Let's zero in on the Canterbury pilgrims mentioned last time. The essential clue to the whole plan is--they all arrive at sunset to stay for the night. One of the boys in my friend Judy's high school class (where I first went public with the game) said, "They're stars, of course." That opened up the whole scheme.
Then who/what is the Miller--the brawny fellow with wide black nostrils who crashes his head into things? Do you see a bull? Right. And if we're dealing with stars, who is that bull? Taurus, right.
The next question is about the two brothers. That's pretty obvious--Gemini. The identity of two other pilgrims who receive cordial treatment might trip you up, but rely on Chaucer's clues. A "star" associated with love--her motto is "Love conquers all"--would be Venus. Now we know we are dealing with the planets Chaucer knew as well as the zodiac. So, what's your guess about a man dedicated to war? Mars? Right. These are simple introductions to the disguised pilgrims. More details come later.
I want you to know that all the facts I present are not on the surface of Chaucer's poetry. I had to dig through a lot of information he could have known--information known in the 14th century--to understand what he says. It's been a fascinating search. For example, one fact I learned is that planets could be called pilgrims. What a happy surprise! A pilgrim was a wanderer--planets wander among the fixed stars, that is, among the constellations. The word planet could also be used in a general way to mean "heavenly bodies." So the night sky is truly a display of many pilgrims on a journey.
Here's one more fact. Chaucer had expert knowledge about "stars." He gives a defining statement about each zodiac figure to clinch its identity. Taurus/the Miller's clue is presented as his "thumb of gold," a reference to Aldebaran, a yellow star and the brightest in all the zodiac. Next time we'll talk about the other defining indicators of the hidden identities.
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