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The pilgrims, like the narrator, are traveling to the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. The narrator describes 27 of these pilgrims. Each has a story to tell on their way to this holy site. The actual trip is what attracts these colourful characters rather than the site. Much drinking and laughter is had. They have a competition of who could tell the best tale. Many of the tales are a bawdy and satirical account of powerful institutions like the Church.