The Reeve's Tale

Merrell Readman

The Reeve

The Reeve is a tall and sickly man whom the majority of the pilgrims are afraid of. As a side job he works as a carpenter and as a primary job he manages an estate. It turns out, he is even wealthier than the lord he serves due to his sneaky ability to steal from his employer. Prior to telling his tale, he announces to the pilgrims that he is offended by the Millers Tale, and therefore will be telling a tale to counter attack him.


In the Reeve's Tale there is a Miller named Symkyn. He was very arrogant, and was married to the daughter of the town parson. His wife was very beautiful, so naturally he was very jealous of anyone that spoke to her. The Miller and his wife had two children, a 20 year old daughter and a 6 month old child. The Miller had a tendency of cheating his customers that come to have their grain turned to flour, however nobody ever fights him because of his reputation for liking a good fight. One day, two scholars named John and Alan go to the mill. As per usual, Symkyn decides to steal their flour. By releasing their horses, he creates a diversion so he can collect the flour.

When the scholars return, they notice their flour is missing so they decide to trick the Miller. After asking him if they could stay the night in his home, the two men and the Millers family get drunk together and all go to bed in the same room. Once the Miller has begun to snore, Alan decides to make up for the stolen flour by raping the Millers daughter. Feeling left out, John decides to act on the Millers wife. During the night, the she gets up to use the bathroom and this is when John strikes. He moves the baby cradle over next to his bed, and when she returns, the Millers wife climbs into John's bed believing it is her husband. John then proceeds to rape her as well. As it grows closer to morning, Alan leaves the bed of the Millers daughter to return to "Johns bed". However, he is thrown off by the cradle and ends up climbing into the Millers bed where he tells "John" of his conquest. Naturally, the Miller becomes enraged and attacks Alan. The fight ends with a very beat up Miller, as John and Alan sneak off into the night with their horses and flour reclaimed again.

Moral of the Story

According to the Reeve, the moral of the story is, "He who does evil cannot expect good" (line 400). The tale is very telling to the Reeve's character because it is very apparent that it was told with the intent of scorning the Miller. This shows he has a very volatile personality that is easily rubbed the wrong way.

What I had to research

Prior to reading the story, I was unsure what a Reeve was. The definition is: a local administrative agent of an Anglo-Saxon king or a medieval English manor officer responsible chiefly for overseeing the discharge of feudal obligations.

Vocabulary Words

Fodder: food, dried hay or feed for cattle and livestock

Dotage: the period of life when a person is weak and old

Scrofula: tuberculosis infection in the lymph nodes

Monopoly: exclusive control of a certain supply or trade

Beguiler: a person who charms others

Essential Questions

1. Although the Miller wrongfully stole flour from the scholars, was their response morally sound, or would there have been a better approach to dealing with the theft?

2. Why do you think that the Millers daughter helped out the scholars in the end with reclaiming their lost grain? What do you think this says about the character of the Miller?