As a part of our literature studies, A and I read a children's version of Canterbury Tales aloud together. We really enjoyed it and also enjoyed analyzing what the four tales we read had in common. Before moving on to another read aloud (know a good children's version of Don Quixote or have another suggestion of a classic follow-up to Chaucer? please share!), we decided to do a joint Canterbury Tales project.
Our project? We agreed to each write our own Canterbury Tale as if we were pilgrims on Chaucer's journey. Like Chaucer, we'll use first and third person narration, we'll have a casual, story telling style and our tales will be about relationships. (As A read through this blog post, she said, "Oops! I forgot to use first person narration. So you won't find that in her tale, after all!) These are all things A noted about Canterbury Tales when we discussed them together. A has enjoyed writing her tale and was able to practice her script writing as well as her story telling skills - a double bonus of a project. I did re-type her tale for her, since her typing skills are still a work in progress and it probably would have taken her as long to type her tale as it took us to read four tales aloud. Without further delay, I present two tales.
The Friend's TaleOne day two friends were walking along a trail in the woods. One was beautiful, but liked things to be plain and simple. The other friend looked plain, but loved extravagant things, and adored her boyfriend. As they were walking along, the boyfriend popped up in front of them. Amanda (the second girl) shrieked, "Oh! Let's go walk with him!" "No. I just want to keep walking, me and you," said Mary (the first girl). "Oh come on, please?" said Amanda. "No! We never walk together anymore!" said Mary, "I always feel left out now, because you're always with John, talking about him or watching him! We never have quality time together anymore." "Oh. I'm sorry. Let's keep walking together."
Up ahead John was talking to Tim, his friend. "I wish Amanda would give me some time to myself. She's always right there!" "Dude, let her get used to having a boyfriend. I bet that this is her first real boyfriend. After a while, talk to her about it. She'll understand." "Thanks, Tim. You rock, dude." said John.
Up ahead the girls were talking, "You know," Amanda said, "I think that you would like Tim. He's a nice boy. He's got a lot going for him. Nice, good-looking, smart. If I wasn't dating John I'd date him." But enough about me. How's your life, Mary?" "Life's treating me well, Amanda. I am getting along with my teachers, home and school a lot better. Sarah is doing better in school." "Mary, sometimes I wish I still went to school with you and the others. Our little gang felt so safe. But Mother needs me to watch the little ones while she's taking care of Grandpa." "We miss you, too, Amanda. I'm always updating them on how you are!" "Thanks, Mary. You're my best friend."
The boys had stopped for a snack break. They heard the girls coming and John groaned, "Oh no! Here she comes!" "Oh, hi! Didn't expect to see you here!" said Amanda. "I thought you were at the store working?" "Well, today's my day off." "OK. This is Mary. She's really smart and active and loves art." "Well, actually, I dance. I'm going to be in a ballet this year," said Mary. "Mary! We have to be at the pastry shop in fifteen minutes!" "May we escort you, lovely ladies?" said Tim. "Sure, just hurry," said Mary. When they got to the shop, Tim whispered something in Mary's ear that made her laugh. "I'll tell you tomorrow," she said. "See you then," he said. The next day he caught up with her at school and whispered, "What's your answer?" Mary said, "Of course!" "What?" said John and Amanda as they walked up. "Me and Tim are now boyfriend and girlfriend." "Welcome to the fishbowl. I'll brief you on the details," said Amanda. And they walked off chattering.
The Innkeeper's TaleA tale? Oh, is it my turn already? I’ve been so busy listening to all of your tales that I’ve not spent a moment thinking about what yarn I should spin for you. What’s that? Something funny? Well, my dear, I’m not sure funny is my style. My favorite tales have always been the ones that leave you sobbing your heart out – and I’m not sure that’s good traveling fare, now is it? So… nothing funny, nothing sad. I can’t very well tell you a tale of instruction, since I’m less learned than most. I guess I’ll just do my best. Let’s have another round of ale for everyone before I get started. It’s easier to listen with some sloshing between the ears, don’t you think? Ahhh, that’s more like it. Here we go.
There once was a traveler, much like us, you see? He loved the open road, the dust on his cloak, the dirt on his sandals. When rain or ice kept him cramped inside for days on end, he longed for the road like a priest craves the sacraments, especially the wine. He was at his best with blue skies above him and hard packed dirt underneath.
It didn’t much matter where he was going as long as he was going. He walked from Canterbury to Cardiff to Nottingham and back again. He knew this lovely country and all its nooks and crannies better than he knew the back of his hand. He walked slowly, or quickly, as the land demanded: strolling through fields with wild berries, always sure to sample nature’s delights, and striding through the forest’s darkest paths, lest those less scrupulous men who lurk there catch him unawares.
In all his walking, the traveler was looking, looking for the perfect place to lay his head, looking for a home that would be strong enough to keep his heart from wandering, looking for the thing that made staying well worth it. Yet the longer he walked, the more he questioned whether such a place existed. London? Too crowded, too cramped, too corrupt. Cardiff? Too bleak, too steep, too remote. Oxford? Too pretentious, too stuffy, too much. Was there anywhere worth staying?
After years – nay, decades – of walking, strolling, sauntering, striding, looking all the while, our traveler was forced inside. The rain was unlike any he’d ever seen. And being born in this land, the sir was not unaccustomed to the damp. If the Queen’s own England were capable of hosting a monsoon, this must be the one. Day in, day out for nigh on a fortnight, then two, our traveler waited.
The inn that held him grated on his nerves. The ale? A bit stale. The meat in the pies? Tough. The fire? Smoky and not warm enough. The innkeeper? A nice enough fellow, if a bit dull. His family? Likely more of the same, though the traveler did not take much note. Yet as time wore on, as days turned to weeks and the innkeeper’s hospitality did not waver, the ale did not grow warm, the pies did not grow cold, the traveler began to wonder whether there were things of value within these four simple walls.
One night, as he reclined by the fire, he observed the working of the inn from the corner of the room. He saw much that had escaped his notice before – for he had not deigned to notice much. The room, while simple, was clean. The floors were swept regularly by a brunette with clean fingernails, a gentle countenance and a braid down her back. The pies were served carefully, steaming hot, by a lad with a clever tongue, a willing smile and a winning manner. The pints were pulled full by the innkeeper’s wife, whose eyes roamed the inn for signs that a customer had had a pint too many. While she watched like a hawk, her eyes bright and alert, her heart was not bitter, but gentle. She cared for the inn, certainly, but also for those who lodged there, those who supped there, those who drank there.
Our traveler trudged up the stairs to his bed that night puzzling over what he’d seen. Could an inn in a village of little note to anyone be a place worth staying? Did the innkeeper stay here because he had to – or because he wanted to? This puzzle thwarted our traveler. He pondered it for days, as rain sprinkled down, poured in torrents and puddle in the lanes. He pondered it as he drank his morning coffee – hot and strong, just as he liked it – as he lunched, as he supped. And yet, for all this pondering, the traveler could not decide on the correct answer.
At last, on a day when the sun threatened to emerge, then retreated, defeated behind yet more steel grey clouds, the traveler asked the innkeeper for his tale. Was it one of woe? One of duty? One of joy? Over a pint of ale, the innkeeper told his told to the traveler. Like most tales, it contained pieces of each. The innkeeper had indeed inherited the inn. Not from his father, but from his father-in-law. And while the inn kept him in this village, it was his wife who kept him grounded. Had he had dreams of walking through fields alone and unencumbered as our traveler did? Surely, but it was now unlikely they would be fulfilled. Had he longed for city life – or at least to see what life was like outside the village where he’d lived since birth? Ahhh, yes. So why did he stay? The wife with the bright eyes and gentle heart, the girl with the braid down her back, the boy with the smile that crept from his mouth all the way to his eyes. These were his reasons why.
Satisfied, the traveler thanked the innkeeper for his tale and his hospitality. And when the sun finally shone forth the next morning, he walked the lanes once again. Still looking, but never seeing.