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The Canterbury tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer narrated The Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II on 17 April 1397 which is also the start of the book’s pilgrimage to Canterbury. The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories by Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote them Between 1386 and 1400 when he became Controller of Customs and Justice of Peace and, then Clerk of the King’s work in 1389. The tales are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.

Chaucer uses the Canterbury tales and descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society and the Church. Although the characters are fictional, they still offer a variety of insights into customs and practices of the time. It was written during a turbulent time in English history. The Catholic Church was in the midst of the Western Schism and, though it was still the only Christian authority in Europe, was the subject of heavy controversy. Lollardy an
early English religious movement led by John Wycliffe, is mentioned in the Tales, which mentions a specific incident involving pardoners (sellers of indulgences, which were believed to relieve the temporal punishment due for sins that were already forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession) who nefariously claimed to be collecting for St. Mary Rouncesval hospital in England. The Canterbury Tales is among the first English literary works to mention paper, a relatively new invention that allowed dissemination of the written word never before seen in England. Political clashes, such as the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt and clashes ending in the deposing of King Richard II. Many of Chaucer’s close friends were executed and he himself moved to Kent to get away from events in London.

Some readers have interpreted the characters of The Canterbury Tales as real historical figures while others maintain it is a mildly satirical critique of society during his lifetime. The Tales reflect diverse views of the Church in Chaucer’s England. After the Black Death, many Europeans began to question the authority of the established Church. Some started new monastic orders or smaller movements exposing church corruption in the behaviour of the clergy, false church relics or abuse of indulgences. Two characters, the Pardoner and the Summoner, are both portrayed as deeply corrupt, greedy, and abusive. Other Churchmen of various kinds are represented by the Monk, the Prioress, the Nun’s Priest, and the Second Nun.

The upper class or nobility, is also represented chiefly by the Knight and his Squire in the Canterbury Tales. In Chaucer’s time they were steeped in a culture of chivalry and courtliness as illustrated in the Knights Tale. This shows how the brotherly love of two fellow knights can turn into a deadly feud at the sight of a woman whom both idealise. Many other characters are included such as the Reeve, the Miller, The Cook, the Wife of Bath, the Franklin, the Shipman, the Manciple, the Merchant, Clerk at Oxford, the Sergeant at Law, Physician, the Parson

At the time Canterbury Tales was written Pilgrimage was a very prominent feature of medieval society. The ultimate pilgrimage destination was Jerusalem, but within England Canterbury was a popular destination. Pilgrims would journey to cathedrals that preserved relics of saints, believing that such relics held miraculous powers. Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by knights of Henry II during a disagreement between Church and Crown. The concept of liminality also figures prominently within The Canterbury Tales. A liminal space, which can be both geographical as well as metaphorical or spiritual, is the transitional or transformational space between a “real” (secure, known, limited) world and an unknown or imaginary space of both risk and possibility. The Canterbury Tales remains popular and is regularly read in schools.

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Children of Hurin

The 16th April marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of The Children of Húrin, the tragic tale of Túrin Turambar and his sister Nienor. It was first Conceived in the 1910s as one of the great tales of the First Age – alongside The Fall of Gondolin and Beren and Lúthien. The story tells of the lord Húrin who has three children, Túrin, Lalaith and Nienor, with his wife Morwen during the First Age of Middle Earth. Turin lived in Dor-lómin with Hurin, Morwen, and his sister Urwen. Sadly Urwen died as a child from a plague then Hurin is taken prisoner by Morgoth after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears who places a evil curse upon Húrin and all his family

During Húrin’s imprisonment Túrin is sent by his mother to live in the Elf-realm Doriath for protection. In his absence Morwen gave birth to her third child, Niënor, a girl. The Elf King Thingol of Doriath takes Túrin as a foster-son. During his time in Doriath Túrin befriends an Elf named Beleg. After accidentally causing the death of the Elf Saeros Túrin flees Doriath and refuses to face judgement and becomes an outlaw. Thingol tries Túrin in absentia and ultimately pardons him and dispatches Beleg to bring him back to Doriath. Túrin meanwhile joins a band of outlaws in the wild, he renames himself Neithan, “the wronged” and eventually becomes their captain. Beleg locates the band while Túrin is absent, and the outlaws tie him to a tree until he agrees to give them information. Túrin returns in time to cut Beleg free and Beleg delivers the message of the king’s pardon but Túrin refuses to return to Doriath so Beleg returns alone to Doriath.

Túrin and his men capture Mîm, a Petty-dwarf, who leads them to the caves at Amon Rûdh. Beleg decides to return to Túrin, who welcomes him at Amon Rûdh. Both The outlaws and Mim resent the elf’s presence. Mîm betrays the outlaws to orcs, leading the orcs to the caves to Túrin’s company who are all killed, apart for Beleg and Túrin. The Orcs take Túrin towards Angband, leaving Beleg chained to a rock. Mîm is about to kill Beleg after the orcs depart however one of the mortally wounded outlaws manages to drive Mîm away and release Beleg before dying. Beleg follows the orcs and finds a mutilated elf, Gwindor of Nargothrond, sleeping in the forest of Taur-nu-Fuin. They enter the orc camp at night and carry Túrin, asleep, from the camp. Beleg begins to cut Túrin’s bonds with his sword Anglachel, but the sword slips in his hand and cuts Túrin. Túrin, mistaking Beleg for an orc, kills Beleg with his own sword. Overcome with grief He refuses to leave Beleg’s body until morning, when Gwindor is able to bury the elf. Túrin takes the sword Anglachel.

Túrin and Gwindor proceed to Nargothrond. There Túrin gains the favour of Elf King Orodreth, and leads the Elves to many victories, until he becomes Orodreth’s chief counsellor and commander of his forces. Against all advice Túrin refuses to hide Nargothrond from Morgoth or to retract his plans for full-scale battle. Morgoth sends an orc-army under the command of the dragon, Glaurung, and The orcs sack Nargothrond and capture its citizens. Túrin returns as the prisoners are to be led away by the orcs, and encounters Glaurung who tricks him into returning to Dor-lómin to seek out Morwen and Niënor instead of rescuing the prisoners, including Finduilas, Orodreth’s daughter, who loved him.

In Dor-lómin Túrin learns that Morwen and Niënor are in Doriath, and that Glaurung deceived him into letting Finduilas go to her death. He tracks Finduilas’ captors to the forest of Brethil, only to learn that she was murdered by the orcs. Grief-stricken, Túrin seeks sanctuary among the folk of Haleth. In Brethil Túrin renames himself Turambar, “Master of Doom” in Quenya, and gradually supplants Brandir, Brethil’s lame Chieftain. Meanwhile In Doriath Morwen and Niënor hear rumours of Túrin’s deeds, and Morwen decides to find Túrin. Against the counsel of Thingol she rides out of Doriath alone, and Niënor conceals herself among the riders whom Thingol sends under Mablung to follow and protect Morwen. At Nargothrond, Mablung encounters Glaurung, who slaughters the elf Riders. Finding Niënor alone, Glaurung learns her identity and hypnotizes her into forgetting who she is and everything else.

Mablung attempts to return to Doriath with Niënor. The two are attacked by orcs, Niënor runs into the woods eventually collapsing near Brethil on the grave of Finduilas, where Turambar finds her. He and brings her back to the town, and she gradually recovers the use of speech, although she has no memory of her past life. Niënor and Turumbar develop a strong attraction. They marry, not realising their kinship, and Niënor becomes pregnant. Sadly Glaurung returns to exterminate the men of Brethil. So Turambar leads an expedition to kill Glaurung who has one more nasty surprise left and when Niënor finds Turin, Glaurung informs her that she and Turambar are in fact brother and sister which has tragic results..