The Hyena's Cave: 'Jeremiah' 12.9 in Premodern Bestiaries
Karel Appel, 'Femmes, enfants, animaux,' 1951: oil on jute, 170 x 280 cm © Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst Amstelveen



How to Cite

Kraß, A. (2018). The Hyena’s Cave: ’Jeremiah’ 12.9 in Premodern Bestiaries. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, (5), 111–128.
Received 2018-01-29
Accepted 2019-01-28
Published 2018-12-29


The premodern bestiary tradition portrays the hyena as a creature that annually changes its sex. While the Greek Physiologus interprets it as an allegory of sexual aberration, the various versions of the Latin Physiologus read it as a symbol for religious duplicity. Since the late twelfth century, the bestiaries transform the hyena into a signifier of the abominable par excellence. Throughout the bestiary tradition, the interpretation of the hyena draws on a quotation from the Book of Jeremiah where God compares his land to a hyena's cave (Jer. 12.9).

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