Pilgrim’s Prize (Pt.20): The Nun’s Priest Tale (Chaucer Journal)
A rooster. This is what the Nun’s Priest Tale is about—a bird couple.
The short of it is this: the (male) rooster has a dream. In it, he dreams of a fearsome beast with blood on its brow. Since he is a rooster and fairly attuned to the many things which can kill him, he is terrified of this dream and wakes up clucking (screaming?). His rooster wife, though (ain’t that heteronormativity for ya?) thinks it is just vapors from digestion and quotes philosophers at him; the male rooster responds that Biblically speaking, there have been many instances of dreams heralding bad events. Signs from God, essentially.
Well, the following morning, the roosters go out and do their rooster-y thing. That is until a fox comes around and wishes to hear the male rooster sing (stranger danger, much?). Since this fox has a silver tongue, the male rooster is eventually convinced to start singing; at that moment, though, the fox snaps his jaws around the rooster and tries to run away to eat him. Well, luckily for the rooster, the humans chase away the fox and said rooster protagonist can live another day; like all men, then, he proceeds to heckle his wife for daring to doubt his judgment. The end.
As a story, it is a departure from Chaucer’s usual fixation on human protagonists. As a cross between a fairy tale and a Biblical lesson wrapped in his usual sexist theism, it is an odd duck out. It is refreshing to see animal protagonists but hard to appreciate it when, well, all of it is so worn.
Whatever my opinions are, though, this at least provides our modern tale-teller with an ample amount of material to work with; so, what does “Mike Priest” do? Well, a radio drama, of course, what else?
Enter the “O.K. Cockerel”, a fun play on the “O.K Corral” from the wild west.
Priest’s adaptation is well-done. It is told in rhyming meter and more or less reproduces Chaucer’s tale, except instead of roosters and hens we have humans; instead of dreams we have visions from God, and instead of foxes we have bandits. Priest does the characters himself yet he manages to imbue them with some talented acting since he is able to stress his voice surprisingly well for a non-professional actor. As a re-imagining of Chaucer’s story, a wild west setting feels appropriate since the dialectic between foxes and livestock is a well-known contradiction; the wild chase feels at home as a wild fight.
Even so, we have seen radio dramas before in this project, more than once if I am not mistaken. A Clear effort was put into this adaptation—the writing is top notch as it the voice acting, but the actual medium has been done before; though the concept is original, I would have preferred to see something other than another radio drama. And, additionally, though it is a minor gripe, I would have liked to see more uniqueness put into the concept of a wild west re-interpretation; as it stands now, the setting is unique for Pilgrim Literary but it is by the books as far as Westerns go.
In all, this was a great effort with a solid product to show. I give this a 7.5/10.