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Tale of Sir Thopas in The Canterbury Tales: Prologue & Summary

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

The Tale of Sir Thopas in 'The Canterbury Tales' can be a tricky one to understand. In this lesson we will take a close look at the story as well as a it's effect on the host. Read on to find out more.

A Different Style

The Tale of Sir Thopas from The Canterbury Tales is a little different from the rest because the story is told by the narrator, Chaucer himself. After the Prioress's tale, the host of the journey looks at our narrator and pokes fun at him saying that he is always looking down as though he is searching for a rabbit on the ground. The host tells him it is his turn to speak. Chaucer tells the host to take it easy on him. He only knows one story--a long rhyme that he learned years ago.

Sir Thopas

Chaucer begins his story by describing a knight who was an all-around good guy. He was also attractive (at least in his day). He had a long blond beard that reached his waist. His lips were bright red and his skin was fair. He was a good hunter, a great wrestler, and he dressed nicely. All the girls wanted him, but he was well too well behaved for that.

One day, Thopas goes out riding his horse. The song of the birds and the beauty of nature throws him into a depression and longing for love. He takes a nap in the grass and has wild dream about marrying a elf queen. After the dream he vows ''Alle othere wommen I forsake, And to an elf-queene I me take.'' In other words, he will ignore all the other women who are chasing him so that he can find and marry the elf queen.

Sir Thopas rides until he finds the elf queen's land. A giant named Oliphant is guarding the queen and tells Thopas that in order to reach her, Thopas will have to fight him. They agree to fight the next morning. Sir Thopas gallops off back to his home to prepare for his big fight. When he gets home, he tells his men to help him to get ready. Thopas listens to stories about love and bravery, eats a bunch of junk food, and then puts on layers of armor. Once he is safe under his layers of armor, he promises to kill the giant, saying ''the geaunt shal be deed Bityde what bityde!'' To put it another way, he promises that come what may, the giant will die.

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