Pilgrim’s Prize (Pt.15): The Pardoner’s Tale (Chaucer Journal)
One of Chaucer’s more interesting tales, The Pardoner’s Tale is told by a con man. The Pardoner, being a money-grubbing sexual deviant of unknown qualities, attempts to sell people bogus artifacts with dubious blessings bestowed upon them. Naturally, he is not well liked among his Pilgrim peers.
His story, then, reflects some of this animosity by depicting the story of three men. While in town, they hear that Death came to the town over and slaughtered everyone in the village. These men, being young and strong, decide to test themselves against this might; so, they quickly jot over to the town, but they find no Death. They do, however, find a gleaming chest full of treasure.
By this point, you will well imagine that these men are scheming how to gain a goodly portion of the treasure for themselves without letting the others have some of that sweet, sweet gold. Naturally, they devise plans to kill one another. Schemes within schemes, they all wind up dead. Hence, Death is merely a metaphor for the sin of greed.
The Pardoner’s Tale is one of Chaucer’s best-written tales. Concise, thematic, as well as morally straightforward, which reflects a morality of its own considering the Pardoner’s sexual characteristics, it is a heavily scrutinized tale. All the more intriguing considering that this is, remember, the middle ages where depictions of Queer people are thought to be non-existent, Chaucer’s tale throws this ambiguity into disarray.
So, a modern tale-teller has their work cut out for them.
“Gael” is our contestant this time around and they have chosen to regale us with a poetic adaptation. Much like the adaptation of the Franklin’s Tale, this entry foregoes any stringent wrangling of the medium and opts merely for a blow-by-blow recontextualization. Much like the Franklin adaptation, the text is used wholly here, except for a single image denoting the three young ruffians of the tale’s concern and the tower in which they find “death”, here encased not as a treasure chest, but as a duffel bag filled with money.
Smartly, Gael redefines the parameters of the tale. Switching things around to the “lumpen”, the criminal element is an obvious strength of the tale. The bigger strong point in the tale is the masterful use of language. The tale is vulgar, modern, and relatable to anyone who has seen a “gangster” movie within living memory. One can tell that Gael is a talented writer and that significant time was taken to render this adaptation.
AS such, I found myself liking this tale immensely. It displays creativity, effort, and talent within a well-thought out and smoothly executed framework. The violent apathy of Chaucer has redefined aptly; truly, if a modern Chaucer-copycat were to exist, then Gael here would be the first choice among few to fit such an honor.
I give this tale a 7.5/10. I would have given it higher praise but I could not ignore the fact that the tale is merely a redefinition instead of a modern adaptation in the sense that it uses technology in new and unique ways. Much better than the Franklin’s Tale but still merely a repetition.