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Main page » Non-Fiction » Science literature » Literature Studies » The Reeve's Tale (Canterbury Tales)

The Reeve's Tale (Canterbury Tales)


There was a miller who lived in Cambridge who was a strong man and bullied those around him. He was adept at using the knife and no-one dared to cross him. He would steal meal brought to his mill for grinding.  His wife was well-rounded and had been raised in a nunnery.

They were both proud of their twenty year-old daughter and six month-old baby boy.

One of the miller’s main clients was the large College at Cambridge, and like his other clients, he would cheat them.  One day, the College Steward was ill and unable to take the corn to the mill. Two students at the College, John and Alan, learnt about the dishonest miller and decided to expose him. However, the miller was not stupid and when the students arrived, he suspected their game.  When the students were not looking, he untied their horse and they escaped. When the students discovered this, they went out looking for the horse.

While they were away searching for the horse, the miller emptied half the flour from the sack and gave it to his wife. It was dark by the time John and Alan returned with their horse, and they asked the miller if they could spend the night in the mill. They offered to pay for food and lodging.  The miller agreed, but pointed out that they only had one bedroom and that John and Alan would have to share a bed. There was no lighting in the room. The miller and his wife occupied one bed with the baby’s cradle at its foot, and their daughter slept in the third bed.

When everyone was asleep, John and Alan decided to take revenge on the miller.

Alan gets up and goes to the daughter’s bed, and they got on just fine.

John was annoyed that he was left alone in his bed.  Then he got up and quietly moved the baby’s cradle next to his bed. The miller’s wife got up in order to relieve herself of the large amount of wine she had consumed, and feeling her way back to bed, she of course went to the bed where her baby’s cot was. John immediately, “on this good wife he laith on sore (hard)”.

As dawn neared, Alan made his farewells to the daughter who told him where to find the stolen flour.  He returns to the bed that does not have the cradle and mistakes the miller for John.  He whispers in the miller’s ear that he has had the daughter three times in the night. In fury, the miller rises from his bed cursing Alan, only to find his wife in bed with John.

The miller’s wife thinking she was in bed with her husband, grabbed a club and strikes her husband down.

Alan and John leave the mill in a hurry.

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Tags: Miller, Tales, profession, Reeve, reeve, Tales, Oswald