Snail Fridays

Medieval books of hours always featured sections – flourishes – that didn’t contain the devotional prayers to be said at the canonical hours. In these miniature drawings, which in technical jargon were called “Marginalia”, the illuminators would let their imagination run free. One of the strangest and most popular drawings of this kind depicts a knight in combat with a snail; and what is even more peculiar is that it wasn’t the latter who was shown to be losing the duel. This has given rise to a myriad interpretations: could it have been a warning to beware of garden parasites or of social climbers? Or did it allude to the hopelessness of a war waged by the poor against the rich, or perhaps against the Lombards? According to scholars, the snail symbol is far too slimy to have just one possible and irrefutable meaning.

In informatics a symbol resembling a snail (and which is called precisely that in Italian) represents connection, although it did in fact originate in ledgers where it meant that items were being sold/bought “each at the price of”. Come to think of it, it’s a symbol that is particularly apt for the month of November with its Black Friday and shopping frenzy.

Do we feel a bit like Sir Lancelot jousting against a mad cyborg and will we, like our ancestors, lose both the tournament and our common sense? Our guess is that no one will be able to resist the enticing snail price and there’ll be the usual rush to grab a bargain, even if only a pair of socks in the same colour as granny’s wallpaper. You can bet your little cotton socks that’s exactly what’s going to happen…