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Eating others : symbolic and actual anthropophagy in médiéval storytelling

What’s bubbling in the pot? The enemy’s torment

Angelica Aurora Montanari
p. 339-356


Anthropophagy was widely exploited in medieval political lexicon as a divide between barbarism and civilization. The following pages explore cannibalistic rituals that played a fundamental role in defining otherness and building the identity of a community. The focus of this examination will be the evidence related to Italian urban areas, given the high concentration of ritual cannibalism testimonies found in fourteenth to sixteenth-century chronicles of the cities of central and northern Italy.

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Full text document will be published online on December 2021.


Italian-style devouring
“Save me from the lion’s mouth”

First lines

Es vus errant Tabur de Canaloine,
un Sarazin, que Dampnesdeus confunde!
Gros out le cors, si out l’eschine curbe,
Lunges les denz, si est veluz cum urse.
Ne portet arme fors le bec e les ungles.
Veit Guiëlin, si li est coruz sure,
Baie la gule si li quidad tranglutre,
Tut ensement cume meüre pome.
E cil le fiert de l’espiet en la loigne,
Je l’eüst mort quant sa hanste li fruisse.

Long fangs, sharp claws and excessive hirsutism: these are some of the traits that characterize the stigmatization of the enemy in Old French chansons de geste. Perfectly corresponding to such a prototype is the figure of Tabur, the Saracen against which the hero William of Orange strenuously fights in the Chanson de Guillaume, a literary work dating back to the first half of the twelfth century loosely inspired by the historical figure of William I of Toulouse (750 ca – 812).

By depicting the enemy, stigmatizing their diversity as a monstrous and terrifying being, Christian authors at the same time celebrate the valo...

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Bibliographical reference

Angelica Aurora Montanari, “What’s bubbling in the pot? The enemy’s torment”Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes, 36 | 2018, 339-356.

Electronic reference

Angelica Aurora Montanari, “What’s bubbling in the pot? The enemy’s torment”Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes [Online], 36 | 2018, Online since 01 December 2021, connection on 22 June 2021. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Angelica Aurora Montanari

Università di Bologna

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© Cahiers de recherches médiévales et humanistes

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