Bestiary & Balkinization — A-to-Z Blog Challenge, Literary Terms

BAnother round of A-to-Z Blog Challenge, and we are now on B. Only seems like yesterday I was on A. Yeah I know, lame joke. Today is B and I am doing Bestiary and Balkinization. I’m sure if you’ve played enough video games you’ve heard of the first one, but the second one might come off as “What?”

As always, I will discuss the two topics and then find a way to connect them together. You will decide if I accomplished that or failed with your comments below.

[wdca_ad id=”224″ ]


I have heard many pronunciations for this word. I’ve heard Best-iary, Beast-iary, Bes-iary…

Whatever your preference, it is simply a collection of animals, birds (often seen as different than animals), and some rocks. It was popular in the Middle Ages and often times contained moral lessons on each animal. It was often a book used to show the morals and values of the culture while at the same time detailing known animals. Some bestiary even showcased mythical animals as well. Even being tied to religion such as Christianity.

Much of what was found in these books were believed to be true. Some information were later discovered to be scientifically accurate, though most was conjecture by the authors.

There are many popular ones out there you can use for your story, whether you decide to use an established one or make your own. If you are doing a Fantasy series, might not be a bad idea to create your own.  For an example of a Bestiary, check out Aberdeen Bestiary.

For more info on Bestiary, check out Sara C. Snider’s A to Z Blog Challenge dedicated to Bestiary.


Balkinization is a term used to describe a region or state that breaks itself into smaller regions or states and becomes self sufficient. Often times it is to form their own government and be hostile to its neighbors, but it can be used to create smaller states of a larger whole.

The term originated in the 19th Century, named after the Balkan Peninsula. Originally ruled by the Ottoman Empire, between 1817 – 1912, it went through dramatic changes that shattered the nation and splintered off, to combining together. Check out an example from 1800-2008

As fun as that animation is, it is easy to forget how much death and suffering came due to Balkinization. The Balkans are not the only example of this, another being Germany. By 1871, Germany was one nation, prior to that, it was 39 smaller states. Prior to 1790, it was 360 smaller states.


Despite these rough examples from the Balkans, to Germany, and even the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia; there are elements where this is a positive thing. Such a city having different districts. To an extent, New York can be considered Balkinized, in the fact that there is Chinatown and SoHo.

How does this relate to writing? Often times it is easy for writers to design a land that has one ruler and everyone follows that one ruler. There are examples of this kind of government, but it is not the only option. Having a land that is separated into smaller states, such as regions or Providences can work to your advantage. Allowing Dukes or Governors the ability to control a section of land for their own needs while still obeying the needs of the King and Country.

Bestiary & Balkinization

We are essentially talking about two different things here, one being a book on animals (and some rocks) and another talking about the division of people. Yet, there is a common thread here…culture. Culture, in its easiest form is people. People in the views of their Values, Morals, Artifacts, Conventions, and Institutions.

Often times we want to be around people like ourselves and in that group grow xenophobic in how we treat others outside our group. In culture, we need ways to teach our way of thinking. Books are often a good way of doing that, but places like church are good ways of seeing people of our community and see how they act, and to hear their viewpoints.

When designing your culture, take these elements into consideration. Perhaps your Kingdom or futuristic world has but one higher government but there are smaller states that take care of themselves. But how do they view the world around them? Perhaps there are types of books they have to help them.


  1. Hey Chris, thanks for the shout out! And I laughed at your lame joke, but then I’m pretty lame that way as well. 😉

    Cool post. I didn’t know that bestiaries could include rocks (who knew?), and I didn’t know about Balkinization. You explained it nicely, and brought the two together nicely as well. It is all about culture (i.e. people) But then, if you really get down to it, I suppose most thing in life are–at least as far as humans are concerned.

    • mad_cat says:

      You comment makes me think of the film Soylent Green. “HUMAN BEING IS PEOPLE!!!”

      I wanted to tell you when I first learned of your theme, but I didn’t want to ruin the surprise of my blog post. I’m glad that I could still teach you something 🙂

      Thank you for your comment.

  2. cSzinegh says:

    Wow, you weren’t kidding about the complicated part! This must be taking you a lot of research! Kudos, these are super informative. As a word nerd, I am stoked!

  3. Fayth says:

    Great post 🙂 I liked the background and information on both, and especially liked your links. It’s true too, it’s great to see stuff that’s ‘useful’ for writers.

    • mad_cat says:

      Thank you for the reply. There is a lot of research that goes into this. Originally I was going to do Bestiary and Bow wow theory. Bow wow theory is the unsupported claim that human language derived from mimicking animal sounds, but I couldn’t get a whole lot of information on it.

  4. sdneeve1 says:

    Okay, so I’m the dim one. I hadn’t heard of either! So I’m walking away with my head lowered in shame. Great post, and thanks for the new words. 😉

    • mad_cat says:

      Don’t be shamed. This is a place of learning, and a chance to expand your mind. I find great honor in being able to teach and reach out to people. It is a great compliment.

      Thank you

  5. Sonia Lal says:

    Great post, loved the links. And I have to say, as far NYC goes, a better example balkanization is Manhattan and the outer boroughs. Its almost like the outer boroughs aren’t part of the city.

    • mad_cat says:

      I’ll take your word for it about Manhattan. I’ve only been once, and not quite sure which borough it was. But based on your description, I would agree with you.

      Thank you.

      • Sonia Lal says:

        It was likely Manhattan. Most visitors never leave Manhattan. Not that you have to. Most attractions are in the city anyway. A lot of people wouldn’t recognize the outer boroughs as part of NYC. And I don’t think anyone actually think of them as part of the city.

%d bloggers like this: