A Legendary Sea Creature
Have you ever drawn or painted a picture to illustrate a story? This painting was made to illustrate a book made almost 750 years ago. It is from a bestiary, a type of book that has descriptions and pictures of dozens of different animals. Sometimes the authors and artists of these books would invent animals based on stories they had heard or read. In this painting, the artist illustrates a fearsome sea creature called an aspidochelone (as-PID-oh-cha-low-nee).
The aspidochelone is a lot like a whale, but sneakier. It would trick sailors by floating with a little bit of its back peeking above the water. When sailors saw the creature's back, they would anchor their ship and rest on what they thought was an island. But as soon as they began to cook their dinner, the aspidochelone would feel the heat and know it had fooled the sailors. It would then swim away, throwing the sailors into the sea!
This painting shows the most exciting moment in the story when the sea creature dives deep into the ocean. Notice how surprised the sailors in the ship seem. On the back of the aspidochelone, dinner is still in its pot and the men who were cooking it try to keep their balance as they fall into the water. This story and painting were meant to teach the reader that it is important not to make decisions based only on appearances. In this case, what seemed to be an island was really a big fish!