Some of you might recall me complaining about this Chaucer project I was assigned. I am pleased to say that I completed it over the weekend, so I thought I might share it with you so you finally know why I’ve been complaining so much. 😀
I’m not going to bore you with the report that went with this, but there was a six page report that went with this. The assignment was to choose a tale, adapt it to fit within the major themes of the Canterbury Tales, write a Prologue to the tale to insert the new tale, and finish with an Epilogue to transition out of it. I decided to give the tale to the Yeoman to tell, he tells his tale after the Cook’s tale (which, coincidentally, is my favorite), and I’ve modified the tale so that it addresses the Knight’s tale, the Miller’s tale, the Reeve’s tale, and the Wife of Bath’s tale. And because I am a serious overachiever, I wrote the tale in iambic pentameter and in heroic couplets to mimic the construction of the Canterbury Tales. The tale I chose was The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Anderson.
“Well wasn’t that an interesting tale,”
The Host said as they went upon the trail
“But I had more to say,” the cook replied
“We haven’t time for more,” the Host then lied,
“We must continue on to someone new.
Good Yeoman, we have not yet heard from you.
Is there a tale that you could tell us now
To adequately quit these folks somehow?”
“I do believe there is one I could tell,
And if it’s bad then may I rot in Hell.”
Here begins the Yeoman’s tale:
A soldier marching home along the road
And burdened he was under such a load
As was his knapsack and his sharpened sword
He walked because it’s all he could afford.
Along the way he met a frightful witch
Who said, “Good Sir, would you like to be rich?
There is a place inside this hollow tree
That no one knows. It’s known only to me,
And deep inside there sits atop a chest
A dog with teacup eyes, and there he rests.
But do not worry, Sir. He’ll cause no harm.
He’ll give no cause for you to be alarmed.
I give to you this apron checked with blue
And tell you to the dot what you must do.
First, spread the apron out upon the ground
And take the dog off of the chest you’ve found
And place him on the apron, he’ll sit still,
And will not move while you your pockets fill.
Be warned this chest holds only copper here
But if you want for silver, never fear
For in the second room you’ll find inside
A chest, and on its lid there will reside
A dog with eyes like plates, but as before
Spread out the apron, lay it on the floor
And set the dog atop it, he’ll not twitch.”
And so the soldier listened to the witch
And heard her tell of gold coins he could take
If either of those coins he would forsake.
And place the last dog with the grandest eyes
–The largest towers could not match their size!—
Upon her blue checked apron on the ground
And fill his pockets with the coins he found.
“I’ll do it,” said the soldier, “but one thing—
How many of the coins am I to bring
And give to you? What constitutes your share?”
The witch just laughed and said, “I have no care
For gold and silver coins inside a tree.
There is one thing that you may bring to me.
A tinderbox. That’s all I’ll ask of you.
And if you bring it to me, we’ll be through,
But you must make this promise, swear this vow.”
“I’ll do this thing for you and do it now,”
He swore and wound some rope around his waist.
He climbed the tree and dropped inside with haste
And found the chamber doors as she foretold
And grabbed all of the coins that he could hold.
The soldier filled his pockets to the brim
And grabbed the tinderbox to take with him
He climbed out of the tree and found the crone
Waiting for him silently alone.
He asked, “What do you plan to do with this?”
She only waved her hand as to dismiss
The question that he had no right to ask
Since he agreed to do for her this task.
“Give me the box,” said she. “You made a deal.”
“You’ll answer what I ask, or else you’ll feel
My sword. Now answer what I want to know.”
“You give to me what you brought from below.”
His answer was to cut away her head
He took the box, the coins, and went ahead
To walk the road until he came to town.
He found a place to put his burdens down
Inside an inn where he could take his rest
With clothes and food, he only bought the best.
He purchased lavish fabrics, gifts, and more,
And always had a gold piece for the poor.
He heard about a princess in her tower
As delicate and pretty as a flower.
The soldier longed for her to be his bride
But she was not allowed to be outside.
The king had learned of ancient prophesy
A soldier off to war across the sea
Would return home and make his child a wife.
He would not let her lead that lowly life,
To see his princess and a soldier wed
And have that soldier enter her in bed.
There was no one allowed to see her face
And common men must learn their proper place.
He had no choice, he must obey his king
But vowed one day that she would wear his ring.
His gold was running low and soon was gone
The friendly invitations were withdrawn
And no one came to see him at his room
He tried in vain to chase away the gloom
By striking flint across the tinderbox.
Before his eyes came bursting through the locks,
The dog with teacup eyes came to his call
And said he’d retrieve items great and small.
The soldier sent the dog to bring more gold
And he returned with all that he could hold.
So thought the soldier what more could he bring?
It swore it could retrieve most anything.
And then he knew what he desired most
He sent the teacup eyed dog like a ghost
Into the tower where the princess sleeps
And silently the dog went through the keep
Until the princess’ room he found at last
He carried her asleep across the grass
And brought her to the soldier to his glee
Before he disappeared back to his tree.
The teacup eyed dog made this trip each night
And took her to her room before first light
The princess thought she was just having dreams
And did not know they were more than they seemed.
She told her nanny one day over tea
And with the princess nanny did agree
That these were nothing more than dreams at night
But nanny told the king about her flight
He ordered her to follow where they went
And creeping through the shadows where she bent
To keep herself from drawing the dog’s stare
The dog, it seemed, had known that she was there
So when the nanny marked the soldier’s door
The dog went out and drew on several more.
The king’s men went to where the nanny said
And followed her exactly where she led
But they soon saw that all the doors were marked
And they returned from where they had embarked
To tell the king that in his quest they failed
Against the men’s incompetence he railed
And told them that he had a better plot.
He tied some silken pieces in a knot
And with some scissors cut a corner tip
So barley flour was able to slip
And mark the path the princess took at night
The king did find her come the morning light.
The king’s men seized the soldier as he fell
And locked him in a dark and dingy cell.
They told him he would hang, this much was sworn
When roosters cuckooed that the night was morn.
They led him through the streets, his head was bowed
And when he saw an orphan in the crowd
He asked him to retrieve his tinderbox
To go back to his room, undo the locks
And bring it back to him before he died
The orphan soon returned back to his side
And slipped it to the soldier at the rope
Who said, “Good folks, I don’t have any hope
So I would ask that you grant one demand
That I could smoke before the Kind’s command
Will kill me dead.” The crowd said that he could
And so before the hangman slipped his hood
Over his head he struck the box three times
Before the church’s bells could sing their chimes
The dogs, all three of them, came to his aid
And all of them did just as they were bade.
They killed the judge, the hangman, and the King
They spared no one, and when they did this thing
The princess was the only one alive
Whose claim to royal blood was to survive.
The soldier said to her, “You’ll be my bride”
And even though the princess stood and cried
The soldier married her inside the square,
Declared himself the king and swore to spare
The common lives if they would but obey.
And so began his rule that summer day.
Here ends the Yeoman’s tale.
“Well done, well done indeed” the Reeve exclaimed.
“That soldier was entitled to his fame.”
The Miller and the Knight said naught, nor smiled
As one by one the pilgrim’s horses filed.
So there you have it. I’m so glad I’m done with it.