"The Squire's Tale" (Middle English: "The Squiers Tale") is an unfinished verse story from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The tale's narrator is a young knight in training, the son of the man who tells "The Knight's Tale". The story is a fantasy, heavily influenced by Arthurian legend and (partly fantastical) accounts of journeys to Asia by European writers.
The story begins at the court of King Cambyuskan (the Middle English name for Genghis Khan). A mysterious knight arrives bearing gifts for the king and his family, including a metal horse which has the power to carry its owner to any part of the world and a ring which allows its wearer to speak and understand the language of birds.
It is unknown whether or not Chaucer intended to continue the tale and simply left it unfinished at the time of his death. Many readers believe that Chaucer deliberately left the story unfinished. The tale is immediately followed by words between the Franklin and the Squire, in which the Franklin praises the Squire and his tale, and words between the Franklin and the Host. Many readers interpret this section as the Franklin deliberately interrupting the Squire before going on to tell his own tale.
"The Squire's Tale" was one of the most popular of The Canterbury Tales in the 16th and 17th centuries. Continuations of the story were written by the Elizabethan poets Edmund Spenser and John Lane. However, the story is relatively unknown today. Many modern critics see the story as being deliberately of inferior quality, as befits its young teller who is still learning about poetry and romance.
Cambyuskan has been the King of the Tartars for twenty years. He has two sons named Algarsyf and Cambalo and a beautiful young daughter named Canace. Each year, lavish celebrations are held to celebrate the king's birthday.
On the day of the king's birthday, a knight arrives on a horse made of brass. The knight explains that he brings presents for Cambyuskan and his family from the King of Arabia and India. The horse has the magical power to carry its owner to any part of the world within the space of a single day. The knight also offers a magical mirror, ring and sword. The mirror can warn its owner of any upcoming danger, show its owner which people are true friends and which are really enemies and show a woman if her lover is unfaithful to her. The sword can cut through any armor and the wounds which it inflicts will not heal, unless the wound is later touched by the magical sword's flat. The ring, similar to one which the Biblical King Solomon is said to have owned, allows its wearer to understand the language of birds and to speak to them in their own language. It also gives its wearer a complete knowledge of medicinal herbs. The ring is given to Canace. All of the other presents are taken away to a tower, except for the brass horse which cannot be made to move. Some of Cambyuskan's courtiers have misgivings about the magical gifts, especially the brass horse which they think may conceal an invading army like the Trojan Horse did.
Later, the knight tells Cambyuskan how to control the brass horse. There is a knob in the horse's ear, the horse will not move unless the knob is turned first. After the knob has been turned, the horse can then be ordered to carry its owner to any part of the world. Turning another knob can cause the horse to vanish immediately, it will then reappear as soon as its owner calls it.
The brass horse is taken away to the tower where the other gifts are kept but it immediately vanishes.
Celebrations for Cambyuskan's birthday go on late into the night. Canace dances with the knight who arrived on the brass horse.
The following day, most of Cambyuskan's courtiers sleep late. Canace, however, gets up early and goes for a walk, accompanied by some of her servants. Canace notices a peregrine falcon which is bleeding heavily, having wounded itself with its own beak, and crying loudly. Canace is able to understand what the bird is saying because she is wearing the magical ring.
The bird, a female, tells Canace that she is heartbroken. A male falcon spent a long time trying to persuade the bird that he was in love with her. The female falcon was eventually persuaded that his love was true, promised to love him forever, asked him to promise her the same and to always show her respect. However, the male falcon abandonned her and left her for a kite.
Canace takes the bird home, bandages its wounds and, thanks to the knowledge of herbs that the ring also gives her, is able to prepare medicinal ointments for the bird. The falcon is given a cage covered with blue velvet, the color of women's faithfulness, and colored green inside. The cage is also decorated with pictures of male falcons like the one who deceived the bird as well as owls and magpies, birds considered to be false.
The Squire says that he will later tell how Cambalo, with the help of the magical ring, was able to restore the falcon's former love. He also says that he will tell more about the life of Cambyuskan and the battles which he fought when he was young. The Squire also promises to describe how Algarsyf won the love of his wife Theodra and was saved from many dangerous situations by the magical brass horse. Finally, the Squire says that he will tell how Cambalo (possibly meaning the knight who arrived on the brass horse) fought the two brothers to win the hand of Canace. However, the tale continues no further.
- Original Middle English text of "The Squire's Tale" on Wikisource.
- Middle English text of "The Squire's Tale" with an interlinear Modern English translation on the Harvard University website.
- Modern English translation on the Florida State University website.
- Public domain audiobook of "The Squire's Tale" on YouTube.