The Insatiable and Gluttonous Wolverine

Carta Marina, detail

“The insatiable and gluttonous wolverine emptying its stomach by squeezing itself between trees.”

I got my copy of Olaus Magnus’s 1539 commentary to his Carta Marina back from R. last week, so I’m finally able to post some of my favourite passages. Magnus divides the map into nine sections and describes the various scenes depicted on sea and land. Since it is to a large extent the succession of heterogeneous episodes and images that creates the description’s stunning effect (somewhat lost by choosing extracts), click on the following links to read (and see) the whole thing.

section Asection Bsection Csection Dsection Esection Fsection Gsection Hsection Iwhole map

Olaus Magnus Gothus greets the honourable reader.

A Iceland (Islandia), renowned for its unusual wonders

Four springs of very different nature: the first one by means of its eternal heat changes everything thrown into it into stone, while preserving the original shape, the second one is intolerably cold, the third one produces “beer”, the fourth one breathes forth destructive contagion.

White ravens, falcons, magpies, bears, wolves and hares; yet there are also totally black wolves.

The ice sounding like howling human voices and clearly indicating that human souls are being tormented here.

The pasture is so lush that unless the cattle are kept from grazing, they are destroyed through overfeeding.

Sea monsters, huge as mountains, capsize the ships if they are not frightened away by the sounds of trumpets or by throwing empty barrels into the sea.

B Greenland (Gruntlandia)

The insatiable and gluttonous wolverine emptying its stomach by squeezing itself between trees.

D Faroe Islands

Ducks being hatched from the fruit of the trees.

E Island of Scandia, arms of the Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway

A monster looking like a rhinocerus devours a lobster which is 12 feet long.

Plates are fastened as shields to the feet of the horses so that they will not sink down into the snow.

H Frisland (Frisia) and Denmark (Dania)

Collecting amber on the Prussian coast.

The town of Danzig; inhabited by well-to-do and honest citizens.

I Livonia (Livonia), Kurland (Terra Curetum) and Lithuania (Lituania)

Bears poking honey from the trees, are being beaten down by ironspiked clubs which have been hung there.

Is it any wonder Scandinavian countries attract me? Just stay away from contagious springs, sea monsters and insatiable wolverines…

2 thoughts on “The Insatiable and Gluttonous Wolverine

  1. hi. i came across your carta marina entry on your blog when i googled it. where did you buy the map? i have also seen a black and white version of it in Lund University.

  2. Hey, I bought it at the University Library in Uppsala in autumn 2006, where the original map was also on display at the time. My copy is a black and white poster version too; it came with an English translation of Olaus Magnus’s “descriptio”.

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