The chapter on India in “St. John Mandeville: The Book of Marvels and Travels” was unlike any of the ones before. It was very much a hodge-podge of lots of different pieces of information thrown together. The author began the chapter introducing India ‘s different parts, then immediately dove into a lengthy discussion of the diamonds that could be found in the country. He talked about where they were, what kinds, what they mean, what they do, how to carry them, etc. After diamonds, he talks about the geography of the land of India, then spends almost the rest of the chapter listing the many islands. The author talks about what these islands look like and what the people who live there are like, especially in their religious ways and who the ruler is. In the middle of the list of islands he breaks to talk about stars and the location of countries on the earth. According to him, Jerusalem is in the center of the world with England and India on either side. He says that a traveler can circle the world and end up back in the country he started in, then jumps back into a discussion of the islands. His information gets more and more fantastical as the chapter progresses, going from stating the different ways the people of each island kill and eat each other to talking about islands on which men have one eye in the middle of their forehead, or dog’s heads, or no head at all.


In all of the crazy information presented about India and its islands, it is hard to find a common thread besides the fact that most of it just seems made up. However, looking at the elements that he spends the most time on reveals the author’s bias towards the normal, lower class people of India. Proportionally, he talks at length about the diamonds and the geography of the world and very little about each individual island and its inhabitants. Despite not spending much time on them, however, the author makes huge generalizations about the peoples who live on each island. Most of the information he includes about the non-fantastical people is how they eat and kill each other, and this information is in much smaller paragraphs. He repeatedly calls them evil, says they worship a “fake-god”, says they have “horrible customs” and calls them ‘unintelligent” etc. The author only has good words for the kings of each place, and the cities themselves, and, of course, the diamonds.


There could be twofold reasoning for the author’s harsh words about the common people of India. First, he could simply be incredibly racist and not care about the “normal” people enough to learn the real facts, or to include other information besides what he thinks is true. Or he could honestly have just made most of the entire chapter up. I think the truth is probably a little bit of both. As well, the escalation of fantasy at the end, especially the inclusion of the fantastical creatures like cyclopes and people with dog heads, lends to the probability that the entire thing is from his imagination.