The Open UniversitySkip to content

A wonderfull monster borne in Germany’: hairy girls in medieval and early modern German book, court and performance culture

Katritzky, M. A. (2014). A wonderfull monster borne in Germany’: hairy girls in medieval and early modern German book, court and performance culture. German Life and Letters, 67(4) pp. 467–480.

Full text available as:
PDF (Version of Record) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (109kB) | Preview
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


Human hirsuteness, or pathological hair growth, can be symptomatic of various conditions, including genetic mutation or inheritance, and some cancers and hormonal disturbances. Modern investigations into hirsuteness were initiated by nineteenth-century German physicians. Most early modern European cases of hypertrichosis (genetically determined all-over body and facial hair) involve German-speaking parentage or patronage, and are documented in German print culture. Through the Wild Man tradition, modern historians routinely link early modern reception of historical hypertrichosis cases to issues of ethnicity without, however, recognising early modern awareness of links between temporary hirsuteness and the pathological nexus of starvation and anorexia. Here, four cases of hirsute females are reconsidered with reference to this medical perspective, and to texts and images uncovered by my current research at the Herzog August Library and German archives. One concerns an Italian girl taken to Prague in 1355 by the Holy Roman Empress, Anna von Schweidnitz. Another focuses on Madeleine and Antonietta Gonzalez, daughters of the ‘Wild Man’ of Tenerife, documented at German courts in the 1580s. The third and fourth cases consider the medieval bearded Sankt Kümmernis (also known as St Wilgefortis or St Uncumber), and the seventeenth-century Bavarian fairground performer Barbara Urslerin.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2014 The Author
ISSN: 1468-0483
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
A New Approach To Assessing The Influence Of Congenital And Acquired Hypertrichosis On The Development And Early Modern Reception Of The Wild Man Tradition103303/Z/13/ZWellcome Trust
Extra Information: Special issue: The feminine in German culture: a special issue in honour of Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Arts and Humanities > English & Creative Writing
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Arts and Humanities
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Research Group: History of Books and Reading (HOBAR)
Item ID: 41016
Depositing User: M. A. Katritzky
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2014 08:55
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2019 01:21
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU