Do you agree that the whimsical, sometimes farcical behaviour, of the animals (toyanimals) in Fables is nothing more than a comic device? Discuss in relation to twotexts on your module, one to be medieval.
There may be a gap of over 500 years between the composition of GeoffreyChaucer’s
The Nun’s Priest’s Tale
and that of James Thurber’s
Fables for Our Time
butthere are many similarities to be found in the humour of the two texts. The comedy oftenlies in the anthropomorphising of animal characters who are placed in ludicrous situationsor given bizarre notions in order to criticise the authors’ contemporary societies. These portrayals are not simply designed to shed light on the actions of others, but the reader isalso expected to acknowledge a reflection of their own faults in the didactic examplesfound in these humorous beast fables. To quote Thurber; “People can laugh out of a kindof mellowed self-pity as well as out of superiority” (Hill 176).The fact that both Chaucer and Thurber give creatures the ability to talk isamusing in itself, but the particular language that these animals use is also worth noting.Chaucer’s main animal character in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is a cock calledChauntecleer, who when engaged in an intense discussion with his wife Pertelote aboutthe prophetic importance of dreams, displays his knowledge of Latin in order toemphasise the fact that he is more learned than his fair lady, and is therefore more likelyto be right. His ruse is successful in that he then woos and subsequently manages todistract his wife from continuing their conversation, but she does not realise that histranslation of the Latin “In principio, Mulier est hominis confusio” (Chaucer lines 3163-3164, pg 257) as “Womman is mannes joye and al his blis” (3166, 257) is in factincorrect. The true translation is ‘Woman is man’s ruin’, the absolute antithesis of what