Month: March 2021

The Perils of Bonding with a Father

What I was drawn to initially in the mirrored stories of The Cock and the Fox and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” was how exactly both the Cock and Chauntecleer found themselves in the fox’s jaws. By this I mean not the moral of the fable, which is about the vulnerable state one can be in the embrace of vanity, but rather a specific tactic both foxes utilize. This tactic is bringing up their fathers, and more specifically it is a move of emotional manipulation by the foxes to leave both the cock and Chauntecleer vulnerable. This shared dialogue in both The Cock and the Fox and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is what gets both cocks’ necks ensnared by the foxes. This strategy by the fox made me think about how the shadow of a man’s father, either in the sense of positive close relationship or as a means to appease, has also lead both fictional and non-fictional people to states of consequential weakness that leads to a great vulnerability. The cock and Chauntecleer both have vain egos, but when the foxes mention them in the light of their fathers, the ego becomes internally questioned and must be solidified. Three entirely different figures I see this same dynamic in are Hamlet from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Luke Skywalker from in particular The Empire Strikes Back, and professional golfer Tiger Woods. While the reader may not know the relationship with the Cock, Chauntecleer, and their respective fathers, the same emotional nerve that the foxes struck is arguably the same nerve that Claudius struck in Hamlet, Darth Vader struck in Luke, and Earl Woods struck that nerve in his own son throughout his living presence in Tiger’s entire carrier.

As the foxes begin to flatter both the cock and Chauntecleer, their next phrases would appear to be intentional tactics to distract them into danger:

“I never heard a voice so clear except your father’s – Ah! poor dear! His voice rang clearly, loudly – but Most clearly, when his eyes were shut!” (France)

“But certeyn, ther nis no comparisoun bitwix the wisdom and discrecioun of youre fader, and of his subtiltee. Now singeth, sire, for seinte charitee! Let see, conne ye your fader countrefete?” (497-501)

These suggestions by the foxes get near immediate physical reactions to please, not unlike if they were trying to please their own fathers in real time. The cock does as the fox asks and closes his eyes, and then is subsequently snatched. Chauntecleer imitates his father as the fox asks, and in a following suggestion also “heeld his eyen cloos,” (512) which leads to him getting grabbed by the throat. These suggestions to be like their fathers became their motivations to do that through physical imitation. These actions allow them to be close to their fathers, and clearly they view their fathers in high regard by how much they react positively.

Hamlet

(David Tennant as Hamlet and Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius) Picture by Robbie Jack

I would argue these actions on behalf of the father in The Cock and the Fox and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” are mirrored emotionally by Hamlet in Hamlet. Hamlet, who is tortured by the untimely death of his father, is motivated to avenge him after a conversation with his father’s own ghost, by plotting to take the life of King Hamlet’s brother Claudius. What the reader can identify between these three tales is a respectful and loving view of their fathers. What can also be seen is that the cock, Chauntecleer, and Hamlet are all led by their emotions in wanting to do a very particular action in order to appease and be closer to their fathers. The cock and Chauntecleer both imitate him out of love in an almost childish manner, and Hamlet is ready and willing to avenge and appease his father with bloodshed. These motivations are what lead to their mutual fates through vulnerabilities: both the cock and Chauntecleer are dragged off by the foxes to be killed, and the cost of Hamlet’s path of revenge is his eventual death. If Hamlet had not been actively trying to avenge his father, he would have not been in a mind state that lead to him killing Polonius, because that is the event that lead to Laertes working with Claudius in plotting to kill Hamlet to avenge Polonius, his father. These motivations that lead to vulnerability in order to appease a father that are shared between The Cock and the Fox, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” and Hamlet are further amplified with Laertes being led by these same motivations that lead to his own death.

Although the plot of Hamlet is in no way like “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” or The Cock and the Fox, these same emotional mechanics tied to their fathers are very much the same at their core. These emotional mechanics work towards an end, or a means of resolution for better or worse. In all of these works of fiction, it is a vehicle for the plot to be eventually resolved. Hamlet is not the only work that these emotional mechanics are involved in. Luke Skywalker also wanted to be like his father, Anakin, and not unlike Hamlet he was willing to take a life in order to avenge him. This motivation is what led him to great danger and vulnerability in The Empire Strikes Back.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back”

Before Luke Skywalker finds out that his father is in fact Darth Vader (spoiler) and his motivation becomes bringing his father back from the dark side, his motivation is in fact to avenge his father by killing the at the time considered mutually exclusive Darth Vader. The reason why Luke wants to be a jedi is because his father was. After Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke’s secondary motivation, that is also mirrored in the cock and Chauntecleer, is to appease and avenge Obi-Wan as well as his father. This pursuit is what leads to his battle and moment of great vulnerability in The Empire Strikes Back. Luke is vulnerable because his motivations to appease his father and master, made him blind to the fact he was in no way ready to fight Darth Vader. This vulnerability is further compounded when Darth Vader tells Luke that he is in fact his father, leading Luke to wallow like a child. This specific moment is shared in entirety between The Cock and the Fox, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” and The Empire Strikes Back by nature of the fact the cock, Chauntecleer, and Luke are all a moment away from having their lives ended as a consequence of their pursuit to appease a father, and they are all saved by their own hands or someone else’s in a moment of grace.

As opposed to Hamlet, The Cock and the Fox, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” and The Empire Strikes Back all have a moment of a saving moment that allow the cock, Chauntecleer, and Luke Skywalker learn from the moral of their own tale. This motivation to appease the father is also existent in reality. The motivational force of a father on a young boy can allow for an enriched character, but that force can become daunting and at times negative in their lives. A contemporary example of this same emotional mechanic at work is Tiger Woods. Just like the cock, Chauntecleer, Hamlet, and Luke Skywalker, Tiger Wood’s desire to appease and emulate his father has lead as much to his success as much as it as his personal hardships, and subsequent vulnerability.

TIGER WOODS

(Tiger And Earl Woods) picture by Reuters

In light of Tiger Woods’ recent car accident, I would like to state first before this section of the blog, that the intention of it is not to critique Tiger Woods as a human being. Tiger Woods has faced many hardships in the pursuit of his goals, and what I am arguing is that his pursuit of goals was very much influenced by his father Earl Woods, and that influence has lead to vulnerable moments in his life. This is an aspect to the new Tiger Woods documentary called Tiger on HBO. The documentary makes sure to spend ample time dissecting the complicated but deep love between Tiger and his father. Earl Woods trained Tiger at a very early age, and his constant tutelage lead Tiger to the heights of his professional career. What the documentary argues simultaneously is that his father’s drive halted Tiger from having a normal childhood, which led to a repression and then acting out consequentially during moments of his life. He was deeply angry at his father at times, but his father’s constant support and adoration inspired him and kept him focused in his pursuits. He loved winning because it made his father proud. How Tiger Woods is linked to the cock, Chauntecleer, Hamlet, and Luke Skywalker is due to him pursuing his goals, which is an action in order to appease his father like all of the other fictional characters. In his pursuits to win and gain his fathers approval, Tiger Woods has had to struggle with addictions that started as ways to cope with the stress of his carrier. This struggle allowed for Tiger Woods to fall into states of vulnerability, which is all tied back to appeasing his father.

The motivations to appease a father shared by the cock, Chauntecleer, Hamlet, Luke Skywalker, and Tiger Woods, all subsequently show how that pursuit can lead to great vulnerability. These motivations are so valid for action that the reader can see them both in and out of reality. This progression elicits such a strong reaction due in part to it being relatable. Human beings want to appease their parents, and that can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. Your pursuit may fall short, and you feel weak in that moment, or you can commit so much to its accomplishment, you are blinded to other aspects of life. All of these people, real or not, are bonded by this singular pursuit of appeasement. Whether based in short story, play, movie, or real life, that pursuit perpetuated all of the subsequent events forward.