Cynocephali in the Caribbean: An English Translation

Translation of Lorenz Fries, Uselegung der mercarthen oder carta marina, Strasbourg: Johannes Grieninger, 1525, leaf XVI

Unknown Artist, ‘Cannibals on the Caribbean Island’, in Lorenz Fries, Uslegung der Mercarthen oder Carta Marina, Strasbourg: Johannes Grüninger 1525, leaf XVI,
Woodcut, handcolouring, 10.5 x 14.4 cm,
Rhode Island, Archive of Early American Images, The John Carter Brown Library, Brown University. ©John Carter Brown Library, Box 1894, Brown University, Providence, R.I. 02912.

Cannibals are a grim, slit-eyed people; dog-heads sit right on their heads, so that one gets scared when one looks at them. And they have an island which Christoffel Dauber of Janua [Christopher Columbus] recently discovered. This island is very large and has a lot of other islands around it. The cannibals all go naked except that they adorn themselves with parrot feathers of all kinds of colours, strangely woven together. Their houses are upright standing pieces of wood and covered with palm leaves on top. These people prefer most of all to eat human flesh, and therefore, often in the year they go to surrounding islands in order to capture people. And they grab boys, beef them up all the hours the way we do it to camels, so that they will become fat and strong and all the better for being eaten. They kill the old ones and eat their entrails. They hang up the other meat the way we do with pork. But if they grab women, if these are young, then they keep them, so that they make a lot of children, just the way we do with hens on account of the eggs. If they are old, then they keep them as prisoners for their service and work. Besides that they also eat geese, ducks, and parrots, which are very large and pretty; they keep them in their forests.

Translation by Gerda Dinwiddie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s