The pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer want to pay their respect to Saint Thomas Becket, who was killed on the order of king Henry II, by visiting his tomb. “Whoever best acquits himself, and tells/ The most amusing and instructive tale, / Shall have a dinner, paid for by us all” are the words that initiate the reason for all this story-telling.
The host declares that every pilgrim tells a story on the way to Canterbury and one story on the way back to Southwark. In the end, the best story-teller will be rewarded with a dinner paid by his fellow travellers. The outcome is a fascinating assemblage of short stories, fables, parables, romances, comedies and dick jokes, told by various representatives of the social classes in Medieval England. The whole concept reminded me of a familiar idea. The twenty-firs century is less the century of pilgrims, but more the century of the phone addicts. We communicate with people from all over the world and don’t have to ride on our horse for days to relate tales, but when the people we should talk to sit right next to us, our thumbs are still glued to the small screen. The solution to this problem reminds me of the host’s quest. The phones are collected and put in the middle of the table. Whoever picks the phone up first has to pay the food and drinks for the whole group. Chaucer died in 1400, leaving The Canterbury Tales incomplete. As a consequence, the reader never finds out, which story finally wins. Maybe that is not the point. In the end, we won’t remember the winner of the best the story, but we will remember the great tales that have been told, and the laughs we shared. We will remember what a special evening we spend together without checking our phones. And we didn’t even have to make a pilgrimage to Canterbury to start talking to each other again