Posted in Classic

The Pardoner’s Tale

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil.
This verse is the Pardoner’s creed. Well it’s a creed as far as it is what he preaches to those in his parish to get them to purchase indulgences as well as “relics” from saint. In fact the pardoner is as greedy as they come. He preaches solely for profit; but he does tell a moral tale…

The story opens with some youths engaging in revelry and wantoness. (Then the pardoner goes on about the sin and shame of drunkness; no doubt due to the fact that he was indeed quite drunk.) Three men are drinking and hear a funeral march pass. The man had been a companion of theirs who had been slain by the secret thief, Death (Plague). he three men made an oath to slay Death. They leave the tavern an encounter an old man who Death will not take. They recognize the man for Death’s agent and force him to tell them where Death is.
Death supposedly was under a tree. The three men ran to the tree but found a great treasure of gold. And all three forgot Death. They decided that they should wait till night fall to carry the treasure away lest someone kill them for it. So they drew lots, and one was sent to the town to bring bread and wine back so they could wait out the day till night fall. The youngest one ended up going.
Meanwhile the other to decided to kill the youngest man when he returned and split the gold between themselves. The youngest man decided to poison the two and keep the gold for himself. So he put rat poison in two of the wine bottles and kept one for himself.
The two did away with the third, then decided to toast themselves with the wine. So they died as well.

I suppose all three men would have been better off if they had remembered the verse above and if they had been sober (which was the point of the illustrations the pardoner was making). Death was cunning very cunning. I believe that Death was the old man. Why else wouldn’t Death take him? I mean they had Death at their mercy and didn’t see it. I thought it was interesting that Death was looking for someone to change their youth for his age. And the way that he knocked on people’s doors to be let in. I guess Death figured he’d get more victims if he was more attractive. And the most telling thing the man said was that he sent them up a “crooked” path to find Death. I mean if these three men read the Bible, which obviously they weren’t, they would have remember that “straight is the way and narrow is the gate” that leads on high. We “ran” up the crooked path for crying out loud. Well I guess the three men did fulfill their oath after a fashion. They did kill Death. The only thing they didn’t realize was that each of them was Death.

Harry Potter fans might find this story naggingly familiar. That’s because this story was the inspiration for the Tale of the Three Brothers by Beadle the Bard. In that story there also were three men. They didn’t go looking for Death, rather it came looking for them. The attitudes of the two men in this story are similar to the attitudes of the two elder brothers in that they were determined to humiliate Death. In particular there is a corollation between the “proudest of the three” and the oldest of the brothers who if I remember correctly was also described as proud. Now that I think about it the “proudest” reveler and the “oldest” brother were also the most violent men. The youngest brother in Beadle’s tale was different from all the men in the tale, he was humble and he didn’t trust Death which is why he asked for the invisibility cloak. In this tale none of them mastered Death. I suppose Beadle the Bard would say because a true master of Death goes to his death willingly like the youngest brother in the Beadle Tale rather than tries to conquer death the the men in this tale. You can also see how Rowling used Death’s description in her tale. If you remember Ron said that Death chased behind people flapping his robes to scare them; he also said Death had an invisibility cloak for sneaking up on people. Is seems that even Death in Beadle’s tale had to resort to trickery to claim people much the same as Death did in this story.

You know this view of Death chasing people was also in an old episode of the Twilight Zone. In that episode, this little old lady never let any person in because she was afraid of dying. One day, the police officer was shot outside her home, so she opened the door to let the young man in. She took care of him and grew to like him and told him of her fear of death. She realized he was Death when she looked in the mirror and saw that he had no reflection. She was a little bit afraid, but in the end she realized Death was a friend so she went with him willingly. At the end of the episode two other police officers found her lying peaceful in bed.

Anyway, this tale was interesting on more than one level.

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