An Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds is the first English verse translation of the Greek satirical poem Diegesis Paidiophrastos ton Zoon ton Tetrapodon. Written by an anonymous author in fourteenth-century Byzantium, this vernacular allegorical poem has long been recognized as a unique document, one that appears to have originated independently of comparable works in other traditions. A medieval Animal Farm, the story describes a convention of animals in which each beast vaunts its uses to humanity while denigrating others, resulting in a cataclysmic battle. The authors provide extensive textual analysis and notes on the form, style, and context of the poem.
Nicholas and Baloglou have here produced a thorough study of a 14th-century 'popular' Byzantine poem concerning an assembly of herbivores and carnivores at the behest of King Lion.... Reproductions of the drawings from the one illustrated manuscript of the tale are provided, along with textual notes, six appendixes, an extensive bibliography, and an index of Greek words... Clearly a labor of love.
The interest of this work is the insights it provides into various aspects of the life of the time....The introduction and commentary to the translation are both substantial and extensively researched, and would be a great resource for someone wishing to follow up any of these areas.... a good read for those interested in the popular culture and daily life of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Both authors have a vision and an unequivocal perspective, which they have followed from the first page to the last: bringing a modern interested reader close to a mediaeval poem. They do this with a breath of fresh air, which blows away the traditional philologists' dust.
An Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds definitely belongs in university libraries and could be used as a textbook in courses on Byzantine Greek literature and late medieval writing in generalin spite of a certain repetitiousness.