The Tabard Inn served as the beginning point for 29 pilgrims on their journey to Canterbury to visit the relics of St. Thomas Becket, according to SparkNotes. Harry Bailey owns the Tabard Inn, and he agrees to guide the group to Canterbury with one provision: every person must tell four tales, two on the way to the site and two on the return trip to the tavern.
Geoffrey Chaucer, the author and narrator of "The Canterbury Tales," describes the travelers as they gather at the inn the night before the pilgrimage starts. The knight is the highest-ranked pilgrim in the group and the narrator notes his rusted armor and slovenly assistants. Other travelers include a parson, miller, nun and the wife of Bath.
Bailey agrees to give the best storyteller a full-course dinner at the end of the journey. The Tabard's owner appoints himself the contest's judge. Readers never get to find out who wins the contest because Chaucer only completed 23 out of the 116 tales he planned to write.
The Tabard Inn was a real place in Southwark, England. The original tavern burned down in 1669 during a fire that swept through Southwark. The Tabard was rebuilt as the Talbot Inn until it was demolished in 1873 after it fell into disrepair. The original square upon which the tavern was located still exists near Southwark St. and Borough High St. in London. The George Inn still exists on the square as a former neighbor of the Talbot Inn.