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Chanticleer and the Fox

From Academic Kids

The tale of Chanticleer and the Fox is a beast fable popularized by the 14th century Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer based his adaptation on the work of 12th Century French poet Marie de France, in addition to the 13th century French epic Le Roman de Renart.

The 625 line poem comprises the "Nun's Priest's Tale" and follows the Monk's depressing accounts of despots and fallen heroes in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The tales have approximately 80 manuscript sources, with the two most popular being The Hengwrt and The Ellesmere.

The tale concerns a world of talking animals who reflect both human insight and error. Its protagonist is Chanticleer, a proud rooster who dreams of his approaching doom in the form of a hound. Frightened, he awakens his "wife" Pertelote, who assures him he only suffers from indigestion and chides him for paying heed to a simple dream. After recounting stories of other prophets who foresaw their deaths, Chanticleer is comforted by Pertelote and proceeds to greet a new day.

Unfortunately for Chanticleer, he predicted his doom correctly. A sly fox who has tricked Chanticleer's father and mother to their downfall now awaits Chanticleer's inflated ego. When the fox insists upon hearing the cock crow, Chanticleer sticks out his neck just a little too far and is promptly snatched from the yard. As the fox is chased through the forest, Chanticleer (all the while dangling from the fox's jaws) suggests that the fox should pause to tell his pursuers to give up their chase.

Now the fox's haughtiness rears its ugly head, and as the fox complies, the rooster falls out and proceeds to fly up the nearest tree. The fox tries in vain to convice the wary Chanticleer, who now prefers the safety of the tree and fails to fall for the same trick a second time.

The Nun's Priest wraps up his story with a moral, admonishing his audience to be careful of reckless decisions and of "truste on flaterye."


The Nun's Priest's Tale has been put to music in 1951 by Gordon Jacob.

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