Pilgrim’s Prize (Pt.9): The Summoner’s Tale (Chaucer Journal)

Remember the Friar’s tale? Well, The Summoner’s Tale is pretty much a re-telling of that except with more rude humor.

Enter, again, a friar whose job it is to pray for people. In exchange for money, that is. He goes door to door trying to help alive his poverty. One day, he goes to the house of one couple plagued by sickness. They are confused because they had previously paid for a different friar to pray for them. Obviously, with sickness still ravishing them, they are none too pleased with another friar showing up claiming to offer the exact same services. Finally, after much persuading, the husband, Thomas, says that he will pay the friar but only if he comes and reaches down his backside to receive it and swear to share said prize with his brothers. Okay. Nothing odd here, so the friar reaches down and Thomas lets out a huge fart. Classic. After this, the friar runs back to his monastery and the short of the matter is, he is tied to a wheel and spun around as his twelve brothers kneel and pray as the friar farts on them. The end.

Obviously, Chaucer firmly believes that all friars are corrupted and immoral. Whether or not this was the case I will have to leave it be for lack of research, but two tales now depict churchmen in less than holy situations. If the next tale does not feature a healthy criticism of the church, I will be disappointed.

“Seb Poena”, our modern tale-teller for this installment, decides to use comics; so far, I am intrigued as this medium is something which has not yet been attempted in previous tales.

Poena keeps things simple. Instead of a friar, we have a motivational speaker, one of those con-mans who tricks you into handing over sums of money for what’s essentially a pep talk. The promise of divine blessing is replaced with life improvement and a humble sick man with a humble poor man. Simple translations which work well.

The comic itself is not noteworthy. Black and white, the comic is closer to what one sees online for memes on Facebook, of the sort like Sarah’s Scribbles or Oh No. Each image is relatively self-contained, contains an amusing reference, but then leads to a conclusion which brings the whole comic together. Although some people may find this style distracting or even lazy, I found it to be fine. Art can be rich in more ways than one, after all.

As an adaptation, I think this effectively engages the reader and translates the medieval into the modern. In short, snappy. I would give it an 8/10.

Link: http://www.pilgrimliterary.com/blog/2015/7/26/seb-poenas-tale


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