The Cok and the Jasp

As an admirer of fables and an occasional storyteller myself, I found “The Taill of the Cok and the Jasp” to be both very interesting and rewarding in its teachings. It is a subtle tale, very unlike my own, but its simplicity is so pure that it must be praised. The cok, needing only sustenance at the moment, comes upon this jasp. He admires its beauty, recognizes it for a rare and expensive gem, but leaves it where it is found because the jasp can’t provide what he needs most: to be fed. For truly, what could the jasp do for the cok? It is pleasing to the eye, sure, but it can’t feed him. As he says, “Thow ganis not for me nor I for the.”

In the “Moralitas” of the taill, Henryson remarks that a man must seek, above all, to increase his knowledge every day. Obviously I agree. But I feel the taill lacks–and is depreciated because of it–the cosmic wisdom of our Lord. For truly a good fable can be made great if there are ghostly lessons embedded in its narrative. That is why I enjoyed Margery Kempe’s, and even Julian of Norwich’s, autobiographical accounts much more than I did the fable. A devout man such as myself must put God before everything else, and those lessons who teach us about how he works his miracles on us every day are truly the most precious gems of all. Therefore, I wish the fable of the cok and the jasp were to be re-imagined to include some religious moral message. In my tale, as you remember, the Enemy took the shape of the fox, and the story’s hero, a cok named Chauntecleer (what a beautiful name!) had to use his cunning to escape the fox.

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4 thoughts on “The Cok and the Jasp

  1. Nun’s priest,
    Your account of the Cok and the Jasp was quite relatable to my own feelings toward its teachings. I found it rewarding as well. And while your own tale might greatly differ from this, it is symbolically similar in nature. I find solace in my own similarities to it. Your own place in the world is that of a noble, religious and respectable man; therefore, your accounts will be dear to that of the Lord’s. In terms of this tale, I can see why you do not find full satisfaction in its lack of religious message. The Cok admires the beauty of the jasp even though it cannot provide what it needs. This relates to my own tale, as I admired my beautiful and magical Lady, whom I stumbled upon in the woods, but it was a forbidden love as well. I was not able to fully be with her outside of her tent or show her off to my friends, fellow knights, and family. Admiring and recognizing something that’s so beautiful but cannot complete you is a kind of suffering. Though we found different perspectives on this tale, we both gained something from it.

    Yours,
    Lanval

  2. Nun’s Priest,

    I believe that there is truth in your words, and if I may be so bold, I wish to attempt to provide an alternate reading of this tale that you may find more preferable. I myself have spent much time considering this simple little story owing to the parallels that I believe it in some way contains to my own adventure with the green girdle and the Green Knight.

    Perhaps, one can consider the jasp in the tale to be God. Like the jasp, God could help protect the cok from harm and help him live a good life. Instead of taking the opportunity to welcome the jasp, or allegorically, God, into his life, the cok remains more concerned with earthly pleasures. The self interested cok has failed to see beyond the earthly bounds of his own life, and has thus ignored the chance to lead a full life in heaven in times to come.

    Perhaps you shall find this interpretation to be something of a stretch, but I truly hope that you found it helpful in some way. Of course, it is likely presumptuous of me to attempt to interpret a story to someone who is as gifted a story teller as yourself. As such, a verily hope that I did you no offense in my endeavor to aid you.

    Kindest regards,
    Sir Gawain

  3. I ask you, sir, what you would say of a man like me. What kind of tale should I seek to fill my mind with? You say that the tale of the Cok is deprecated for having no connection to your God, and that it is your duty to contemplate on your God and fill your mind with His word. But what of men such as I? We who live more as men without concern for a cosmic lord, as you call it, but for the future of our own lives and for our own deeds?

    Is there anything for me to take from a tale such as this? What of a tale such as the one ye told? I found it to be the better tale, if I must say. I do not think there was much to be learned from the tale of the Cok and the Jasp, but the story of Chauntecleer is one that I say every man could learn from. I regret that I had not learned the lesson of that tale until my dying moments, but alas, life does not work the way a man expects.

  4. How could you wish for a religious or moral message? Do you need a fable of talking animals to tell you what is right and wrong? Can you not form opinions for yourself or do you wish for a cock to tell you what is a good Christian? I will not have someone interpret God’s word for me. I am well read and well experienced, far more so than a cock. Why wish for knowledge and wisdom from such a small beast if you can achieve it yourself?

    You, Nun’s Priest, say that Henryson believes all men must seek wisdom before anything else. Could he even believe there is no worth in something beautiful? However, I am here to tell you that I have sought and achieved wisdom in my lifetime all while adorned in high clothing very special and worthy to me. Jasps are beautiful things, as are fine cloths and hats, jewelry and wealth. These are things I am not ashamed to like. These are things that do not make me a bad Christian, I have decided.

    What kind of tale is this? How can you wish for a moral from such a ridiculous fable?

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