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Hello to all!

I am Dave Tonge, The Yarnsmith of Norwich, A teller of tales for about eight years now who specializes in English tales (Although there is no such thing really!) I have three other blogs on Blogger that can be accessed via this site. Two are about different aspects of my storytelling; about where I tell and examples of some of my stories. The third is about history, in particular the history of the lower orders; people like me!

So I'm not sure what I shall post on this site, perhaps a pick and mix of my experiences of telling and the odd tale. For the moment by way of cheating and as a hello gift I'm going to post a story already posted on one of my other sites and as yet untold. So I'm sure it will evolve over time. Anyway, have a read and see what you think. And check out the other blogs which should hopefully have a link to my new website in a week or two.

The summoner handing out a summons. From the Ellesmere MS c.1400


As always the fortunes of one influence the misfortunes of another...

The story i am about to tell has many variants, but this one is influenced by Chaucer's Friars Tale about a Summoner who gets what's coming to him. The summoner whose job it was in medieval times to summon, to call those who were accused of doing wrong to the church courts. But like many in his profession, in his line of work, he was a greedy man and would take a fine, some coin from those accused of doing wrong, so that they would not have to go court and he would share the proceeds with his Bishop! And there were some like our man who were not satisfied with summoning the guilty to answer for their crimes, but would falsely accuse the innocent, those who had done nothing wrong in order to take a fine from them.... The summoner was a hated figure in medieval times, but he was in good company... For in other versions of this tale, he is ably replaced by a lawyer, bailiff and judge!

The Devil take You...
(Yet another late medieval tale demonstrating the growing dissatisfaction with a corrupt greedy church!)

Once on a certain day long ago, a summoner rode out to catch his prey, to summon those to court who had been accused of doing wrong, but more happy to take fines from those to scared or old to go there. Guilty or innocent, he did not care as long as they had money enough to pay him for his trouble. And as he rode out that day, happy at the thought of the days business ahead, happy at the thought of all the false charges he would make and bribes he would receive, he saw a well dressed man riding just ahead of him. A well dressed man wearing a gown and a broad brimmed black hat. And being in a good mood, the summoner greeted the stranger and invited him to ride close by a while...'Good day to you stranger' said the man in the broad brimmed black hat. 'Well met' replied the summoner. 'Tell me friend' says the stranger in the broad brimmed black hat, 'where are you going so early and on such a fine day as this?'... 'To collect rents now due' said the summoner, pretending now to be a bailiff collecting rents for his Lord. For it was bad enough to be a bailiff taking rent from those who could not afford it, yet much worse still to be a summoner taking fines from those who had done nothing wrong and the summoner did not want the stranger to know his true purpose, his work that day..

'But tell me', says the summoner, 'since I have told you of my purpose this day, perhaps you would tell me yours'.. 'I too am a bailiff of sorts' says the stranger in the broad brimmed black hat, 'for I too travel the land collecting rents of sorts, although I travel much further than you to collect what is due to me'.. And so the two rode on talking pleasantly of many things, and soon the summoner thought the stranger in the broad brimmed black hat to be a finer friend as ever he had had.. For being a summoner and hated by most, he had few friends by which to judge.

And after a while the summoner thought to know more of his new friend of where he came from, of how he worked and of his name... The stranger in the broad brimmed black hat began to smile a little. 'I am the Devil!' says he, 'and I live down in hell.'.. 'And as for my work, I travel the land collecting the souls of the dammed, of all those who have granted them to me. Whether by hook or by crook, by trickery, by force or by their own greed I take their souls for my own! And it seems to me' says the Devil, 'that we are in the same trade, you take their money and I their souls...We both line our pockets with the misery of others!'
Well, the summoner thought for a while and it was true, both he and the Devil were in the same business, which set him thinking.. 'Its true enough' says he to the Devil, 'so why not this day we work as one. We will go about our business this day collecting what is owed. You take your share, what ever people give and I'll take mine and if one of us should get more than the other he'll share it with his new found friend. How would that be?'.. 'Agreed' said the Devil and both clapped hands together to seal the bargain...

And so it was as the day wore on they rode from village to village and the summoner went about his business taking a lot money from those who could little afford it... But the Devil he took nought, he took nothing.... And now the summoner grew weary for it was he who had done all the work this day. It was he who must share all with the Devil

But it was just then that both heard screams and shouts and old a woman appeared being pulled all ways by a pig she held tight upon a rope. The pig took the old woman this way, it took the old woman that and the only way the pig would not take her was the way the old woman wished to go. 'Enough! 'cried the old woman, 'I can take no more from you pig... The Devil take you!' Well, hearing these words, the summoner lent over to the devil... 'Quick my friend take the pig, for the old woman says that it is yours'.. 'I would gladly take the pig' says the Devil,' but she did not mean it with her heart and if i were to take the pig the old woman would be sorry, for she is taking it to market to sell and without the pig she would have nothing'.. And sure enough when the summoner looked again the old woman had taken up the rope and was tickling the pig playfully upon its ear...

And so they rode on from village to village the summoner ever busy taking a lot of money from those with little to give, but the Devil took nought, he took nothing and once more the summoner grew weary thinking of all he must share with the Devil..

But at that very moment both heard a child crying, screaming loudly and both saw that the woman holding it was crying too.. 'Enough!' cried she, 'you are fed , you are cleaned, what more can I do to stop your tears... The Devil take you child!'.. The Summoner turned quickly to the Devil..'Take the child says he, for she has given it you'.. 'Alas says' the Devil, 'I have no right it, for its mother did not mean it with her heart and would not take two thousand pounds or more to allow me to get hold of her beloved child'.. And sure enough when next the summoner looked the child had quietened and it mother sat singing and gently rocking it to sleep...

And so they rode on from village to village, the summoner ever busy taking a lot of money from those with little to give, but the Devil took nought, he took nothing and once more the summoner grew weary thinking of all he must share with the Devil..

But it was now that both saw a carter upon his cart loaded high with hay.. and his cart was stuck fast in the mud... the carter laid about the three horses that pulled his cart with a whip. The whip cracking loudly and the carter shouting louder still 'hup horses, hup,' but the cart would not move and the carter shouted louder still. 'Enough! The Devil take you all body and bones, the devil take the lot of you , horses cart and hay!'.. The summoner saw a bargain.. 'Quick Devil says he, take it at once, for the carter has given you the hay, cart and three fine horses too!'... 'I heard his words well enough' says the Devil, 'but just wait and you will see he did not mean it with his heart, just watch'... And sure enough with one more crack of the whip the horses pulled the cart free.. 'Hup, hup my fine fellows' says the carter, 'and god bless you all my lovelies' says he laughing now as he continued on his way...

Well now it was growing dark and the summoner had but one more stop to make at the house of an old woman, a widow with little to give... But it would not stop him taking what he could... 'It seems to me' says the summoner to the Devil, 'that you need some lessons in the way of our business, for you have taken nothing this day, but fear not for I will show you how its done. For this old woman has little to her name' says he, 'and even though she has done nothing wrong I'll threaten her with court if she doesn't pay me 12-pence this day'. He beat hard upon her door and threatened the poor old woman as he had said he would.. 'Pay up old crone or you'll find yourself in court and if you can't come to court you'll find yourself in prison or worse, the Devil take me if I let you off this day!'...

The old woman fell to her knees cursing the summoner... 'Never before have I been summoned to court' she cried, 'never have I done anything wrong. I will not come with you, nor will I pay you your twelve pence.. Enough, stop beating upon my door... The Devil take you summoner, body and soul!'..

And hearing her words, the Devil smiled... The Devil laughed... 'Now there was one who was serious says he, the old woman meant it with all her heart'.. And with that he took the summoner firmly by the hair, he rose up high into the air and took the summoner body and soul to Hell!

The end.

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Tags: Canterbury, Chaucer, English, Norwich, Tales, The, Yarnsmith, of


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