyes in their shoulders. In the lower right corner, you can see a type of people thought to have large under-lips.
LARISA GROLLEMOND: On the right-hand page at the top left corner, you can see people with their feet on backwards. These people are known as the Antipodes, or “people with their feet on backwards.” On the right-hand page at the top right corner, you can see a person with several eyes. And on the right-hand page at the top right corner, you can see people who are supposedly living in Ethiopia and required shade from the hot sun, so they had evolved a single large foot that protects them from the sun.
NARRATOR: Medieval audiences tried to integrate the legendary peoples into a Christian worldview. The fact that they appear here in the context of a bestiary indicates that Europeans saw them as more animal than human. Manuscripts such as this served as a source of information about what presumably existed in the distant lands beyond Europe.