Move over, Chaucer.
During their study of Medieval history, 5th graders recently read The Canterbury Tales and witnessed the 14th century come to life. Mrs. Wagner’s challenge to her students: write your own Canterbury Tale! Here is 5th grader Roxie Beebe-Center’s take…
A Canterbury Tale
By Roxie Beebe-Center
One sunny morning as I sat on the steps of the church pondering the thoughts and ideas of the world, I was aroused by a sudden galloping of hooves, and a cloud of chatter. I asked these frolickers (an arrow smith, barker, sheriff, and fletcher to be exact) of the occasion, and they replied that for spring they were going to be refreshed, and renewed, and blessed at the holy shrine of Saint Thomas of Canterbury. I too felt the rush of the spring, and I too wished to be blessed, so I gathered up my things in my small cloth satchel, and readied my horse for the fifty mile journey.
I sauntered over to the warm cozy inn that we people of London call the Tabard. Many people were gathered there already, and I counted around six and fifty. After everyone had come forth, we set off. The owner of the Tabard inn acted as our leader, so we all followed him. Since it was a long journey, the innkeeper, a jolly man, made friendly competition to see who could tell the best story, and win a sup and some alms at his inn when we returned. We all agreed heartily to the idea, so he pointed at me and questioned,
“Would you, young nun, start us off?”
I agreed that I would,and I started my story. It went something like this:
There once was a knight, so filled with pride and self, …self-amazement, that if someone had chopped off his head, it would have all come cascading out like a milk out of a spilled bucket. He was a very skilled and fearsome warrior, very dashing and a good horseman,everything a knight must be, EXCEPT for respecting the code of chivalry, which so follows:
As I am now knighted,
I pledge to be honorable and just,
Fight only for good, not power and lust,
I shall live by these words I have spoken,
And always shall they be a token,
Of the code of chivalry.
And a young lady named Ella had caught his eye at one of his tournaments, where he fought many a melee. He was convinced to marry her, and wanted to do the most stupendous deed to win her over, one that troubadours would always sing of. The knight, whose name was Tathal, had heard many a story of a fearsome dragon who was the protector of the cathedral Chartres. The cathedral had a large vaulted ceiling, and arched windows large as hay-carts, with beautiful tellings from the Holy Book within each small, excluded pane. It truly was the feather in a Christian’s cap, the dragon though, was black and gold, with deep blue eyes speckled with stars. Its talons were sharp like an eagle’s, and its wings as strong and swift as a hawk’s. This would truly be a challenge, exactly what Tatham wanted.
After weeks of preparation, Tatham was ready to venture to the dragon’s home. First, he had to be blessed by his local priest, so he went to the church. When he arrived, he told the priest his plan, but he refused to bless him.
“You must not think of killing this dragon, he guards the house of God, our heavenly king,” said the priest. “To do so is to sin, one so vile if you carry on with your idea, you will be excommunicated.”
The knight grumbled, and left the church in a sulky manner. Then, deciding that he was too important to be excommunicated, he put on his tasset and vambrace, placed his helmet on his head, and he continued on his way, to the dragon’s home.
After many a mile, he finally reached the tell tale cathedral, deep in a forest thick with pines. Around it slept the dragon, with coils of smoke climbing like charmed snakes out of its heaving mouth. Tathal slid off his horse with a soft “thud” and stalked towards the sleeping dragon. He drew closer, until he was right at the dragon’s head. He raised his sword and thrust it forward. The dragon opened one of his eyes in the nick of time, and jumped up before he got kabobed. He deflected Tathal’s every strike, and was a fearsome adversary. The trees swished around them and the sky rapidly darkened as it began to thunder and lightning. The two rapidly fought, swaying with the trees. Then, with a swipe of his claws, the dragon caught Tathal like a cat catches a mouse. Tathal struggled and fought against the dragon until he squeezed through a gap in his fingers and fled deep into the forest.
Tathal ran on and on and on jumping over strewn log and river. Inside the forest was black, and the winds howled above the trees. Suddenly, the air around Tellum became solid forms with black gowns dancing about them and skulls protruding from their hoods. They circled around him like vultures and chanted with raspy voices:
From the darkness depths we come,
All together, to hunt down one,
We have found him,
Alone and afraid,
We shall make him good as dead.
They performed a spell and reformed the knight before them. His features became older, his figure wider, and monk’s clothing adorned him. The wind spirits dissipated and the reincarnated knight was left alone. He trudged out of the forest, deep in thought and walked into the church a new man to live a life un-sinned.
About the artwork:
To further enhance their study of the Medieval history, 5th graders created beautiful drawings inspired by the period in Art class.
(Left) Castle by Josie Shields
(Right) Medieval Illumination: Letter A by Avery Deigl