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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Tale of Sir Thopas
Modern english adjacent to middle english

About The Canterbury Tales:
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.

About The Prologue and Tale of Sir Thopas:
The Host asks Chaucer, who is one of the pilgrims on the way to Canterbury, to tell the next tale. Chaucer says he knows only one tale, which he had learned long ago (lines 18-19).

Chaucer tells a story about a knight called Sir Thopas. Sir Thopas is a chaste knight (line 55) who only wishes to love a fairy queen (or elf-queen, lines 98-106). Sir Thopas rides to fairyland on horseback, but finds the entrance blocked by a three-headed giant called Sir Oliphant (or Sir Elephant, lines 117-126) who challenges Sir Thopas to fight and threatens to kill his horse (line 122). Sir Thopas says he has forgotten his gear, makes a sharp turn and rides away while the giant casts stones at him. The stones miss Sir Thopas and he escapes (line 138-140).

So Sir Thopas returns home to get his gear and prepare for the fight. He commands his merry men to give him some relief so Sir Thopas gets sweet wine and gingerbread and some other sweets (lines 161-166). Next Sir Thopas is dressed in armour and his weapons are described.

The narrator, Chaucer, tells the audience that Sir Thopas is of royal chivalry. He has drunk from the same well as Sir Percival, until one day ...

Chaucer is interrupted by the Host (line 229), who is tired of Chaucer's low poetical qualities. The Host suggests that Chaucer should tell a story in prose to avoid more tiresome poetry (line 244). Chaucer announces a moral tale in prose.

Indeed technically the poetry of The Tale of Sir Thopas is bad. Sir Thopas is a ridiculous character, highly effeminized and well-dressed. Besides Thopas was usually a woman's name. Sir Oliphant, the three-headed giant, is ridiculous too. The plot and the choice of words and details are altogether a parody of middle-english verse romances. First Sir Thopas falls in love and then decides that he falls in love with a fairy queen. He runs off from a fight stating that he has forgotten his gear. Chaucer is reluctant to tell a tale and Sir Thopas seems reluctant to fight. Chaucer parodizes his own poetical and literary abilities. He is interrupted by his own characters. The characters lecture the author on how to tell a tale. The characters are more important than the writer.

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