The Canterbury Tales Writing Competition 2019/20: Hopes and Dreams – The Winners

Thank you to everyone who entered the The Canterbury Tales Writing Competition 2019/20: Hopes and Dreams. We are thrilled that the competition continues to attract so many entries. It was a tough field this year and the judges were really impressed by the quality of the writing. We hope that you enjoy the winning entries as much as we have.

Ages 5-10

1st Place

Four Hopes; Four Dreams; Four Journeys. One Goal

By Charlie Aged 10

Nothing was ready.

                Hope wasn’t ready. The dream wasn’t ready. Nor was he.

Nothing was ready.

The slithering serpent,

Flooded with sorrow,

A sinuous pathway,

No hope for the ‘morrow.

Glossy tarred ebony,

Crowned with dark;

A meandering terrace,

Not one lonely lark.

Something was wrong,

Nothing was right;

If the dream had a switch,

It had turned off the light.

Tenebrosity’s cloak,

Encompassed the street;

Very secretive, clandestine,

Very prudent, discreet.

Embracing the highway,

The distant horizon;

Swallowing the hillside,

That skiff’s obscure mizen.

And upon that skiff,

Lay a hope and a dream;

Wailing in fright,

At that glaring black screen.

Upon that vessel,

Ambled a sailor;

Now broke’ free,

Of an impotent gaoler.

Placid trauma,

The sea’s dark emission;

Look! The maniac –

Such delirious ambition!

A pure young lad,

A juvenile wheel-wright;

Such well cropped hair,

A boy free from spite.

That rickety wagon,

Abruptly enveloped;

By a silky mist…

The velvet developed.

Travel the seas,

And you’ll rendezvous;

With a cunning cowboy,

Wears just one shoe.

That very cowboy,

Of one aspiration;

Entirely demolished,

Due to hope’s dissipation.

Much further north,


 A stony-faced lawyer,

Traversing Batavia.

Though his paltry travels,

Wouldn’t last long;

As the black candy clouds,

Played their pattering song.

The skiff’s exterior,

Steadily rotting;

Roaring waves,

Repelling his yachting.

That anguished wheel-wright,

Scarcely back home;

The soaking tiles tease him,

Completely alone.

The desperate cowboy,

Whipping his steed;

The poor mite accelerates,

Unaware of her deed.

That formally clothed lawyer,

Huddled under his cloak;

His day purely livid,

In for a soak.

If drawn on a map,

These paths form an arrow;

The Lion Inn, Canterbury’s

Where their paths narrow.

One slithering serpent,

Four heads, four brains;

So, these four characters,

Must grapple their reins.

Seas must be crossed,

Hopes deferred;

Dreams may be ruined,

These notes may be slurred.

Alas! At last!

Four hopes; Four Dreams;

Threading four paths,

Four Paths as it seems.

But in fact it transpires,

All these routes were intended;

Through misery, through storms,

All four fellas blended.

So, hopes can be fragile,

Dreams be obscured;

Concealed by a veil,

And suddenly secured.

So assume your aegis,

When offered a dream;

Success in a hope’s

A precarious scheme.

Clustered around a solid oak table, the four pilgrims gazed at the poem these friends had written together. Generations had passed. They sat within that same inn, stationed between apartments, a vermilion brick edifice, hefty, formidable. These four diverse heads had been reduced to one. They have multiplied to millions, the readers of this song.

2nd Place

This Kind of Life

By Jasper Aged 9

Cedric groaned loudly when his arrow missed again.  He felt nervous about his return home empty handed. Cedric’s energy left him and he felt sad, bored and tired.

He trudged into The Dark Wood where there was nothing but silence. He sat under a tree and rested his head on the leafy forest floor.

When Cedric woke, he turned and looked at the starry sky. It was dusk. The forest felt wet and smelt of rain and leaves. Flickering lights in front of him told him the moon was reflecting a puddle. He burst forward, needing water.  Walking felt awkward. The journey from the tree to the puddle seemed longer than expected. He leaned over, looked at his rippling reflection and gasped.

He looked down and saw plush feathers and majestic wings where there should be skin and hands.  

Cedric the Boy was Cedric the Falcon. Cedric’s most important task was learning how to fly.  He tried to get off the ground. His wings felt heavy and uncoordinated. He felt sad so he lowered his head.

Behind a tree sat an observer, smirking and finding the whole show rather amusing.  What falcon can’t fly? What a pointless animal”, the observer said to himself.  He stepped out from his hiding place.

“Can I be of assistance Fair Falcon? My name is Hugo, the Forest Fox”.

Cedric jumped around. “Yes, can you help me fly?”

“Come closer and I’ll help you”, said Hugo.

Cedric hopped towards the stranger and in one sudden movement, Hugo pouched, crushing him into the wet soggy ground. In a thrashing of beak, claws and teeth, Cedric launched himself into the air, free.  “Flying isn’t hard after all!” exclaimed Cedric.

He soared into the dusky night air. He had never seen the world from up here. He saw beautiful tree tops and cascading waterfalls, stunning grasslands and magical flowers like a blanket over the earth.  His eyes had never been so open.

After flying for miles, Cedric noticed a bright red and orange fire burning. He flew down to burning blaze.

Hugo, the Forest Fox, was lying in a burning shelter, unable to move. 

“I cannot walk”, said Hugo. A long, rusty, jagged nail had skewered his paw. 

“You want me to help you now? Like you helped me earlier?” said Cedric.  Fear washed over Hugo’s face. 

“P…P… please”, he stuttered. Cedric’s strong beak pulled the nail out of Hugo’s paw and he watched Hugo run off over the hills.

Cedric watched as frightened people threw buckets of water into the fire.  He wondered what had caused it. He spread his wings and launched himself into the air. Without warning, his wings faltered, and stopped moving. Cedric felt himself falling.  He closed his eyes just before he landed, surprisingly very softly on the forest floor.

Cedric opened his eyes again – no longer a Fair Falcon but a boy with no dinner to take home.  He sat up. At his feet lay three dead rabbits. 

Someone had been watching.   

3rd Place


By Aurora aged 10

Did I awaken throat-moist

   and hear rejoicing laughter beside a stream –

stream-bubbles bubbling within bubbles

   and see a drift of twisted black crowfeathers

sliding, scavenging

   beneath a pale sickly yellowish top-wood corn moon

passing a dangle of skeletal overhang

   in helpless plenty

underneath a petal-thin, bruised-black, stand-still stillness?

   A quiet ripple ripples quietly in the shadow of crab apple trees,

whose fruit hang like frozen eggs, ice-tight in their feather-weighted jelly reflection,

   but overhead a soft-feathered, bruised-blue, fox-caught-still, new blue tit buds in

fledgling flight, lolling like a leaf over the edge of its nest,

   God – wrought I thought …

I follow the now static stream

   and a golden haze sets me into a mid-meltedness of yellows,

within an emptiness of late-light moon-walk hollowness –

   a downward journey as cold air runs from house to house,

and i feel like i am dropping downward,

   downwards into a vast world of emptiness,

an emptiness that fills with smog and illness

   and august may fall upon us like dust,

soon will come the blind cruelty of pain,

   a feeling that all do not know nor care for me

i am hot with the sweat of fleeing children

   as i rush downwards and i feel all the wrong,

unnecessary pain of knowing

  as december may blanket the world with snow again

and then the upward journey

   as november may be just december in disguise

but my thoughts are all mine, all mined

   and kept secretly in a secret box under my bed –

open it and I will explode,

   along the alleyway of bewilderment where terror is in the june grass,

like thoughts on a knife-edge kept stock-still,

   something towers above me tattooed in grey tiger-skin colours,

i shudder in cold winds towards a blue afternoon

   and the sun has leapt – if only all the voices in my head were one …

Ages 11-14

1st Place

A description of a character met in a dream

By Simone aged 12

At seven-thirty

in the morning, I woke up

in a blurry mist.

I realised it

Was a dream but it wasn’t

Mine. So then I yelled,




There was no answer.

I walked carefully across

The blank white terrain

That looked like pages

Of a book. A figure came

Silently to me.

It was a woman

With a ruddy face. Strangely,

She was made of card.

 “Hello,” she said as

If it were FINE to be made

Of card. It WASN’T.

“I’m your seamstress for

Today.” She held out her hand.

I shook it, bemused.

She wore a large hat

With red stockings and new shoes,

A horse by her side.

“The Wife of Bath” her

Name tag read. She didn’t seem

To have had a bath.

“Oh no, once or twice

A year is ENOUGH,” she said,

Reading my mind’s thoughts.

“So how come I’m in

Your dream?” I asked tentatively.

“Oh well,” she began.

“Geoffrey Chaucer made

Us all, the Franklin, Miller…

But when the last page

Turned, we didn’t want

To stop.” “Stop what?” I enquired.

“To stop living, see.”

“But you’ll always be

Alive,” I said wisely. “When someone

Reads your story, then

You’ll come back to life.

All stories are infinite.”

So she turns and waves

And melts back into

The page. My last thought as I

Wake is to read her


2nd Place

The Doctor

By Dennis Aged 11

As we continue our journey to Canterbury, Jacob, a newly appointed apprentice of a respectable doctor, stopped at an inn for the night…

As soon as Jacob closed his weary eyes, he was immersed into another world…  

In Jacob’s dream he was a poor desperate doctor who had decided to spread the word about his great talent by stating, “If I can’t cure you then I pay you 200 silvers, but if I can then you’ll pay 100 silvers.”

Yet one avaricious man whose mind was clouded by money saw this as an opportunity and thought that he could trick Jacob off his money. So, he came to Jacob’s house in a filthy grey coat and asked with a crooked smile, “Doctor, I’ve lost my taste, please can you cure me!”

Jacob was suspicious but later understood this man was a swindler and was trying to fool him, therefore, Jacob asked the nurse to bring him potion #154. When she came back, he opened it and poured it into the trickster’s mouth, yet after he sipped the potion he started shouting, “Why did you give me tar! You’re supposed to be a doctor!”

And Jacob replied with a devilish smile, “Congratulations, you’ve got your taste back, please pay at the stall!”

Furiously, the man stomped off to pay in rage.

On the next day, the same man came along to the house but this time in a cloak black as death and said:

“Doctor, I’ve lost my memory, please cure me!”

Calmly, Jacob told the man once again to sit down. This time he knew exactly what to do. He told the nurse to bring him the same potion #154 to which the man shrieked in horror, “Don’t give me potion #154 – it’s tar, are you mad?!”

“Congratulations, you remembered potion #154, I hope you remember where to pay as well,” Jacob chuckled.

On the following day, the man decided to pay a final visit to try and win back the money he had lost already. He believed he had thought of something that Jacob would never cure. Thus, he came with one goal: to win, and said with a big gaping toothy grin, “Doctor, I’ve lost my sight, please cure me!”

This time Jacob was really baffled, but later, he found the solution to the man’s trickery and replied with a sorrow look, “Unfortunately, I cannot fix that so here are your 200 silvers.”

But instead, Jacob handed 20 silvers to the man, who looked closer and shouted fiercely in disbelief:

“Hey, this is not 200 silvers! This is 20! Don’t try to cheat me!”

Once again, Jacob was victorious, “Congratulations, you can see now!” And he took the money from the man and shook his hand. Furiously the man stomped off and never returned having lost his 300 silvers to Jacob…

At that moment of pride, a cockerel cried, and Jacob awoke from his amazing dream with excitement, full of plans and hopes for his bright future.

3rd Place

Hopes and Dreams

By Lucas Aged 11

I opened my eyes and what did I see,

Five far ladies and stout gentlemen three,

All sitting around a circular table,

Drinking a drink: Champagne by the label,

They were chatting away with sentences terribly long,

The first of the ladies had a neck like a swan,

And the second one was ever so gracefully seated,

And the third’s conversation was quite simply depleted

The fourth one was witty with an intellect great

The fifth, over wine, had got herself in a state

One gentleman had a broom like moustache

Which twitched and which twiddled when he started to laugh

The second one’s whiskers, while styled to the ends

 All twenty-three inches just wouldn’t bend

And the third one while clean shaven and nattily dressed

His choice of hairstyle simply the best

Now one of the gentlemen looked up from his rant

And looked at me queerly as if I were an ant

Then he spoke to me in a voice as loud as a scream 

“would you care to join in our conversation on dreams”

So, I listened for some five minutes more

Until the mans conversation became ever so poor

 Then I asked if I could speak for a while

The fellow replied with great tact and some guile

As long as you keep to the subject then yes

 Just don’t talk in circles and never guess

Then with all their ascent and support

 My tongue ran away and I started to talk

“Well I was dreaming last night as I lay in my bed

That world was all green that world in my head

And the plants like stalactites all twisted and strange

Were walking towards me and screaming in pain

And ice in great lumps was falling straight down

And volcanic ash rose through cracks in the ground

And demons were flying around and laughing with glee

All those nasty demons all laughing at me

There were columns of fire from all seventy mouths

And they were breathing ashes and smoke in great wispy clouds

Their skin was scaly and a bright vibrant red

And I thought in that moment that I was most certainly dead

Then while lamenting my torturous fate

I remembered that I was not even awake

Then when I had finished reciting my tale

About demons and trees and great lumps of hail

 I looked at my audience seated beside me

And not a single one of them could I see

I awoke with a start and from my head images streamed

Where I spoke of a dream in the dream, I had dreamed

Ages 15-18

1st Place

Ganymede’s Complaint

In Rime Royale

By Alfie aged 17

Here beginneth Ganymede’s Complaint

I, grave Ganymede, tilt Zeus’ flagon.

For I was snatched when just a helpless whelp,   

Skyward-yanked by Zeus’ eagle talon;

To pour Olympian wine! My shrill yelp

Still echoes in Troy as dirge. . . Agh! For help

Of Gods I’m paid in perpetual doom. . .

For now no nymphs will e’er weep on my tomb!

But nathless, within mine immortal breast

Still beats hot a mortal heart. So I dream,

Always, of my love. . . Bah! Naiads at best

Are just as profound as their waist-high stream  

Is deep. . . Yet, in my lover, I did seem

So much more immersed! And so, I exist

In reverie; the sole place we can tryst:

In dreams, as her limpet-clung gauze robe whirls,

My valour is bade stiff like mollusc shell.

Bony fingers loop with sinuous curls,

As I undo psyche-knots, to compel:

Libations of unwound tresses to swell,

And pour free when we stomp through dream-meadow,

On virile stallions; pink flowers below.

Certes. . . I’m still impelled to battle growls,

Just as lief, I hone my sword with whetstone.

And dream of warring for her; of foe’s howls!

Of my silver blade blood-slaked as foe groan;

Orifices rent as their ramparts moan!

From palace vaults robbed the gem redly dull;

That spume sprays leaking through the homeward hull. . .

Nathless, I dream. . . yet, am bereft; lovelorn. . .

My dreaming, really, is of no avail:

Pillows know I think of others, so scorn

Mine embrace, and leave beds lonely. . . and stale.

The dreams vex with contrasts: for must entail,

There: floral chaplets, and lyres; juxtaposed

With here: lame Hephaestus, the bulbous nosed.

Ye players of dreams are disaffected 

As well, and accost me in my mind’s eye:

With “long hours” and “cloying scenes” dejected,

Ye won’t play on fancy’s stage, just deny. . .

Then flee out of mine ears! Ye wayward, sly!

And let reverie’s lovely face submit,

To reality’s rictus. . . I’ll curse it!

                                                Here endeth Ganymede’s Complaint

2nd Place

The Priest

By Ronan Aged 17

I tell the story of a priest with white wispy hair

His sides were bulging and his complexion was fair

Father Finnigan his name with an Irish tone to his voice

He’d spread the word of God and tell all to rejoice

On a Sunday morn’ he’d open up mass

With a cheery wave and a wiggle of his ass

But during the service he’d start feeling aroused

As he saw Rosemary Sanderson at the edge of the crowd

He conducted his sermon with true religious vigour

Whilst his eyes would scan Rosy Sanderson’s figure

For she had the most heavenly body that he’d ever seen

Made increasingly arousing, she was just sixteen

After the mass he’d go back home to his wife

Mrs Finnigan was also a Catholic for life

She towered over her husband standing six foot three

A true fiery menace, uncontrollable was she

Father Finnigan grew tired of his shrew of a wife

And so he decided to take control of his life

So every evening he’d bow down and prey

That the lord high God would send Rosemary his way

Father Finnigan had plotted and his mind was made up

He’d been praying to God and he felt full of luck

So he put on his dog collar and his holy shoes

As it was after this mass he would make his moves

There was Rosemary, sitting near the alter

He was filled with lust and he just couldn’t fault her

He selected her from the crowd making it seem random

And he noticed as they walked they were walking in tandem

They got to the doors and Finnigan’s faith was firm

He handed her the frankincense and told her to turn

They walked back to the alter in a holy procession

Finnigan’s eyes drawn to his brand new possession

He asked her to stay behind so he could thank her for the help

He told her he would bless her and for that she knelt

He then said “to the confession box, I will relieve you of your sin”

“But you must be honest with me and let the lord in”

So into the booth they went and the priest was quick to work

Telling her that it is “under the clothes sins truly lurk”

“And so for you to really be able to confess”

“You must take the first step and begin to undress.”

It was at this point Rosemary realised her error

As Finnigan approached her she was filled with terror

His praying had paid off, he was a worthy preacher

But just then as he was about to reach her

The doors of the booth were booted open to reveal

Mrs Finnigan, perhaps God is truly real

For what could explain this but divine intervention

For Father Finnigan had missed the priests convention

And it just so happened that Rosemary was saved

And Finnigan was prevented from getting what he craved.

3rd Place

A story set in a dream

By Ffion-Haf aged 16

  There was no subtlety as you stumbled into the room, the door bouncing exuberantly off the wall. The figure you’re meant to meet jumps. You whisper a ‘sorry’, but the figure doesn’t care, he casts his gaze downwards leaving you to slip into your seat silently. The creaking leather groans under your weight, unused to visitors unlike the armchair cradling the figure. Chocolatey fibers swaddle his every inch perfectly as if they were old friends. Two pipe-like legs sprawl over the garish, threadbare carpet before him. You cringe at the sight of it, all orange flowers and pink birds. Very ungodly.

                “How are you?” you ask timidly. A glass hangs precariously in his fingers. He swirls the brown liquid within it as if it were fighting to escape its glassy confines, climbing the walls like a rabid animal.

“I don’t want to do this anymore,” he mumbles. “I can’t do this anymore.” His pendulum head shakes desperately.

“Do what?” you ask. You have your suspicions, but you need him to tell you. Without his confession you’re no more than a mad person, head awry with intangible fantasies. He raises his head to stare at you. Bottomless pits of darkness underline his ebony eyes.

“I can’t be God any longer,” he replies. His face remains impassive. It’s the truth.

“I don’t think that’s something you can just back out of. You’re what? A few billion years old?” you ask dubiously.


“What?!” your voice is incredulous. “I wasn’t born yesterday. Tell me the truth.”

“The last God gave up when I was 21. She had no children so she ‘gifted’ the role to me,” he re-torts. “No one cares about the world anymore. No one understands how hard it is to be God, have a billion people fighting for your attention. Fighting for your assistance. Fighting for you to save them. But you can’t help them all…” he takes a violent swig of his drink. “So now I abdicate. You’re the new God.”

“I can’t be God,” you laugh. “I’m an atheist.”

He tips his head back and the bellows of his body reverberate into a laugh. You squint, unsure of how to respond. He can’t be serious.

“Well, you’re not an atheist anymore,” he laughs. “Welcome, to your new life, God.”

He outstretches his arm in front of you. His fingers like pale branches beckoning you to touch them. Entranced you reach your arm out to the figure’s. His arm welcoming you to your new role. His arm a bridge between humanity and immortality. You grab on…

                               *                        *                           *                             *                               *

Your eyes flash open. You blink, blinded.

“Where am I?” you grumble. A blanket pins you down as you look about. The realization hits you; it was all a dream. But why can you still feel the icy fingers of the God on your palm?