Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales is a weird story about an older Miller, his young, beautiful wife who sleeps with a young Oxford student, and an admiring young clergyman involved in a strange sexual relationship. In "A Whiter Shade of Pale", is the miller's tale a reference to the Miller's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales?

2 Answers 2


The lyrics are on record as not being philosophically meaningful.

However, I would presume that all would think like me, that indeed, "as the miller told his tale" was a direct reference to the Miller's Tale in The Canterbury Tales. But apparently I'd be wrong.

The lyricist probably did it deliberately to make the song sound literary and highbrow.

Incidentally, the "older" man in the Miller's Tale was in fact not himself a miller, but a "reeve" (that is, a sheriff of some sort). The Miller told the story deliberately to ridicule the Reeve. (The Miller and the Reeve were enemies, and spent the journey sniping at each other.)

In a similar way, the Reeve's Tale is about a pair of feckless students who play a similar bawdy prank on a miller.


According to the following, it was not deliberate.

Procol Harum's lyricist Keith Reid wrote the words to this song...

The lyric, "As the miller told his tale" sounds like a reference to "The Miller's Tale," from Chaucer's English novel The Canterbury Tales...

Reid, however, disproves this theory. He told us: "I'd never read The Miller's Tale in my life. Maybe that's something that I knew subconsciously, but it certainly wasn't a conscious idea for me to quote from Chaucer, no way."
A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum (Songfacts).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.