A Cunning Old Man

The Pardoner’s Tale found in the Canterbury Tales contained a story about three friends who made a vow to kill death. The three men encountered an old man who insisted that he couldn’t die, when the men heard this astonishing fact they immediately wanted to know where they could find death. The friends demanded that the old man tell them where death was. In response, the old man really did tell them where it could be found. He said it was beneath a tree not far away. With this the three men went in search of death under that tree, but what they found under the tree partially distracted them from their quest to kill death. What did the men find? They found precious gold. When they discovered the gold they completely forgot about their mission and began plotting to kill one another in order to obtain more riches, very selfish right? The men did indeed end up finding death, but they didn’t accomplish their goal of killing it, because they ended up killing one another.

I was asked if I thought the old man in this tale was death. Before I heard the question the thought of the old man being death hadn’t even crossed my mind, but now as I have had time to ponder it I do think that that man was something other than a helpful bystander. He certainly could’ve been death or at least some evil accomplice of death. It’s obvious that he was trying to protect death by leading the men who wanted to kill death straight to their deaths. It really is too bad that greed got a hold on those men, but I’m sure they learned their lesson.

I believe that death can be overcome. But for the time being death exists- it is a part of this life. Even plants die. Just imagine, what would happened if plants never died? What would happen is that we would be overrun by plants, we wouldn’t be able to get rid of them; they’d simply continue to pop up again and again. Revelation 21:4 says that “…there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” In previous verses of the 21st chapter of Revelation I read that the discontinuing of death will take place when the first heaven and first earth have passed away and the second heaven and earth will come. I’d love to share more of my thoughts on this but I believe it is a bit out of my knowledge level to be discussing this topic any further.

In conclusion, the old man in The Pardoner’s Tale was ultimately giving directions to those three men on how to find death. Unfortunately the old man didn’t care to give any advice on how to kill death. If only he had been a friendlier stranger on the side of good….

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