Imagine a dreamland on earth where roasted pigs toddle about with knives in their backs to make carving easy; where grilled geese fly directly into one's open mouth; where cooked fish jump out of the water at one's feet. The weather is always temperate, the wine flows freely, sex is readily available, and all stay forever young.;Such is Cockaigne. Portrayed in legend, oral history and art, this imaginary land became the most pervasive collective dream of medieval times - an earthly paradise to counter the suffering and frustration of daily existence and to quell anxieties over an ever-more-exclusive heavenly afterlife.;Illustrated with artwork from the Middle Ages, Herman Pleij's "Dreaming of Cockaigne" is a spirited account of this "lost paradise" and the world that brought it to life. Pleij takes three important texts as his starting point for an inspired sketch of the panorama of ideas, dreams, popular religion and literary and artistic creation present in the late Middle Ages. What emerges is a differentiated picture of the era, formed and fitted with details from across Europe and from Asia and America, as well.;Pleij draws upon his command of medieval European literature, art, history and folklore to describe the fantasies that dominated stories of Cockaigne, and how they correlate with the central obsessions of medieval life. For instance, the almost grotesque focus on vast quantities of food - the very dwellings people envisaged in the mythic land were made of meat, fish and pastry - illustrates how, in the Middle Ages, fears of hunger were dispelled by conjuring up images of food in mind-boggling quantity and variety. Fantasies of Cockaigne have also cast their shadow beyond the medieval period: Pleij notes their influence on such disparate figures as Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and even Laurel and Hardy.;As a myth, Cockaigne allowed an escape from the harsh reality of mundane existence, and stories about it were often presented as ironic descriptions of journeys, satires or pseudodidactic poems. A shrewd explorer of the dreams of the Middle Ages, Pleij introduces the effervescent world behind these texts.