On The (Interrupted) Squire’s Tale

Next, the Host calls forth the Squire and asks him, if it be his will, to tell a tale about love. In the “General Prologue,” we learn that the Squire is the son of the Knight. He is “a lovyere and a lusty bacheler” (80) with curly locks of hair. Chaucer suspects he is not older than twenty. He is strong and agile, and dressed like a Spring morning, singing and fluting all through the day. He has been on cavalry expeditions with his father, in order to please his lady. He appears to be a very musical -a passionate lover. He is cut from the same table as his father.

The “Squire’s Tale” appears to be unfinished. It is a twist on an Arthurian legend, taking place in the Mongol Empire. Appropriately, the setting is foreign. It takes place in Asia – in “Sarray” or present-day Tsarev in southeastern Russia, a city founded by Batu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. The story is about the warring king named “Cambyuskan” (or Genghis Khan). He is described by the Squire as a young and powerful, yet noble king. He has two sons with his wife, Elpheta. Their names are: Algarsyf and Cambalo, as well as a daughter named Canacee.

Cambyuskan holds a Spring Feast on March 15, when suddenly a strange knight unexpectedly arrives. He comes in the name of the King of Araby and India, bearing magical gifts: a mirror which reveals the thoughts of the king’s friends and enemies, a brass horse with the power to teleport, a ring which shows the language of birds to the king’s daughter, as well as the nature of all plants and roots, and a sword which deals mortal blows (but the injuries can also only be healed by the very same sword). The ring is given to the king’s daughter, Canacee, and the remaining gifts are taken to the tower, save for the horse which cannot be physically moved.

The second part of the tale involves Canacee’s adventures with the ring as she hears the songs of the birds. She comes upon an injured, wailing falcon who is in sorrow because a tercelet left him for a kite and he is wounded. Canacee takes the falcon home and heals it. Next, the Squire, in his wandering tale, plans to share tales of Cambyuskan’s other children, but he is interrupted by the Franklin who praises the Squire over his own son, and despite outrage from the Host, the Franklin proceeds to tell his own story. The Squire’s tale is left incomplete, leaving the Squire incapable of fulfilling his promise to the group. In addition, the Squire never fulfills the Host’s request to tell a tale about love. In a certain light, the Squire’s story is far too ambitious, containing too much complexity.

For this reading I used the Broadview Canterbury Tales edition which is based on the famous Ellesmere Manuscript. The Broadview edition closely matches the work of Chaucer’s scribe, Adam Pinkhurst.

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