Friday, April 19, 2013

A-Z: "Q" is for "Elf Queen" in Sir Thopas & The Melibee Tale

A-Z: "Q" is for "Elf Queen" in one of the Canterbury Tales called Sir Thopas. I had to reach for a Q today but it's still on point with my theme. Additionally, I will feature The Tale of Melibee as these tales go hand and hand. 

In these two tales, Chaucer takes stage as a character on the pilgrimage to Thomas Becket's shrine. The Host goads him to tell his own tale and so he begins with Sir Thopas. Our main character, Thopas, is a successful hunter who is hunting in the forest where he becomes bewitched by the forest sounds and eventually uncovers a hidden place. He dreams of an elf-queen and declares she shall be his because the real would doesn't have a woman that's good enough for him. He meets a great giant called Sir Oliphant. They fight as Oliphant is protecting the the queen of Faery until Thopas retreats back to his home. Yeah well that's were it pretty much ends. It had so much promise and then the Host interrupts and complains how terrible Chaucer's tale is.  What?

From here in The Canterbury Tales the Melibee Prologue begins. The host is annoyed with Chaucer's tale telling. See here from verses 1-6:

1  No more of this, for God's high dignity!
2  Exclaimed our host, For you, sir, do make me
3  So weary with your vulgar foolishness
4  That, as may God so truly my soul bless,
5  My two ears ache from all your worthless speech;
6  Now may such rhymes the devil have, and each!
Apparently, the story tellers needed to rhyme their tales.  I don't recall studying this originally.  Does anyone else?  A rapper's dream, back then, huh?  I wonder what Chaucer would think of rap music today?  Moving forward, Chaucer stands chastened and begs to tell a different story, a prose one about a man named Melibee.

The Melibee Tale is about a man of good fortune who is married with a family discovers he's been robbed, his wife beaten and his daughter nearly left for dead.  Outraged by the deed, he beseeches counsel from reputable men in his community.  They each give him advice, some good some bad.  The dilemma for Melibee is should he go to war with the people that did this and seek ultimate revenge for their evil deeds or should he choose a different approach, a peaceful one.  You'll have to forgive me because this tale just lost me.  I literally had no interest while reading it but I think that was the point of Chaucer to bore his readers.  The joke was a funny one since the tale was filled with so many quotes from scripture it was nauseating.  Poor Melibee was incapable of independent thinking.  It was sad really.  In the end the tale finished with an Amen and I wanted to scream Hallelujah.  I would have taken the elf-queen story ten times over rather than read that sanctimonious drivel.  I wish Chaucer would have finished Thopas, but then again, I prefer the supernatural.  :)

Have you read the either of these tales?  Do you recall either one?  

Fridays with Fred & Healthy Writers Club
On another note, Fred is doing well and slowly or reluctantly adjusting to Spike.  Look for his return posts after A-Z.  And the same goes for Healthy Writers Club.  

Have a great Friday!

Mina B.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So we never find out how the first tale ends?

S. L. Hennessy said...

I seriously disagree with the Host. That was an awesome story before he interrupted it. Jerk.

Crystal Collier said...

That's some writerly snark for you. ;) I tell you, Chaucer was a genius.

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

I actually didn't care too much for Chaucer, but you blogging about his work has got me intrigued to re-read some of this.

mshatch said...

Darn, I was hoping for an interesting ending!

Ciara said...

I did a queen for Q, too. Of course, mine was the Kantian Queen. Great post.