Anglo-Saxon England

Squawk talk: commentary by birds in the Bayeux Tapestry?

Gale R. Owen-Crocker 

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A brief history of the tradition of birds as motifs on textiles is followed by a catalogue of the birds in the Bayeux Tapestry and a discussion of their function. The possible significance of identifiable birds (cocks, doves, peacocks, storks), the birds of Aesop's fables and the creatures in the border ‘bird scaring scene’ is analysed. The individuality, in colouring and position, of all the border birds is demonstrated and the apparent interest which many of them take in the action of the main register is highlighted to suggest that the border birds present a commentary on, and audience-participation in, the narrative.