Medieval Research Cluster

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Oriental Expeditions: Peredur and the Valley of the Changing Sheep

The literary motif of the colour-changing sheep has received little attention from scholars. Until now.

Sheep from the Luttrell Psalter
Sheep, as seen in the 12th Century Luttrell Psalter.
Wikimedia Commons

In this morning lecture at the Medieval Research Cluster, the origin of Arthurian literature will be the main focus.

The Middle-Welsh Arthurian tale Peredur vab Efrawc tells a narrative of the Arthurian knight Peredur, who passes a river and comes across a remarkable sight of sheep changing colour when crossing the physical boundary of the river. The motif of the colour-changing sheep has received little attention from scholars nor is there a satisfying explanation for why the sheep change colour.

Through an intertextual analysis of the motif of the colour-changing sheep, Kiki Calis has been able to examine the meaning and understanding of the Valley of the Changing Sheep. Most Arthurian literature is regarded as ‘magical’ or ‘literary’. However, it seems that the motif of the colour-changing sheep passing a river has a different origin and appears in different types of texts than often is assumed.

Biographic information speaker:

Kiki Calis received a Research MA in Medieval Studies (2018) with honours at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, specialising in the intertextuality of the French and the Welsh traditions of medieval Arthurian literature. Currently, Calis is a research assistant in the research project ‘Defining ‘Europe’ in Medieval European Geographical Discourse’, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) under the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme VENI, supervised by Natalia Petrovskaia. In this research project, Calis is responsible for the inventory of manuscript evidence, tracing the textual transmission of the Imago Mundi, a text written by Honorius Augustodunensis.

Biographic information respondent:

Nick Pouls is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion at the University of Bergen. His research focuses on medieval written culture, medieval literacy, medieval communication, and medieval book history, with particular attention to the transmission of medieval (Latin) texts and intellectual networks. Among other topics, he is interested in intellectuals in the Middle Ages, the history of (medieval) libraries, historical musicology, and auxiliary sciences, such as palaeography, codicology, and diplomatic.