Myth-Folklore Unit: Saints and Animals

Overview. There are literally thousands of Christian saints, and the legends of the saints are an essential part of the Christian storytelling tradition. This unit, based on Abbie Farwell Brown's Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts, focuses on legends of the saints in which animals play a central role. You might be familiar with Saint Francis of Assisi, but the other stories you will read here are probably new to you. There is Kentigern, the patron saint of Glasgow, who was able to bring a beloved bird back to life, and Saint Ailbe (a.k.a. Saint Elvis), who was raised by wolves. Some of the stories are told in the form of ballads, like the Ballad of Saint Anthracta, a sort of fairytale princess who prefers instead to run with the wild things, or the Ballad of Saint Felix, whose life was saved by a kindly spider. These saints come from different time periods and different countries, but they all share a spiritual, even supernatural, connection to the animal kingdom.

Language. This is a modern retelling of the lives of the saints, so the language should give you any problems. Three of the stories are told as poetry, but if you read the poems out loud, you should not find them too difficult. In fact, you might even be inspired to write a story in verse yourself!

Navigation. You will find the table of contents below, and you can also use this link to see the story posts displayed on two pages total: Saints and Animals. Click "Older Posts" at the bottom of that page to see the second page.

Notes. This unit does not have notes on every page yet, so please feel free to ask questions if something is not clear — and your questions will help me write better notes, too! You can ask your question by leaving a comment, just like at any other blog. You can also rate each page with the star ratings checkbox at the bottom of each post. Your feedback and questions are much appreciated!

Connecting Units. If you are interested in animal tales with a religious theme, I strongly recommend Babbitt's Jataka Tales coming up in the India module.

Read More. In this unit, you read only part of the book. If you want to read the whole book, you can find it online in various formats: Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts. For a quick glance at the table of contents, see the online book presented at the Baldwin Project.

Additional Resources. You can also find abundant information about the saints at the Wikipedia Saints Portal.

  1. Saint Kentigern and the Robin
  2. Saint Kentigern and the Robin (cont.)
  3. Saint Blaise and His Beasts
  4. Saint Blaise and His Beasts (cont.)
  5. Saint Comgall and the Mice
  6. Saint Comgall and the Mice (cont.)
  7. The Wonders of Saint Berach
  8. The Wonders of Saint Berach (cont.)
  1. The Fish Who Helped Saint Gudwall
  2. The Wolf-Mother of Saint Ailbe
  3. The Wolf-Mother of Saint Ailbe (cont.)
  4. The Ballad of Saint Athracta's Stags
  5. The Ballad of Saint Felix
  6. The Ballad of Saint Giles and the Deer
  7. Saint Francis of Assisi
  8. Saint Francis of Assisi (cont.)
  9. Saint Francis of Assisi (end)

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