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The Marvels of Whitby

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I, Brother John of Whitby, am writing to share the marvelous sight I had this morning. Shortly after lauds, I journeyed to the coastline. I walked along the beach for some time, thinking in my heart of how much I enjoy the flesh of the goose, and how trying it is to go without it during our most excellent season of Lent. There is no better way to mortify my spirit than to go without that delicious bird.

As I walked, chastened by suffering, I saw a tree with branches hanging over the water. There were birds hanging from it, all of them very plump. When I came closer to the tree, I could see that the birds were goslings! Their eyes were closed, and they seemed in a deep sleep. When I reached out to touch one, the gosling didn’t move, even when I brushed its feathers in the opposite direction.

A splash startled me from my contemplation of the sleeping goslings. A fully-grown goose had fallen from its branch and landed in the water. After a few flaps of its wings, the goose took flight. I then looked to the remaining goslings, and saw that they were in the various stages of growth, from newly hatched to nearly adult. Nature is truly wondrous.

I did not hesitate to pluck one of the largest goslings and tuck the sleeping creature under my arm. My brothers at the abbey were overjoyed to hear the origin of the goose, for a creature born over the water in such a fashion is surely not prohibited to eat on a Friday. We gave thanks and feasted on the bird, which I have named the barnacle goose.


I, Brother Matthew of Abbotsbury, am concerned to hear of these barnacle geese. I have never seen goslings growing from trees, but I have seen you put away a roast goose, and I confess that I have my doubts. If these geese really did grow like barnacles, would we not cultivate them like any crop? In all my daily dealings with geese, I think they would be greatly improved by sleeping harmlessly upon a branch, rather than nipping at my heels and offending me with their noise. I think that it is much more likely that you wanted to eat a goose on Friday than encountered these creatures in truth.

Brother John, you would do well to contemplate the nature of the bee, and to engage in beekeeping like I do. The bee is a marvelous creature. Have you ever closely examined a bee? You will find that they are in all ways shaped like little winged men. They have four well-shaped limbs, and faces similar to our own, though they are covered in fur. Bees also impart the outstanding moral lesson of the sweetness of hard work and cooperation.

Leave behind your fantasies of barnacle geese and embrace the bee instead.


This humble servant of God, Brother John of Whitby, did indeed consider beekeeping, despite the fact that barnacle geese are real. I meant to inspect the skeps and see the marvelous little bee-men for myself, but I was stopped by the most curious sight.

A snail was battling a hare! The hare was arrayed like a knight, with a mail shirt, a most colorful doublet, and a shield with the face of a woodwose upon it. The hare also bore a long spear that it would pound against its shield, making a dreadful noise, more dreadful even than a goose. As for the snail, it went unclothed, with no more armor than its formidable shell. The snail hid behind a tall shield, this without design, and its antennae were sharpened to a fearsome point. The snail was well-equipped with a sword, and the hare could find no opening in the snail’s defense to strike out with its spear.

As you know, I joined the monastery at a tender age, and was thus denied the chance to see a tourney such as this. Both the hare and the snail were doughty warriors, giving not an inch even under the most fearsome blows. I hid behind some mulberries and watched the animals fight from sunup to sunset. At dusk, the hare and the snail bowed to each other and parted ways.

I will attempt to visit the skeps again tomorrow.


I, Brother Matthew of Abbotsbury, am a very truthful man. Snails and hares cannot do battle like knights. They are too small and know nothing of metallurgy. What you saw was just another one of your flights of fancy. If you had persisted in visiting the skeps, you would have come to a greater understanding.

My bees educated me thus today. When I went to the skeps, I heard sweet voices raised in song, like a choir of angels descended to earth. Imagine my wonderment when I saw that it was my bees! They were aligned just like a choir as they lifted their voices to Heaven. Being mere bees, they did not sing in Latin, but instead praised the Lord in the vernacular.

After the singing was done, the bees began to dance, waggling to and fro as they enlivened the entrance to the skep. They moved with great delicacy, as if they were fine lords and ladies. A far more edifying sight than a hare and a snail whacking away at each other!


My good friend Brother Matthew, I do think that you speak too much of your bees. If I ever succeed in making the journey to the skeps, instead of being stopped by miracles, I doubt I will find these bees to sing and dance. Have you been drinking too much beer?

Today, I, Brother John of Whitby, saw a penis tree. Several men in the town had insisted there was a tree that bore penis fruits, and being a skeptical person, I did not believe them at first. But then I arrived at the site of the tree and saw that it was all as they had said.

The fruits are harvested by nuns, who treat them carefully so as not to damage them. I do not know the purpose they put them to, but they carried the penises away in heaping baskets.


Brother John, I have received permission from the abbot to visit Whitby and deliver you from your lies. I am bringing my bees.