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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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TALE OF SIR TOPAS

The Host asks Chaucer, the narrator, for a tale, describing him in the process as chubby, short (like an elf) and always looking down. (We don't know if this is how Chaucer really looked!) Chaucer promises the only tale he says he knows in rhyme.


Sir Topas is a good-looking knight, talented, whom ladies sigh for (but he stays chaste). One night he dreams of an elf queen and vows to ride to the ends of the earth to find her. He meets a giant whom he promises to fight the next day.... Here the tale is interrupted by the Host, who can't stand these horrible rhymes any more. So instead, Chaucer offers a "little" story in prose, which threatens to be as boring as Sir Topas!

The irony is that Chaucer would assign himself such a weak tale, filled with "knight-meets-fair-maiden" cliches that were old even then. It's written in a popular, bouncy rhythm, but even those of us unfamiliar with the style can see the tale is a spoof on romances. Even the stock description of Sir Topas (topaz symbolized chastity, by the way) is a joke.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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