Pilgrim’s Prize (Pt.8): The Friar’s Tale (Chaucer Journal)
Now it is time for a change of pace. Let’s brush away the awkward heteronormativity of the past and embrace something else, something like… moral lessons on money and extortion. Yeah.
Chaucer’s The Friar’s Tale is one of a summoner, someone who works for the church and summons wrongdoers to stand-trial for their wrongdoings. Thing is, this summoner is an extortionist who charges people with false sins and then demands that he pay them for the charge to be erased. One day, though, he meets another young extortionist; the two pledge loyalty to one another, like a twisted kindergarten friendship before the summoner learns that his newly found friend is actually a fiend from Hell! Spooky. But, our summoner is unphased and the pair go scam hunting. While hunting, the summoner tries to extort money from a little old lady but the lady curses the summoner to Hell. Since the summoner had recently pledged himself to the fiend, the demon is obligated to drag the summoner to Hell. The end.
In all, it is a nice god-fearing tale any Catholic or even Protestant should feel at home in reading to their young. In fact, it is almost quaint.
How would one re-enact this tale, then? As far as our Pilgrim Literary contestant is concerned, it is through tweets; enter Hugh Fryer’s (ugh) tale!
Per the norm, the tale is re-told but with a modern aesthetic. Fryer tells his tale as a bystander looking on as he watches some shady business unfold. In this scenario, the summoner is a repo man, an occupation crooked even at the best of times. The devil in disguise is an unnamed mysterious stranger. From here, the tale, more or less, unfolds as it does according to Chaucer; instead of being dragged to Hell, though, the repo man is kidnapped by mafia thugs. Even the mid-story interruption by another tale-teller is represented thanks to conflicting tweets from another account, a clever way to represent inter-textual conflict.
My response to “Hugh’s” tale is indifferent. I think it was clever of them to use tweets in the way that they did; the storyline, when read, had a voyeuristic element that Chaucer’s original lacked. Really, it was a fusion of thriller and suspense. So, there is a lot to praise. Yet, the tale was also repetitive; reading nothing but tweets can get monotonous. I cannot hold this element of the tale against it since many stories are told through nothing but text—like the Harry Potter based fan-fiction—but it still was something I didn’t think highly of all the same.
But, it was original. So I will gladly give this tale a 7/10.
Summary Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIgU37jJtJs