The famous epic poem Beowulf is known from a single manuscript, part of the Nowell Codex, which also contains other texts and fragments, including one called The Wonders of the East, sometimes also translated to modern English as The Marvels of the East, which describes fantastical beasts supposedly found in eastern regions of the world (presumably Asia).

I'm fascinated by this apparent knowledge (or pure myth?) of Asian regions dating back to so long ago in western Europe, and I'd like to learn more about it. I tried to search online for an English translation of The Wonders of the East, as exists for Beowulf, but without success. Scans of the original manuscript are digitised online, but this is of course in Old English.

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Has The Wonders of the East been translated to modern English? More specifically, is there a translation which is public domain (obviously the original work is, but AFAIU [IANAL] translations are sometimes copyrighted separately) and preferably available online?

  • Some readers may be interested to note that The Wonders of the East has been described as an early medieval Pokédex.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 29, 2021 at 18:22
  • Does Helsinki have the entirety of the Old English transcribed?
    – Laurel
    Aug 20, 2021 at 0:22

1 Answer 1


I found the text on the site Rejected Scriptures. I also found the text in some other authoritative sources, and this seems to match up. (Note: leuuae means leagues.)

(I'm not quite sure which pictures from the manuscript match up with which paragraph yet.)

  1. The colony is at the beginning of the land Antimolima, which land is 500 in the tally of the lesser measurement, which are called stadia, and 368 of the greater, which are called leuuae. On that island there is a great multitude of sheep, and from there to Babylon it is 168 of the lesser measurement called stadia, and 115 in the greater measurement called leuuae.

  2. The colony is mostly populated with merchants; there are rams born there as big as oxen, living right up to the city of the Medes. The name of that city is Archemedon. It is the biggest city after Babylon. To there from Archemedon is 300 of the lesser measurement, stadia, and 200 of the greater, called leuuae. There are great monuments there, which are the works which the mighty Alexander of Macedon had made. The land is in length and breadth 200 of the lesser measurement, stadia, and 133 and a half of the greater, called leuuae.

  3. As you go towards the Red Sea there is a place called Lentibeisinea, where there are hens born like ours, red in color. If any one tries to take or touch them, they immediately burn up all his body. That is extraordinary magic.

  4. Wild beasts are also born there. When these wild beasts hear a human voice, they run far away. The beasts have eight feet, and valkyrie-eyes, and two heads. If anyone tries to touch them, they set their bodies aflame. They are extraordinary beasts.

  5. Hascellentia is the name of the land on the way to Babylon, that is in length and breadth nine of the lesser measurements called stadia. It is subject to the kingdom of the Medes, and that land is filled with all good things. This place contains serpents. The serpents have two heads, whose eyes shine at night as brightly as lanterns.

  6. In one land there are born donkeys which have horns as big as oxen's. They are in that very great wasteland which is in the southern part of Babylonia. They retreat to the Red Sea, because of the multitude of snakes called Corsiae which are in those places. They have horns as big as ram's. If they strike or touch anyone, he immediately dies. In those lands there is an abundance of pepper. The snakes keep the pepper in their eagerness. In order to take the pepper people set fire to the place and then the snakes flee from the high ground into the earth; because of this the pepper is black. From Babylon to the city of Persia where the pepper grows is in the lesser measure which is called stadia 800 units. It is reckoned in the greater measure that is called leuuae six hundred and twenty-three and a half units. The place is barren because of the multitude of the snakes.

  7. Also there are born there half-dogs who are called Conopenae. They have horses' manes and boars' tusks and dogs' heads and their breath is like a fiery flame. These lands are near the cities which are filled with all the worldly wealth: that is, in the south of Egypt.

  8. In one land people are born who are six feet tall. They have beards to their knees, and hair to their heels. They are called Homodubii, that is 'doubtful ones', and they eat raw fish and live on them.

  9. The river is named Capi in the same place, which is called Gorgoneus, that is 'valkyrie-like'. Ants are born there as big as dogs, which have feet like grasshoppers, and are of red and black color. The ants dig up gold from the ground from before night to the fifth hour of the day. People who are bold enough to take the gold bring with them male camels, and females with their young. They tie up the young before they cross the river. They load the gold onto the females, and mount them themselves, and leave the males there. Then the ants detect the males, and while the ants are occupied with the males, the men cross over the river with the females and the gold. They are so swift that one would think that they were flying.

  10. Between these two rivers is a colony called Locotheo, which is situated between the Nile and the Brixontes. The Nile is the prince of foul rivers, and flows through Egypt. And they call the river Archoboleta, which means 'great water'. In these regions are born great multitudes of elephants.

  11. There are people born there, who are, fifteen feet tall and have white bodies and two faces on a single head, feet and knees very red, and long noses and black hair. When they want to give birth, they travel in ships to India, and bring their young into the world there.

  12. There is a land called Ciconia in Callia, where people are born of three colors, whose heads have manes like lions' heads, and they are twenty feet tall, and have mouths as big as fans. If they see or perceive anyone in those lands, or if anyone is following them, then they take flight and flee, and sweat blood. They are thought to be men.

  13. Beyond the River Brixontes, east from there, there are people born big and tall, who have feet and shanks twelve feet long, flanks with chests seven feet long. They are of a black colour, and are called Hostes. As certainly as they catch a person they devour him.

  14. Then there are on the Brixontes wild animals which are called Lertices. They have donkeys ears and sheep's wool and bird's feet.

  15. Then there is another island, south of the Brixontes, on which there are born men without heads who have their eyes and mouth in their chests. They are eight feet tall and eight feet wide.

  16. Dragons are born there, who are one hundred and fifty feet long, and are as thick as great stone pillars. Because of the abundance of the dragons, no one can travel easily in that land.

  17. From this place there is another country on the south side of the ocean, which is reckoned in the lesser measurement known as stadia 323, and in the greater which is called leuuae 255. There are born there Homodubii, that is 'doubtful ones'. They have a human shape to the navel and below that the shape of a donkey, and they have long legs like birds, and a soft voice. If they see or perceive anyone in those lands, they run far off and flee.

  18. Then there is another place with barbarous people, and they have kings under them to the number of 110. They are the worst and most barbarous people, and there are two lakes there, one of the sun and the other of the moon. The suds lake is hot in the day and cold at night, and the moon's lake is hot at night and cold in the day. Their width is in the lesser measurement which is called stadia 200 units and in the greater called leuuae one hundred and thirty-three and a half.

  19. In this place there are kinds of trees which are like laurel and olive. From these trees the most expensive oil, balsam, is wholly produced. The place is in the lesser measurement that is called stadia 151 and in the greater which is called leuuae fifty-one.

  20. Then there is an island in the Red Sea where there is a race of people we call Donestre, who have grown like soothsayers from the head to the navel, and the other part is human. And they know all human speech. When they see someone from a foreign country, they name him and his kinsmen with the names of acquaintances, and with lying words they beguile him and capture him, and after that eat him all up except for the head, and then sit and weep over the head.

  21. Going east from there is a place where people are born who are in size fifteen feet tall and ten broad. They have large heads and ears like fans. They spread one ear beneath them at night, and they wrap themselves with the other. Their ears are very light and their bodies are as white as milk. And if they see or perceive anyone in those lands, they take their ears in their hands and go far and flee, so swiftly one might think that they flew.

  22. Then there is an island on which people are born whose eyes shine as brightly as if one had lit a great lantern on a dark night.

  23. Then there is an island, which is in length and breadth in the lesser measurement that is called stadia 360, and in the greater called leuuae 90. There was built in the days of Belus the king and Jove a temple made from wrought iron and brass. And in the same place there is east from there another temple, sacred to the sun, in which is ordained a fine and gentle priest, and he governs the halls and looks after them.

  24. Then there is a golden vineyard near the rising of the sun which has berries of 150 feet. On them, berries are produced like pearls or jewels.

  25. There is another kingdom in the lands of Babylon where there is found the biggest mountain between the mountain of Media and of Armenia. It is the biggest and highest mountain of all. There are decent people there who have power and dominion over the Red Sea. Precious jewels are produced there.

  26. Around those places there are born women, who have beards down to their breasts, and have made clothes out of horse's hide. They are called great huntresses, and instead of dogs they breed tigers and leopards, that are the fiercest beasts. And they hunt for all the kinds of wild beasts which are born on the mountain.

  27. Then there are other women who have boar's tusks and hair down to their heels and ox-tails on their loins. Those women are thirteen feet tall and their bodies are of the whiteness of marble. And they have camel's feet and boar's teeth. Because of their uncleanness they were killed by Alexander the Great of Macedon. He killed them because he could not capture them alive, because they have offensive and disgusting bodies.

  28. By the ocean is a breed of wild animals that is called Catini, and they are very beautiful animals. And there are people there who live on raw meat and honey.

  29. On the left-hand side of the kingdom in which there are wild animals called Catini, there are hospitable people, kings who have subdued many tyrants. Their boundaries border on the Ocean, and from there, from the left-hand section, there are many kings.

  30. This race of people live for many years, and they are generous people. If anyone visits them they give him a woman before they let him go. When Alexander of Macedon visited them, he was amazed at their humanity, and would not kill them or cause them any harm.

  31. Then there are kinds of tree from which the most precious stones are produced, and upon which they grow.

  32. There is another race of people there of black color to look at, who are called Ethiopians.

  33. Then there is land in which very many vineyards grow, where there is a couch of ivory. It is 306 feet long.

  34. Then there is a mountain called Adamans. On that mountain is the kind of bird which is called a Gryphon. Those birds have four feet and the tail of a cow and the head of an eagle.

  35. In the same place is another kind of bird called Phoenix. They have crests on their heads like peacocks, and they build their nests from the most precious spices, which are called cinnamon; and from its breath, after a thousand years, it kindles a flame, and then rises up young again from the ashes.

  36. Then there is another mountain where there are black people, and no one else can approach those people because the mountain is all aflame.

  37. Here it says how Mambres opened the magical books of his brother Iamnes, and to him were revealed the deep mysteries of his brother's idolatry. The soul of Iamnes answered him with these words: 'Brother, I am dead not unjustly, but rightly and justly am I dead, and God's judgment stands against me because I alone was wiser than all the other sorcerers, and I withstood the two brothers called Moses and Aaron, who performed those great portents and signs. For that reason am I dead, and for this am I brought to the middle kingdom of hell, where there is the great heat of eternal punishment, and where there is the pit of perpetual torment from which no one ever ascends. Now, my brother Mambres, take care that you do well to your children and your friends, because in hell there is nothing good, only misery and darkness; and after you are dead, then you will come to hell, and your dwelling-place will be among the dead, down in the ground, and your pit will be two cubits wide and four cubits long.'

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