Because animals are neither wholly similar to, r entirely different from, human beings, they have provided men and women with an endlessly fruitful point of departure from which to explore what it means to be human. The way in which human identity is inextricably bound up with the animal kingdom is particularly evident in medieval hagiography and romance (arguably the two most popular and prestigious genres of medieval literature), where the holiness of saints and the heroism of knights is frequently revealed through their miraculous encounters with wild beasts. Through an analysis of these literary sources, the book explores the broad range of attitudes towards animals and the natural world that were current in western Europe during the later middle ages. It argues that through their depictions of animals, medieval writers were t only able to reflect upon their own humanity, but were also able to explore the meaning of more abstract values and ideas (such as civility, sanctity and bility) that were central to the culture of the time. Dr DAVID SALTER is a Lecturer in English at the University of Edinburgh.