Free Study Guide for The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Sir Topas: Prologue

The Prioress’ Tale had put every member of the group in a grim mood and they rode silently for a while. Then the host attempted to lighten the mood and taunted Chaucer for staring at the ground as if he had lost sixpence and found a penny. He then asks Chaucer to tell them a comic tale without wasting any time. Chaucer replies that he only knows one tale that is in rhyme and proceeds to narrate it.

Tale of Sir Topas


Chaucer tells the tale of a Knight named Sir Topas who lived in Flanders. His father was a dignified and wealthy nobleman. Sir Topas was a handsome man. His face was as white as the whitest dough and he had rose red lips. He wore Spanish shoes and the finest silken gown that money could buy. He was good at hunting, wrestling and archery. Many young maidens pined for his love and spent sleepless nights in vain because Sir Topas never harbored unchaste thoughts.

One day Sir Topas rode on his horse through a forest filled with many wild beasts and suddenly the sweet smell of herbs and the melodious songs of birds awakened in him an intense longing for love and he madly galloped away. After his exhausting ride the Knight rested near a watering hole and fell asleep. He dreamt that an Elf Queen had slept beneath his cloak. When he awoke he resolved to track down the Elf Queen and to make her his mate.

He thus galloped across long distances till he found the country of Fairyland in a secret spot. Here he encountered a burly eight-headed giant named Sir Elephant who threatened to kill the Knight unless he left the dwelling place of the Elf Queen. The Knight sportingly accepted the challenge and fixed an assignation for the next day when he would come dressed in his armor. He then left to prepare for the battle. Upon reaching home the Knight held a great feast for his merry men in celebration of the battle with the giant.

The Knight put on his armor and wore his fine weapons and had a fine feast. Chaucer describes this activity in some detail. Sir Topas then leaves the court and proceeds to the woods.

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