The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Summoner's Tale Summary

The Summoner “quits,” or repays, the Friar’s tale by telling his own tale about a friar. In the Summoner’s tale, a friar goes to preach in Holderness, which is in Yorkshire. During his sermons, the friar asks for donations for the church, and afterwards he asks for donations for himself.

While going from house to house, the friar reaches the house of Thomas, a local with whom the friar had boarded before. The friar finds Thomas ill and asks Thomas’s wife to make him a meal. Thomas’s wife tells him that her children have died, and the friar claims that he has seen a vision of the children in heaven. He goes on to boast that friars have more heavenly visions than other people because they live more godly lives and to explain that Thomas is ill because he gives so little to the church. Thomas claims he has given much money to friars over the years, but he is not any better for it.

The friar lectures that Thomas should be giving all his money to the friar, since a farthing split into twelve pieces is useless to anyone. Then he launches into a sermon against anger, which uses several examples of angry kings making rash decisions. At the end of the sermon, Thomas announces that he is “sitting on” a donation for the friars, but that they must divide it equally among themselves. The friar reaches behind Thomas’s back to grab the “donation,” and Thomas lets out a large fart.

Enraged, the friar runs out of the house and to the lord of the village, demanding to know how to divide a fart into twelve. The lord’s squire recommends that the friar sit on the center of a wagon wheel, and place the other eleven friars around the edge so that when the friar farts, the fart will travel down the spokes of the wheel and be shared among all the other friars.

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