Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A-Z: "O" is for Oswald the Reeve from Canterbury Tales

"O" I can't believe I've made it this far.  It's the A-Z challenge, guys and "O" is for "Oswald," the Reeve/Steward in The Canterbury Tales.  In the prologue before the tale, we learn Oswald is bitter about the nasty tale that the Miller told.  See my posts Part 1 & Part 2 if you want a recap.  It appears The Reeve used to be a carpenter and since The Miller's tale centered around the blundering carpenter named John, then Oswald swore he would tell a better tale about a Miller.  According to Oswald, Millers are usually drunken cheats so straight away, we know Chaucer is about to deliver a doozy on behalf of our inebriated Miller.
In a town there is a Miller that has a wife and a little son and young, not-so-lovely daughter.  He's known in his lands to cheat his customers of grain and two young scholars, Allan and John, promise to outsmart Simkin, the Miller. They bring grain to be milled to Simkin who immediately deciphers their MO.  He decides to outsmart them in return and slips away unnoticed while the two young men keep a watchful eye on the milling process.  Simkin releases their horse to the fields and when the men's grain is finished, they discover their horse is gone.  Both men abandon the original grain-observing mission to scour the countryside for the horse.  After capturing the horse it's night and Simkin let's the young men stay the night for a price.  The home is very small and so everyone sleeps in the same room.  Disgruntled by being screwed by the miller, Allan decides to screw Simkin's daughter and slips in her bed.  John ends up doing the same but with his wife and when dawn comes, you can imagine what a scene that was.  Here's the end of the Reeve's revengeful tale (verses 396-404) where the Reeve gets his final word:

396  Of Alain, and of John, who've tricked him well.
397  His wife is taken, also his daughter sweet;
398  Thus it befalls a miller who's a cheat.
399  And therefore is this proverb said with truth,
400  An evil end to evil man, forsooth.
401  The cheater shall himself well cheated be.
402  And God, Who sits on high in majesty,
403  Save all this company, both strong and frail!
404  Thus have I paid this miller with my tale.

Don't you love how the personalities of the pilgrims like Oswald (the Reeve,) come out in their tale-telling?  Okay, we get it, Oswald.  You don't like the Miller.  

Mina B.

13 comments:

Mark Means said...

I'm actually learning a lot by reading your posts, Mina...thanks for sharing :)

It almost makes me want to read the Tales...almost :)

Jocelyn Rish said...

With all that activity going on in one room, the Miller must have been a very heavy sleeper. :-)

Laura said...

Haha I remember reading this one, very funny!

J. A. Bennett said...

I love how you're spelling this all out, really makes me want to read Chaucer!

S. L. Hennessy said...

That's a lot of "revenge" going on in one household.

Crystal Collier said...

That's one of the reasons the Canterbury Tales are so timeless and so amazing. The characterization in theme is phenomenal--which you wouldn't think was possible in such an antiquated means of story telling. LOVE that book.

Dani said...

I think I'm going to read these. I don't know why I have never before.

mshatch said...

Except the miller wasn't really the one who suffered for his cheating ways, instead it was his daughter and wife. A better revenge would've been for the cheat to be exposed - imo. Nevertheless, I am going to acquire this tale!

Gwen Gardner said...

HaHa! It sounds like A Midsummer's Night Dream! Too hilarious :)

The Golden Eagle said...

I remember that tale. Chaucer wrote some interesting stories!

Nick Wilford said...

A pretty thick soup of revenge!

Cynthia said...

A previous poster alluded to this...but perhaps it would've been fair if it was the miller who paid for his dishonesty, not his family.

Medeia Sharif said...

I loved the different personalities in The Canterbury Tales.