First off, what the heck's a Summoner when it's at home? Well, a Summoner was an official in the ecclesiastical court whose job was to summon people to attend - much like an usher.
In the Canterbury Tales, the Summoner's Tale is about a Friar who exploits the peasantry, obtaining food and money from them, and convincing them that such benevolence will help them attain their place in the Kingdom of the Lord.
The story also has several references to one of Chaucer's favourite subjects - flatulence.
My Summoner's Second Tale concerns a bet waged between the Devil and St. Peter to tempt two innocent peasants into sinfulness. For the record, there are no references to flatulence.
Excerpt from The Summoner's Second Tale:
The smile upon the Devil’s face grew wide, He flicked his scarlet tail from side to side And in a voice he judged to sound sincere, Quod, “As I’ve said already, have no fear. I haven’t come to learn to play the harp, And since your wits - though elderly - are sharp I’ll tell you straight, I’ve business with your Lord To hammer out an up-to-date accord. The trouble is God cruelly tossed me down Into a lake of fire to burn or drown (With fallen angels totalling a third Of those that once comprised His bovine herd) When men were few and feared divine abuse As well as Nick who’d cook their sinful goose.
“Yet since that time Man’s population’s grown And evil winds across the world have blown; Mankind has been corrupted, and my weight Of work’s increased a hundredfold of late. The upshot is, in Hell we’re undermanned - And God’s the one to lend a helping hand. One third of angels makes a paltry staff; A fairer share of labour would be half. A fifty-fifty split’s the way ahead If Hell’s to keep its ovens stoked and fed. Admit me now, unlock the pearly gate, Then with your Lord I shall negotiate On personnel so numbers might be just - To equalise these figures is a must. “Up forty-thousand golden stairs I’ve trudged, And till this question’s solved I’ll not be budged.”
Which Tale Next?
Back to the Quill and Parchment
Another Tale for which I completed an abridgement some time ago is The Pardoner's Second Tale. Set during the Black Death's reign in England, during 1348, the story follows the personification of Death while he rounds up the dead and ticks them off his list. In fact he comes across as not such a bad bloke, afterall.
There are also two Canterbury Tales set in the Middle East (where I live and work) in their early stages of evolution into 'Second' Tales, and an old Babylonian story has taken my fancy, if only I can get the characterisation right.
As for a book of 'Second' Canterbury Tales, the manuscript and proposal have been doing the rounds. So until I clinch that multi-million dollar publishing deal, academics and Chaucer students will have to make do with The Monk's Second Tale, aka Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers - A Canterbury Tale by Paul A. Freeman.