The Canterbury Tales

The Reeve's Tale


The Reeve uses his tale as payback towards the Miller since he made fun of carpenters, the Reeve's previous occupation. His tale is about a Miller named Symkyn being fooled by two young scholars. The Miller is always stealing grain and no one ever does anything about it because he is such a big and tough man. Until two college kids, Alan and John, are sent to stop him from continuing to do this. Symkyn sees right through their plan and releases their horse to distract them. After their horse runs free Alan and John chase after it, only to have most of their grain stolen from them by the Miller who has his wife use it to make a cake. The two scholars accept defeat and ask to seek shelter with the Miller and his family, who agrees.

Angry and upset, Alan and John seek revenge and compensation, Alan decides to have it by sleeping with the Miller's daughter. John doesn't know what to do but he feels he needs compensation too so he decides to trick the wife. As she leaves to go to the bathroom he moves the baby cradle in front of his bed, so she thinks it is her bed. When she comes back she doesn't realize this since it is so dark and she goes to John's bed thinking he is just the Miller. John throws himself on her and they too sleep together. In the early morning Alan goes to tell of his conquest to John soon to realize he is in the wrong bed talking to the Miller about his daughter. The Miller freaks out and starts beating Alan, the wife panics and finds a staff to hit Alan with, but confuses his white hat for her husband's bald head and knocks out her husband. The boys beat the Miller senseless now that he is on the floor and make their escape and take their flour, horse and the cake.

The Reeve

  • He was a craftsman and a carpenter.
  • Corrupt, cheated everyone.
  • Financially stable.
  • From Norfolk.

The Moral

You always get what is coming to you in the end, if you treat people badly you yourself will be treated badly.

The Reeve was so badly hurt by the Miller's tale that he felt he should return the favor which is similar to his moral. This shows he wanted to teach the Miller a lesson on how bad behavior in general will come back to get you.


What is a Miller?

A Miller is a person who turns grain into flour.

What is the tool, called the hopper do that is used by the Miller?

A tool used to funnel grain into the milling stone where it will then be crushed and turned into flour.

Five Vocabulary Words

  1. Yeomanly- pertaining to or befitting a yeoman; loyal, staunch, and sturdy.
  2. Scrofula- primary tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands, especially those of the neck.
  3. Besmirched- to detract from the honor or luster of someone.
  4. Malady- any disorder or disease of the body, especially one that is chronic or deep-seated.
  5. Shellacked- defeated, trounced.

Essential Question

Did the Miller in the story deserve what happened to him and his family?