The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Nun's Priest’s Tale Summary

The Host asks the Nun’s Priest to be “merry of heart” in telling his tale. The Nun’s Priest tells the following story:

A poor widow and her daughters owned a small cottage with a fenced-in yard. In the yard, they kept a number of chickens, including a rooster named Chanticleer, who was described as very beautiful. Chanticleer had seven wives (the hens), his favorite of whom was called Pertelote.

One morning, Chanticleer woke from a bad dream and described it to Pertelote. He dreamed that while walking around the yard, he was attacked by an animal “like a hound,” with a red body and a black-tipped tail and ears. The hound-like creature grabbed Chanticleer and tried to kill him.

Pertelote made fun of Chanticleer for this, telling him that he was a coward and that dreams have no meaning. She tells him she will pick herbs from the yard to restore the balance to his health and stop his bad dreams. Chanticleer, however, insists that dreams are omens of things to come, and describes an example of a man who dreamt his friend was being murdered for his gold, and woke to find that it had happened. He also tells the story of two men going on a sea voyage; one dreamt that if he went to sea the next day he would drown, but his friend laughed at him, so he went anyway, only to drown.

Chanticleer then tells Pertelote to stop talking about prophecies, because while he is with her, she is so beautiful he has no fear. He cites the proverb “Mulier est hominis confusio,” translating it as “Woman is man’s joy and all his bliss,” when it actually means “Woman is man’s ruin.”

Near the end of March, Chanticleer is strutting about in the yard with the hens when a fox (with a red coat and black-tipped ears, feet, and tail) breaks through the fence into the yard. The fox watches Chanticleer for a while, then addresses the rooster, claiming to be his friend. He asks Chanticleer if he can sing like his father did. When Chanticleer starts to demonstrate his singing, the fox grabs him by the throat and runs off into the woods.

The poor widow, her daughters, and the townspeople chase the fox. Chanticleer convinces the fox to turn and curse at the people chasing him, but when the fox opens his mouth, Chanticleer jumps free and flies up into a tree. The fox tries to convince Chanticleer to come down, but to no avail.

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