English Literature – The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ by Geoffrey Chaucer

The use of animals in the narratives ‘The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ by Geoffrey Chaucer and ‘The Company of Wolves’ by Angela Carter allows the reader to further understand the meaning that the composer has created within the text. ‘The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ is an example of Chaucer testing the bounds of a beast fable genre. Beast fable is a tale where ‘animals are used as embodiments or caricatures of human virtues, vices, prudence’s, and follies … and other typical qualities of mankind.’ (Coghill & Tolkien 12). ‘The Company of Wolves’ is the reconstruction of the folktale Little Red Riding Hood. The female character in the narrative ends up in the wolf’s arms instead of his stomach contradictory to the fairy tale which challenges the narrative of masculine desire. With these examples we can clearly see the animal influence within these texts.

Geoffrey Chaucer was an English author who wrote many works, he is best remembered for his frame narrative The Canterbury Tales. ‘The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’ is a part of The Cantebury Tales which tells a tale of an old woman who had a small farm in which she kept animals, including a rooster named Chantecleer. Chantecleer had seven hens as his companions, the most honored of which was Pertelote. ‘Chantecleer does indeed represent abstarct ideas – and represents them in a way the is subtle, changing and often ironic – Chantecleer himself never becomes a mere abstraction. He is a very engaging creation in a very real world’ ( Stephen Coote 52). The idea of a rooster being able to hold such qualities those of human beings, reinforces Chaucer’s poem as a ‘particlar form of comic wisdom’ (Coote 33), through the use of barnyard animals. The poem begins with the romance between Chantecleer and Pertelote. Romance being a genre usually featuring noble knights and their ladies, evokes the comical view of such heroic traditions with the use of animals. Chantecleer’s first introduction is that ‘In all the land, at crowing he’d no peer’ (Geoffrey Chaucer 203). In this context, the description of Chantecleer evokes humor at the heroic traditions of that time on two counts. One is that ‘crowing’ (203) is not a heroic form and secondly that it is not particularly surprising that he does it well seeing as though he is a rooster, and that it is naturally what they do. The rooster is then described from his ‘comb’ (203) right down to his ‘nails’ with the colours of flowers and jewels. This is very strange when it is applied to Chantecleer, as this method is usually employed when describing a beautiful woman. Ironically this description of Chantecleer fits perfectly, reminding us of the swaggering beauty of this animal.

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