Bigorne and Chichevache

Bigorne and Chichevache were two medieval monsters who, very much like Jack Sprat and his wife, lived on contrasting diets. Bigorne was said to subsist on a diet of faithful men, whilst Chichevache ate only faithful women. Naturally with an abundance of faithful men to feed upon Bigorne grew very fat, whilst Chichevache grew very thin on the meagre pickings that were available to her. The two monsters appear to be of French origin; Bigorne, or Bicorne as he is sometimes known, is French for two-horned, the traditional symbol of the cuckold, and indeed some accounts relate that the monster is said to have fed on cuckolded husbands, which were also regarded as being in plentiful supply; whilst although chichevache is French for thin cow, this is in fact a corruption of chichefache or chicheface which means thin face, reflecting the starved appearance of the poor creature condemned to perpetual hunger.

From France the monsters made their way across the Channel; Geoffrey Chaucer cites Chichevache in The Clerks tale, whilst the early fifteenth century poet John Lydgate is believed to be the author of the satiric poem Bycorne and Chychevache. Commissioned by a werthy citeseyn of London as the devise of a peynted or desteyned clothe for an halle a parlour or a chaumbre, the work features a Chychevache who is but skyn and boon as she will not ete on see nor lande, But paycent wyves, contrasted with hir husbande Bycorne who is full fatte and rounde.

At Carlisle Cathedral there is a misericord showing the two monsters with Bigorne depicted in the act of devouring a faithful husband and similar representations are to be found at the cathedrals of St Davids, Gloucester, Southwark and at the Church of St Agnes at Cawston in Norfolk. One can only surmise that the deeds of Bigorne and Chichevache were a favourite topic for medieval sermonising.
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[Monsters introduced in Last Order, volume 13, Sans Angel, page 42; information located by crazyankan]

Added by Cailon:
Bicorne is also a hat-form. We can see that Bigorne’s head is shaped a bit like this hat. Also, the hat is associated with Napoleon (another connection to France).
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In the end, the two monsters were not defeated, but digested. They were exceptionally mighty, but yet only fodder for Alduína.

__===Added by marie-lucie
In late 18th century Europe there was a fashionable hat called _tricorne, "three-horn(ed)" which you can see on pictures of both British and French soldiers of the period, among others. The "horns" were formed by rolling up the brim in three places. After the French revolution the fashion changed to the _bicorne_, "two-horn(ed)": this hat had a very wide brim, which was folded up against the similarly flattened crown (this made it convenient to carry it flat when not actually worn). When placed on the head, the ends pointed to the sides, horizontally or slightly downwards. Napoleon was then at the beginning of his career. The hat is associated with him because he is the best-known and most widely painted of the many men who wore this hat.

Except for the name, which referred to its shape, the _bicorne_ had nothing to do with the medieval legend of the two cows.
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Page last modified on Wednesday December 12, 2012 18:52:21 UTC by anonymous. (Version 2)