Italian Popular Tales
by Thomas Frederick Crane
Chapter IV: Legends and Ghost Stories
2528876Italian Popular Tales — Chapter IV: Legends and Ghost StoriesThomas Frederick Crane



The Italian people possess an inexhaustible store of legends which they have inherited from the Middle Ages. With the great mass of these stories—legends of the saints or local legends—we have at present nothing to do. It is enough to say that they do not differ materially from the legends of the other Catholic peoples of Europe. The class to which we shall devote our attention in this chapter is that of popular legendary stories which have clustered around the person of our Lord and his disciples, and around other favorite characters of mediæval fancy, such as Pilate, The Wandering Jew, etc. To these may be added tales relating to the other world and stories which are of a legendary nature. The first stories which we shall mention are those referring to mythical journeys of our Lord and his apostles.

The first, "St. Peter and the Robbers" (Pitrè, No. 121), relates that once while the Master was journeying with the apostles they found themselves at night out in the fields, and took shelter in a cabin belonging to some shepherds, who received them very inhospitably and gave them nothing to eat. Soon after, a band of robbers attacked the flock and robbed the shepherds, who ran away. The robbers came to the cabin, and when they heard from the apostles how shabbily they had been treated, gave them the supper that the shepherds had prepared for themselves, and went their way. "Blessed be the robbers!" said St. Peter, "for they treat the hungry poor better than the rich do." "Blessed be the robbers!" said the apostles, and ate their fill.

This story, as can easily be seen, is a tradition of the robbers who pretend to have been blessed by Christ. St. Peter is the hero of several stories, in which he plays anything but a dignified rôle. In one (Pitrè, No. 122), he is sent to buy some wine, and allows himself to be persuaded by the wine merchant to eat some fennel-seed. After this he cannot distinguish between good and bad wine, and purchases an inferior kind. When the Master tasted it he said: "Eh! Peter! Peter! you have let yourself be deceived."[1] Peter tasted it again and saw that it was sour. Another apostle was sent to get some good wine, and "hence it is that when you have to taste wine to see whether it is good, you must not eat fennel-seed."


Once, while the Master was on a journey with the thirteen apostles, they came to a village where there was no bread. The Master said: "Peter, let each one of you carry a stone." They each took up a stone—St. Peter a little bit of a one. The others were all loaded down, but St. Peter went along very easily. The Master said: "Now let us go to another village. If there is any bread there, we shall buy it; if there is none, I will give you my blessing and the stones will become bread."

They went to another town, put the stones down, and rested. The Master gave them his blessing, and the stones became bread. St. Peter, who had carried a little one, felt his heart grow faint. "Master," he said, "how am I going to eat?" "Eh! my brother, why aid you carry a little stone? The others, who loaded themselves down, have bread enough."

Then they went on, and the Master made them each carry another stone. St. Peter was cunning this time and took a large one and all the others carried small ones. The Lord said to the others: "Little ones, we will have a laugh at Peter's expense." They arrived at another village, and all the apostles threw away their stones because there was bread there; and St. Peter was bent double, for he had carried a paving-stone with him to no purpose.

On their journey they met a man; and as St. Peter was in advance of the others, he said: "The Lord is coming shortly; ask Him a favor for your soul." The man drew near and said: "Lord, my father is ill with old age. Cure him, Master." The Lord said: "Am I a physician? Do you know what you must do? Put him in a hot oven and your father will become a boy again." They did so, and his father became a little boy.

The idea pleased St. Peter, and when he found himself alone he went about seeking to make some old men young. By chance there met him one who was seeking the Master because his mother was at the point of death and he wanted her cured. St. Peter said: "What do you want?" "I want the Master, for I have an old mother who is very ill, and the Master alone can cure her." "Fortunately Peter is here! Do you know what you must do? Heat an oven and put her in it, and she will be cured." The poor man believed him, for he knew that the Lord loved St. Peter, so he went home and immediately put his mother in the hot oven. What more could you expect? The old woman was burned to a coal. "Ah! santu di ccà e di ddà!"[2] cried the son; "that scurvy fellow has made me kill my mother!" He hastened to St. Peter. The Master was present, and when he heard the story could not control his laughter, and said: "Ah, Peter! what have you done?" St. Peter tried to excuse himself, but the poor man kept crying for his mother. What must the Master do? He had to go to the house of the dead, and with a blessing which he there pronounced he brought the old woman to life again, a beautiful young girl, and relieved St. Peter of his great embarrassment.

The last anecdote is quite popular, and is found in a number of popular stories, as well as in the Cento Novelle Antiche.1 A very amusing version is from Venice (Widter-Wolf, No. 5), and is entitled:


In a little town about as large as Sehio or Thiene once lived a master-smith,—a good, industrious, and skilful man, but so proud of his skill that he would not deign to reply to anyone who did not address him as "Professor." This pride in a man otherwise so blameless gave universal dissatisfaction. One day our Lord appeared in the blacksmith's shop, accompanied by St. Peter, whom He was always in the habit of taking with Him on such excursions. "Professor," said the Lord, "will you be so good as to permit me to do a little work at your forge?" "Why not? it is at your service," replied the flattered smith. "What do you wish to make?" "That you will soon see," said the Lord, and took up a pair of tongs, with which he seized Peter and held him in the forge until he was red-hot. Then he drew him out and hammered him on all sides, and in less than ten minutes the old bald-headed apostle was forged anew into a wonderfully handsome youth with beautiful hair. The blacksmith stood speechless with astonishment, while the Lord and St. Peter exchanged the most courteous thanks and compliments. Finally the master-smith recovered himself and ran straight up to the second story, where his sick old father lay in bed. "Father," he cried, "come quickly! I have just learned how to make a strong young man of you." "My son, have you lost your senses?" said the old man, half terrified. "No; only believe me. I have just seen it myself." Finding that the old man protested against the attempt, his son seized him forcibly, carried him to the shop, and in spite of his shrieks and entreaties, thrust him into the forge, but brought nothing out but a piece of charred leg, which fell to pieces at the first blow of the hammer. Then he was seized with anguish and remorse. He ran quickly in search of the two men, and fortunately found them in the market-place. "Sir," he cried, "what have you done? You have misled me. I wanted to imitate your skill, and I have burned my father alive! Come with me quickly, and help me, if you can!" Then the Lord smiled graciously, and said: "Go home comforted. You will find your father alive and well, but an old man again." And so he did find him, to his great joy. From that time his pride disappeared, and whenever any one called him "Professor" he would exclaim: "Ah, what folly that is! There are gentlemen in Venice and professors in Padua, but I am a bungler."

The version in Knust is different. It is called "A Journey of Our Saviour on Earth," and is, in substance, as follows: A father whose son is a gambler, makes him become a soldier. The son deserts during a stormy night and takes refuge in an inn. There he meets a man who seems acquainted with his whole life and whose name is Salvatore (Saviour). He knows that Peter has deserted and is pursued, but he will save him. To gain a livelihood, he proposes to him to travel together and heal the sick. An opportunity to do this is soon offered. A rich man is ill, and Salvatore promises to heal him in three days. He makes every one withdraw, prepares a potion from herbs, and cures the patient. The relatives of the rich man offer in their gratitude all manner of costly things to Salvatore, who, however, accepts only enough to support life. Such an unreasonable proceeding enrages his companion to such a degree that he parts from him. He wishes to cure people independently, and promises a king to heal his sick daughter at once. But although he does everything exactly like Salvatore, the only effect of the potion is to kill the princess. As soon as the king learns this, he has Peter thrown into prison. On his way there he meets Salvatore, who is ready to help him at his request. The latter goes to the king and promises to raise his daughter if he will release to him the prisoner. The king consents, but threatens Salvatore with death in case of failure. The dead, however, comes to life, and in gratitude offers her hand, through her father, to Salvatore, who declares that it is his vocation to wander over the earth. He asks that the maiden be given to his companion.2

In a story from Venice our Lord and St. Peter are hospitably received by a poor woman who has no bed to offer them, but makes up one for them from some straw and five ells of linen which she has bought that day. When the Lord departs the next morning he bestows on the woman the power of doing all day the first thing she does in the morning. She begins by taking the linen from the bed of her guests, and pulls off piece after piece of linen. A friend of hers learns this and determines to do the same, but is punished by the Lord for her selfishness.3


Once the Lord, while he was making the world, called one of the apostles and told him to look and see what the people were doing. The apostle looked and said: "How curious! the people are weeping." The Lord answered: "It is not the world yet!" The next day he bade the apostle look again and see what the people were doing. The apostle looked and saw the people laughing, and said: "The people are laughing." The Lord answered: "It is not the world yet." The third day he made him look again, and the apostle saw that some were weeping, and some were laughing, and said: "Some of the people are weeping, and some are laughing." The Lord said: "Now it is the world, because in this world one weeps and another laughs."

The next legend accounts for the ass' long ears.


It is related that when the Lord created the world, he also made all the animals, and gave each its name. He also created the ass, which said: "Lord, what is my name?" "Your name is ass!" The ass went away well pleased. After a while it forgot its name, and went back to the Lord. "Lord, what is my name?" "Ass!" After a while it came back again. "Excuse me, Lord, what is my name?" "Ass, ass!" The ass turned and went away, but forgot it another time, and came back. "Lord, I have forgotten my name." The Lord could, not stand it any longer, but seized its ears and pulled them sharply, exclaiming: "Ass! Ass! Ass!" The ears were pulled so hard that they became long, and that is why the ass has long ears, and why we pull a person's ears to keep him from forgetting a thing.

Another legend relates that when Christ was journeying through the world he happened, dying with thirst, to enter a town. He saw a woman combing her hair, and said: "Will you give me a drink of water? for I am dying of thirst." "I am busy; it is not the time for water!" Christ said at once:

"Cursed be the braid
That is braided Friday."

And continued his journey. After a time he saw a woman making dough for bread. "Good woman, will you give me a drink of water?" "As much as you will!" and went and drew some water and gave him. Christ said:

"Blessed be the dough
That is kneaded on Friday."

Hence it is that certain women are accustomed not to comb their hair on Friday.

There is a satirical legend, called "The Lord's Will," which relates that when Christ came to leave the world, he was in doubt as to whom to leave all on the earth. If he left it to the gentlemen, what would the nobility do? if to the nobility, what would become of the gentry, and the workmen, and the peasants? While He was reflecting, the noblemen came and asked the Lord to give them everything, which he did. Then the priests came; and when they were told that everything had been given to the nobility, "Oh! the devil!" they exclaimed. "Then I leave you the devil," said the Lord. To the monks, who, when they heard what had been done, exclaimed, "Patience!" patience was left. The workmen cried: "What a fraud!" and received that for their share. Finally the peasants came and said, with resignation: "Let us do the will of God;" and that was their portion. And this is the reason why in this world the noblemen command, the priests are helped by the devil, the monks are patient, workmen fraudulent, and the peasants have to do many things they don't want to, and are obliged to submit to the will of God.4

St. Peter's mother is the subject of a story which has given rise to a wide-spread proverb. She was, so runs the story, an avaricious woman, who never was known to do good to any one. In fact, during her whole life she never gave anything away, except the top of an onion to a beggar woman. After her death St. Peter's mother went to hell, and the saint begged our Lord to release her. In consideration of her one charitable act, an angel was sent to draw her from hell with an onion-top. The other lost spirits clutched hold of her skirts, in order to escape with her, but the selfish woman tried to shake them off, and in her efforts to do so broke the onion-top, and fell back into hell. This story has given rise to the saying, "Like St. Peter's mamma," which is found, with slight variations, all over Italy.5

A curious version of this story is given in Bernoni (Leggende fant. No. 8): After the onion-top was broken and St. Peter's mother had fallen back into hell, the story continues: "Out of regard, however, for St. Peter, the Lord permitted her once a year, on St. Peter's day, to leave hell and wander about the earth a week; and, indeed, she does so every year, and during this week she plays all sorts of pranks and causes great trouble."6

St. Peter's sisters are the subject of a story with a moral, contained in Schneller, p. 6.


St. Peter had two sisters—one large, the other small. The little one entered a convent and became a nun. St. Peter was delighted at this and tried to persuade his big sister to become a nun also. She would not listen to him, however, and said: "I would rather marry." After St. Peter had suffered martyrdom, he became, as is well known, Porter of Heaven. One day the Lord said to him: "Peter, open the gate of heaven to-day as wide as you can, and get out all the heavenly ornaments and decorations, for to-day a very deserving soul is going to arrive here." St. Peter did as he was told with great joy, and thought: "Certainly my little sister is dead, and is coming to heaven to-day." When everything was ready, there came the soul of —— his big sister, who had died and left many children, who bitterly lamented her loss. The Lord gave her an exalted place in heaven, much to the astonishment of St. Peter, who thought: "I never should have imagined this; what shall I have to do when the soul of my little sister comes?"

Not long after, the Lord said to him: "Peter, open the gate of heaven to-day a little way, but a very little,—do you hear?" St. Peter did so and wondered: "Who is coming to-day?" Then came the soul of his little sister, and had so much trouble to squeeze through the gate that she hurt herself; and she received a much lower place in heaven than the big sister. At first St. Peter was amazed; afterwards he said: "It has happened differently from what I imagined; but I see now that every profession has its merits, and every one, if he only wishes, can enter heaven."

The cycle of stories referring to our Lord would not be complete without legends of Pilate, Judas, and the Wandering Jew. A powerful story is told of the first in Pitrè, No. 119, which is as follows:


It is said that the following once took place at Rome: A wagon loaded with stones was crossing a solitary spot in the country when one of the wheels sank into the ground and it was impossible to extricate it for some time. Finally they got it out, but there remained a large hole that opened into a dark room under ground. "Who wishes to descend into this hole?" "I," said the carter. They soon procured a rope and lowered the carter into the dark room. We will suppose that this carter's name was Master Francis. Well, then, Master Francis, when he was let down, turned to the right and saw a door, which he opened, and found himself in darkness that you could cut. He turned to the left, the same; he went forward, the same; he turned once more and when he opened the door what did he see? He saw a man seated before a table; before him, pen, ink, and a written paper that he was reading; and when he finished it he began over again, and never raised his eyes from the paper. Master Francis, who was of incomparable courage, went up to him and said: "Who are you?" The man made no answer, but continued to read. "Who are you?" said Master Francis again; but not a word. The third time, the man said: "Turn around, open your shirt, and I will write who I am on your back. When you leave this place, go to the Pope and make him read who I am. Remember, however, that the Pope alone must read it." Master Francis turned about, opened his shirt, the man wrote on his back, and then sat down again. Master Francis was courageous, it is true; but he was not made of wood, and in that moment he was frightened to death. He fixed his shirt and then asked: "How long have you been here?" but could get no answer from him. Seeing that it was time lost to question him, he gave the signal to those outside and was drawn up. When they saw him they did not recognize him; he had grown entirely white and seemed like an old man of ninety. "What was it? What happened?" they all began to say. "Nothing, nothing," he replied; "take me to the Pope, for I must confess." Two of those who were present conducted him to the Pope. When he was with him he related what had happened and taking off his shirt, said to him: "Read, your Holiness!" His Holiness read: "I am Pilate." And as he uttered these words the poor carter became a statue. And it is said that that man was Pilate, who was condemned to stay in a cave, always reading the sentence that he had pronounced on Jesus Christ, without ever being able to take his eyes from the paper. This is the story of Pilate who is neither saved nor damned.7

Judas is believed to have hanged himself on a tamarind-tree, which, before that time, was a tall, beautiful tree. After Judas's death it became the diminutive, shapeless shrub called vruca, which is a synonym for all that is worthless. The soul of the traitor is condemned to wander through the air, and every time it sees this shrub it pauses, and imagines it sees its miserable body dangling from it, the prey of birds and dogs.8 This popular legend is told in the following words:


You must know that Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus Christ. Now when Judas betrayed him, his Master said: "Repent, Judas, for I pardon you." But Judas, not at all! he departed with his bag of money, in despair and cursing heaven and earth. What did he do? While he was going along thus desperate he came across a tamarind-tree. (You must know that the tamarind was formerly a large tree, like the olive and walnut.) When he saw this tamarind a wild thought entered his mind, remembering the treason he had committed. He made a noose in a rope and hung himself to the tamarind. And hence it is (because this traitor Judas was cursed by God) that the tamarind-tree dried up, and from that time on it ceased growing up into a tree and became a short, twisted, and tangled bush; and its wood is good for nothing, neither to burn, nor to make anything out of, and all on account of Judas, who hanged himself on it.

Some say that the soul of Judas went to the lowest hell, to suffer the most painful torments; but I have heard, from older persons who can know, that Judas's soul has a severer sentence. They say that it is in the air, always wandering about the world, without being able to rise higher or fall lower; and every day, on all the tamarind shrubs that it meets, it sees its body hanging and torn by the dogs and birds of prey. They say that the pain he suffers cannot be told, and that it makes the flesh creep to think of it. And thus Jesus Christ condemned him for his great treason.9

An interesting legend (Pitrè, No. 120) is told of the Jew who struck our Lord with the palm of his hand (St. John xviii. 22), and whom the popular imagination has identified with the Malchus mentioned by St John, xviii. 10. It is called


This Malchus was one of those Jews who beat our Lord; a Jew more brutal than can be told. When Christ was taken to Pilate's house, this Malchus, with an iron glove, gave him a blow so heavy that it knocked out all his teeth. For the sacrilegious act, the Lord condemmed him to walk constantly, without ever resting, around a column in an underground room. This column is in a round room, and Malchus walks and walks without ever having peace or rest. They say that he has walked so much that he has worn the ground down many yards and made the column seem higher than it was, for this Malchus has led this life ever since our Lord's passion and death. It is said that this Malchus is desperate from his remorse, and while he walks he beats the column, strikes his head against the wall, and rages and laments; but notwithstanding he does not die, for the sentence of God is that he must live until the day of judgment.10

The same legend is found in Bernoni as follows:


Malchus was the head of the Jews who killed our Lord. The Lord pardoned them all, and likewise the good thief, but he never pardoned Malchus, because it was he who gave the Madonna a blow. He is confined under a mountain, and condemned to walk around a column, without resting, as long as the world lasts. Every time that he walks about the column he gives it a blow in memory of the blow he gave the mother of our Lord. He has walked around the column so long that he has sunk into the ground. He is now up to his neck. When he is under, head and all, the world will come to an end, and God will then send him to the place prepared for him. He asks all those who go to see him (for there are such) whether children are yet born; and when they say yes, he gives a deep sigh and resumes his walk, saying: "The time is not yet!" for before the world comes to an end there will be no children born for seven years.11

This legend recalls the Wandering Jew, who is known in Sicilian tradition under the name of Buttadeu (from buttari, to thrust away, and deu, God) or more commonly as "The Jew who repulsed Jesus Christ." He is reported to have appeared in Sicily, and the daughter of a certain Antonino Caseio, a peasant of Salaparuta, gives the following account of her father's encounter with Buttadeu:


It was in the winter, and my good father was at Scalone, in the warehouse, warming himself at the fire, when he saw a man enter, dressed differently from the people of that region, with breeches striped in yellow, red, and black, and his cap the same way. My good father was frightened. "Oh!" he said, "what is this person?" "Do not be afraid," the man said. "I am called Buttadeu" "Oh!" said my father, "I have heard you mentioned. Be pleased to sit down a while and tell me something." "I cannot sit, for I am condemned by my God always to walk." And while he was speaking he was always walking up and down and had no rest. Then he said: "Listen. I am going away; I leave you, in memory of me, this, that you must say a credo at the right hand of our Lord, and five other credos at his left, and a salve regina to the Virgin, for the grief I suffer on account of her son. I salute you." "Farewell." "Farewell, my name is Buttadeu."12

We have only a few legends of the saints to mention. Undoubtedly a large number are current among the people (Busk, pp. 196, 202, 203, 213–228, gives a good many), but they do not differ materially from the literary versions circulated by the Church. Those which we shall cite are purely popular and belong to the great mediæval legend-cycle.

The first is the legend of "Gregory on the Stone," which was so popular in the mediæval epics. There are several Italian versions, but we select as the most complete the one in Gonzenbach, No. 85, called:


Once upon a time there was a brother and sister who had neither father nor mother, and lived alone together. They loved each other so much that they committed a sin which they should not have committed. When the time came the sister gave birth to a boy, which the brother had secretly baptized. Then he burnt into his shoulders a cross, with these words: "Crivòliu, who is baptized; son of a brother and sister." After the child was thus marked, he put it in a little box and threw it into the sea.

Now it happened that a fisherman had just gone out to fish, and saw the box floating on the waves. "A ship must have sunk somewhere," he thought. "I will get the box, perhaps there is something useful in it." So he rowed after it and got it. When he opened it and saw the little child in it, he had pity on the innocent child, took it home to his wife, and said: "My dear wife, our youngest child is already old enough to wean; nurse in its place this poor innocent child." So his wife took little Crivòliu and nursed him, and loved him as though he were her own child. The boy grew and thrived and became every day larger and stronger.

The fisherman's sons, however, were jealous because their parents loved the little foundling as well as them, and when they played with Crivòliu and quarrelled, they called him a "foundling." The boy's heart was saddened by this and he went to his foster-parents and said: "Dear parents, tell me, am I truly not your son?" The fisherman's wife said: "How should you not be my son? Have I not nursed you when you were a baby?" The fisherman forbade his children very strictly to call little Crivòliu a "foundling."

When the child was larger, the fisherman sent him to school with his sons. The children, when they were out of their father's hearing, began again to mock little Crivòliu and to call him "foundling," and the other children in the school did the same. Then Crivòliu went again to his foster-parents and asked them if he was not their son. They persuaded him out of it, however, and put him off until he was fourteen. Then he could no longer stand being called "foundling," and went to the fisherman and his wife, and said: "Dear parents, I entreat you to tell me whether I am your child or not." Then the fisherman told him how he had found him and what was written on his shoulders. "Then I will go forth, and do penance for the sins of my parents," said Crivòliu. The fisherman's wife wept and lamented and would not let him go; but Crivòliu would not be detained and wandered out into the wide world.

After he had wandered about a long time, he came one day to a lonely place where there was only an inn. He asked the hostess: "Tell me, good woman, is there a cave near by, to which you alone know the entrance?" She answered: "Yes, my handsome youth, I know such a cave and will take you to it willingly." Then Crivòliu took two grani's worth of bread and a little pitcher of water with him and had the hostess show him the cave. It was some distance from the inn, and the entrance was so covered with thorns and bushes that he could scarcely penetrate into the cave. He sent the hostess back, crept into the cave, put the bread and water on the ground, knelt with folded arms, and so did penance for the sins of his parents.

Many, many years passed, I know not how many, but so many, that his knees took root and he grew fast to the ground.

Now it happened that the Pope died at Rome, and a new one was to be chosen. The cardinals all assembled, and a white dove was let loose: for he on whom it should alight was to be Pope. The white dove made several circles in the air, but alighted on no one. Then all the archbishops and bishops were summoned, and the dove was again let loose, but it did not settle on any one. Then all the priests and monks and hermits were collected, but the white dove would not choose any of them. The people were in great despair, and the cardinals had to wander forth and search the whole country to see whether another hermit was yet to be found, and a crowd of people accompanied them.

At last they came to the inn in the lonely neighborhood, and asked the hostess whether she knew of any hermit or penitent who was yet unknown to the world. The hostess answered: "Many years ago a sorrowful youth came here and made me conduct him to a cave to do penance. He is surely dead long ago, for he took with him only two grani's worth of bread and a pitcher of water." The cardinals said: "We will look, however, and see whether he is still alive; take us to him." Then the hostess conducted them to the cave; the entrance was scarcely to be recognized, so overgrown was it with brambles, and before they could enter the attendants had to cut away the brambles and bushes with axes. After they had forced their way in, they saw Crivòliu kneeling in the cave, with crossed arms, and his beard had grown so long that it touched the ground, and before him lay the bread, and by it the pitcher of water; for in all those years he had not eaten or drunken. When they let the white dove loose now, it flew about in a circle for a moment and then alighted on the head of the penitent. Then the cardinals perceived that he was a saint, and begged him to come with them and be their Pope. As they were going to raise him up, they noticed that his knees had grown fast, and they had to cut the roots. Then they took him to Rome with them and he was made Pope.

Now it happened that at the same time the sister said to her brother: "Dear brother, when we were young, we committed a sin that we have not yet confessed, for the Pope alone can absolve us from it. Let us go, then, to Rome, before death overtakes us, and confess there our sin." So they started on their journey to Rome, and when they arrived there they entered the church where the Pope sat in the confessional.

When they had confessed in a loud voice, for one always confesses openly to the Pope, the Pope said: "Behold, I am your son, for on my shoulder is the mark you speak of. I have done penance many years for your sin, until it has been forgiven you. I absolve you, therefore, from your sin, and you shall stay with me and live in comfort." So they remained with him, and when their time came, the Lord called them all three to his kingdom.13

An important episode of the original legend is omitted in the above version, but preserved in those in Pitrè (No. 117) and Knust (No. 7). The youth after discovering his origin sets out on his wanderings and comes by chance to the country where his mother is living. They meet and, not knowing their relation, marry. In the Sicilian story this relationship is disclosed the day of the marriage by the son showing his mother the box in which he was exposed as a child. In the version of Knust (from Leghorn), the child leaves his foster-father and goes in search of his parents. He encounters them without knowing it of course, and they, supposing him to be a beggar boy, give him shelter and care for him until he has grown up. Then he marries his mother, who recognizes him by a lock of red hair. At the conclusion of the story, after the Pope has heard the confession of his parents he reveals himself, they all three embrace, and die thus united. The story adds, "their tomb is still preserved in St. Peter's at Rome."

Another Pope, Silvester I., is the subject of a legend in Pitrè (No. 118) which contains the well-known myth of Constantine's leprosy healed by his baptism at the hands of St. Silvester.

Of greater interest is a legend of St. James the Elder, the patron-saint of Spain, a pilgrimage to whose shrine at Santiago in Galicia was so popular during the Middle Ages. The only popular version which we have found is in a Sicilian story in Gonzenbach, No. 90.


There was once a king and queen who had no children, and who longed to have a son or daughter. The queen prayed to St. James of Galicia, and said: "O St. James! if you will grant me a son, he shall make a pilgrimage to your shrine when he is eighteen years old." After a time the queen had, through the favor of God and the saint, a beautiful boy who was as handsome as if God had made him. The child grew rapidly and became larger and fairer every day. When he was twelve years old, the king died, and the queen remained alone with this son, whom she loved as dearly as her eyes. Many years passed and the time drew near when the prince should be eighteen. When the queen thought that she must soon part from him to send him alone on the long pilgrimage, she became very sorrowful and wept and sighed the whole day.

One day the prince said to her: "Mother, why do you sigh all day?" "It is nothing, my son, only some cares of mine," she answered. "What are you concerned about?" asked he. "Are you afraid that your farms in the Plain (of Catania) are badly tilled? Let me go and look after them and bring you news of them." The queen consented and the prince rode to the Plain, to the property that belonged to them. He found everything in good order, and returned to his mother and said: "Dear mother, rejoice, and cease your care, for everything is going well on your property; the cattle are thriving; the fields are tilled, and the grain will soon be ripe." "Very well, my son," answered the queen, but she was not cheerful, and the next day began to sigh and weep again. Then the prince said to her: "Dear mother, if you do not tell me why you are so sad, I will depart, and wander out in the wide world." The queen answered: "Ah, my dear son, I am sad because you must now part from me. For before you were born, when I longed for you so much, I vowed to St. James of Galicia, that if he would grant you to me, you should make a pilgrimage to his shrine when you were eighteen years old. And now you will soon be eighteen, and I am sad because you must wander away alone, and be gone so many years; for to reach the saint, one must journey a whole year." "Is it nothing but that, dear mother?" asked her son. "Be not so sorrowful. Only the dead return not. If I live, I will soon come back to you."

So he comforted his mother, and when he was eighteen he took leave of the queen, and said: "Now farewell, dear mother, and, God willing, we shall meet again." The queen wept bitterly, and embraced him with many tears; then she gave him three apples, and said: "My son, take these three apples and give heed to my words. You shall not make the long journey alone. When, however, a youth joins you and wishes to accompany you, take him with you to the inn, and let him eat with you. After the meal cut an apple in two halves, one large and the other small, and offer them to the young man. If he takes the larger half, part from him, for he will be no true friend to you; but if he takes the smaller half, regard him as your brother, and share everything that you have with him." After these words she embraced her son and blessed him, and the prince departed.

He had already travelled a long time, and no one had met him. One day, however, he saw a youth coming along the road who joined him and asked: "Where are you going, handsome youth?" "I am making a pilgrimage to St. James of Galicia;" and he told him of his mother's vow. "I must go there, too," said the other, "for the same thing happened to my mother as to yours; if we have the same journey to make, we can make it together." They continued their journey together, but the prince was not confidential towards his companion, for he thought: "I must first make the trial with the apple."

As they were passing an inn, the prince said: "I am hungry: shall we not have something to eat?" The other was willing, so they went in and ate together. After they had eaten, the prince took out the apple, cut it in two unequal halves, and offered them to the other, who took the larger half. "You are no true friend," thought the prince; and to get rid of him, he pretended to be ill, and obliged to remain there. The other said: "I cannot wait for you, for I have far to go yet; so farewell." "Farewell," said the prince, and was glad to be rid of him.

When he continued his journey again, he thought: "Ah, if God would only send me a true friend, so that I should not have to travel alone!"

Not long after, another youth joined him and asked: "Handsome young man, where are you going?" The prince answered him as he had done before, and everything happened the same as with the first young man. After the prince had got rid of him he resumed his journey and thought: "O God, let me find a true friend who shall be to me a brother on the long journey!" While he was uttering this prayer he saw a youth coming along the way, who was a handsome lad, and appeared so friendly that he liked him at once, and thought: "Ah, may this be the true friend!" The youth joined him, and everything passed as before, except that this time the youth took the smaller half of the apple, and the prince rejoiced that he had found a true friend. "Fair youth," said he to him, "we must consider ourselves as brothers now; what is mine shall be yours also, and what is yours, shall be mine. We will travel together, until we come to the shrine of the saint; and if one of us dies on the way, the other must carry his body there. We will both promise this." They did so, and regarded each other as brothers, and continued their journey together.

To reach the shrine of the saint requires a whole year; imagine, then, how long the two must travel. One day when they came, weary and exhausted, to a large, beautiful city, they said: "We will stay here and rest a few days, and afterwards continue our journey." So they took a small house, and dwelt in it. Now opposite it was the royal palace, and one morning as the king was standing on the balcony, he saw the two handsome youths, and thought: "Oh! how handsome these two youths are! one is, however, much handsomer than the other. I will give him my daughter in marriage." Now the prince was the handsomer of the two. In order to attain his aim, the king invited them both to dinner, and when they came to the palace received them in a very friendly manner and had his daughter called, who was more beautiful than the sun and moon. When they retired for the night, the king had a poisonous drink given to the prince's companion, who fell down dead; for the king thought: "If his friend dies, the other will remain here willingly, and think no more of his pilgrimage, but marry my daughter."

The next morning, when the prince awoke, he asked: "Where is my friend?" "He died suddenly last night, and is to be buried at once," answered the servants. The prince said: "If my friend is dead, I cannot remain here longer, but must depart this very hour." "Ah! do remain here," begged the king. "I will give you my daughter for your wife." "No," said the prince, "I cannot stay here. If you will grant me a wish, give me a horse, and let me depart in peace; and when I have completed my pilgrimage, I will return and marry your daughter." The king then gave him a horse, which the prince mounted, and took his dead friend before him on the saddle, and thus completed his journey. The young man, however, was not dead, but lay only in a deep sleep.

When the prince reached the shrine of St. James of Galicia, he dismounted, took his friend in his arms like a child, and entered the church and laid the body on the steps of the altar before the saint, and prayed: "O St. James of Galicia! behold, I have kept my vow. I have come to you and have brought you my friend, also. I confide him now to you; if you will restore him to life, we will laud your mercy; but if he is not to come to life again, he has at least kept his vow." And behold, while he was still praying, his dead friend rose, and became again alive and well. Both thanked the saint, and gave him costly presents, and then started on their journey home.

When they reached the city where the king lived, they occupied again the little house opposite the royal palace. The king was greatly rejoiced to see the handsome prince there again, and much handsomer than before; he arranged great festivities, and had a splendid marriage celebrated, and thus the prince married the fair princess. After the wedding they remained several months with her father, and then the prince said: "My mother is expecting me at home with great anxiety; therefore I cannot stay longer here, but will return to my mother with my wife and my friend." The king consented and they prepared for the journey.

Now the king had a deadly hatred against the poor, innocent youth, to whom he had before given the fatal drink, and who had nevertheless returned alive, and in order to cause him sorrow, he sent him in great haste on the morning of the departure into the country with an errand. "Hasten," he said. "Your friend will not start until you return." The youth hastened away, without taking leave, and performed the king's errand. The king, meanwhile, said to the prince: "Hasten your departure, otherwise you cannot reach your quarters for the night before evening." "I cannot depart without my friend," answered the prince. The king, however, said: "Set out on your journey; he will be here within an hour, and will soon overtake you on his swift horse." The prince allowed himself to be persuaded, took leave of his father-in-law, and departed with his wife. The poor friend could not fulfil the king's commission before several hours, and when he finally returned, the king said to him: "Your friend is already far from here; see how you can overtake him."

So the poor youth had to leave the palace, and did not even receive a horse, and began to run, and ran day and night until he overtook the prince. From his great exertions, however, he contracted leprosy, so that he looked ill, wretched, and dreadful. The prince, nevertheless, received him in a friendly manner and cared for him like a brother.

They finally reached home, where the queen had awaited her son with great anxiety, and now embraced him with perfect joy. The prince had a bed prepared at once for his sick friend and summoned all the physicians of the town and state, but no one could help him. When the poor youth grew no better the prince addressed himself to St. James of Galicia and said: "O St. James of Galicia! you raised my friend from the dead; help him now this time also, and let him recover from his leprosy." While he was praying, a servant entered and said: "A strange physician is without, who will make the poor youth well again." This physician was St. James of Galicia himself, who had heard the prayer of the prince and had come to help his friend. You must know now that the prince's wife had had a little girl who was a pretty, lovely child.

When the saint approached the bed of the sick youth, he first examined him, and then said to the prince: "Do you really wish to see your friend well again at any price?" "At any price," answered the prince; "only tell me what can help him." "This evening, take your child," said the saint, "open all her veins, and anoint with her blood your friend's wounds, and he will be healed at once."

The prince was horrified when he heard that he himself must kill his dear little daughter, but he answered: "I have promised my friend to treat him like my brother; and if there is no other remedy, I will sacrifice my child."

At evening he took the child and opened her veins and anointed with the blood the sores of the sick youth, who was at once cleansed from his foul leprosy. The child became pale and weak, and looked as if it were dead. Then they laid it in its cradle and the poor parents were deeply grieved, for they believed they had lost their child.

The next morning the physician came and asked after the patient. "He is well and sound," answered the prince. "And where have you put your child?" asked the saint. "There it lies dead in its cradle," said the poor father, sadly. "Just look at her once and see how she is," said the saint; and when they hastened to the cradle, they saw the child in it alive and well again. Then the saint said: "I am St. James of Galicia, and have come to help you, because I have seen what true friendship you have displayed. Continue to love one another, and when you are in trouble turn to me and I will come to your aid." With these words he blessed them and disappeared from their sight. They lived piously and did much good to the poor, and were happy and contented.14

There are several interesting legends found only in Gonzenbach's collection. They can be mentioned but briefly here. The first (No. 87) is entitled: "The Story of St. Onirià or Nerià." Two huntsmen lost their way in a wood and found at night a hut in which was a table set for supper, and a fire which emitted a heavenly odor. They examined it and found in the coals a heart, which they took with them when they departed, the next morning. After they had travelled a while, they stopped at an inn, and the pious and virtuous daughter of the innkeeper waited on them, and noticed the odor which came from the jacket that one of the huntsmen had laid aside on account of the heat. In the pocket she found the heart, which she kept for a time on a table in her room. One day she was seized with a great longing to eat it. She did so, and it soon was evident that she was about to become a mother. Her father treated her cruelly, for the shame she was going to bring on the family, but her godmother interfered, and one night had a strange dream. There appeared to her a saint, who said: "I am St. Onirià, and was consumed by fire. Only my heart was left, so that I might be born again. This heart the host's daughter has eaten, and she will, in due time, give birth to me." The child was born as predicted, and grew handsomer every day. The grandfather, however, could not endure him, and ill-treated him as well as his mother.

One day, when the child was five years old, the grandfather took him to the city. On the way they passed a place where there was much filth, and the child said to his grandfather: "I wish you might wallow in it." Afterwards they saw a poor man being carried to the grave on a ladder, without any coffin. The child here wished that his grandfather, when he died, might be like this one. Next they met the long funeral procession of a rich man, and the child wished that his grandfather might not be like this rich man. The grandfather, of course, in each case was very angry, and was only restrained from beating the child by the mother's godfather, who had accompanied them.

After they had finished their business in the city they set out for home; and when they came to the spot where they had met the rich man's funeral procession, the child made his grandfather put his ear to the ground, when he heard a great noise, as if of iron pestles and lamentations. The child explained that what he heard were the devils tormenting the rich man's soul. When they came where they had seen the poor man on the ladder, the grandfather listened again and heard the rejoicings of the angels on receiving the poor man's soul.

When they came to the place where the filth was, the child made his grandfather dig and find a pot of money which he told him to use better than he had done his own. The child then said he was St. Onirià, exculpated his mother, and said his grandfather would see him again when the dead spoke with the living. Then he was taken up into heaven.

Years after, two men spent the night in the inn, and one murdered the other and hid the body under the straw, where it was afterwards found by other travellers, and the innkeeper accused of the murder. He was condemned and was on the scaffold when a beautiful youth came riding in hot haste, crying: "Pardon!" The youth led the people into the church, before the coffin of the murdered man, and cried: "Rise, dead one, and speak with the living, and tell us who murdered you." The dead man replied: "The innkeeper is innocent; my treacherous companion killed me." Then the youth accompanied the innkeeper home, revealed himself as St. Onirià, blessed them, and disappeared.15

Another legend (No. 92), "The Story of the Hermit," has as its subject the mystery of God's Providence, and is familiar to English readers in the form of Parnell's Hermit. The substance of the Sicilian version is as follows: A hermit sees a man wrongfully accused of theft and shockingly maltreated. He thereupon concludes that God is unjust to suffer such things, and determines to return to the world. On his way back a handsome youth meets him and they journey together. A muleteer allows them to ride his beasts, and in return the youth abstracts the muleteer's money from his wallet and drops it in the road. A woman who keeps an inn receives them hospitably, and on leaving the next morning, the youth strangles her child in the cradle. All at once the youth becomes a shining angel, and says to the hermit: "Listen to me, O man who has been bold enough to murmur against God's decrees;" and then explains that the person who had been wrongfully accused of theft had years before murdered his father on that very spot; the muleteer's money was stolen money, and the child of the hostess, had it lived, would have become a robber and murderer. Then the angel says: "Now you see that God's justice is more far-sighted than man's. Return, then, to your hermitage, and repent if so be that your murmuring be forgiven you." The angel disappears and the hermit returns to his mountain, does severer penance, and dies a saint.16

The legend in Gonzenbach (No. 91) entitled "Joseph the Just "is nothing but the story of Joseph and his Brethren, taken from the Bible. In the Sicilian version Joseph has only three brothers; otherwise the story follows the account in Genesis very closely. Another legend in the same collection (No. 89), "The Story of Tobià and Tobiòla," is the story of Tobit and Tobias, taken from the apocryphal book of Tobit. The Sicilian story differs in the names only.

There are several other Sicilian legends the heroes of which are pious, simple youths, the religious counterparts of Giufà. One (Pitrè, No. 112), called "The Poor Boy," tells the story of a simple youth who asked the priest the way to paradise, and was told he must follow the strait and narrow way. He took the first one he came to, and reached a convent church during a festival, and imagined he had reached paradise. He was found in the church when all had departed; but he persisted in remaining, and the superior sent him a bowl of soup, which he put on the altar; and when he was alone he began to converse confidentially with the Lord on the crucifix, and said: "Lord, who put you on the cross?" "Your sins!" and so the Lord responded to all his questions. The youth, in tears, promised he would sin no more, and invited the Lord to descend and partake of his repast with him. The Lord did so, and commanded him to tell the monks in the convent that they would be damned unless they sold all their property and bestowed it on the poor. If they would do so and come and confess to the Lord himself, he would hear their confession and give them the communion, and when it was finished they would all die, one after the other, and enter the glory of paradise. The poor youth went to the superior and gave him the Lord's message. The superior sold the property of the convent, and everything turned out as the Lord had said. The monks all confessed and died, and all who were present or heard of the event were converted and died in the grace of God.17

This legend leads quite naturally to another, in which intercourse with the other world is represented as still occasionally permitted to mortals. It is found only in Sicily, having, curiously enough, parallels in the rest of Europe, but none in Italy. It is called:


There was once a baker who every morning loaded an ounceworth of bread on a horse that came to his shop. One day he said: "I give this ounceworth of bread to this horse and he renders me no account of it." Then he said to his apprentice: "Vincenzo, the horse will come to-morrow and I will give him the bread, but you must follow him and see where he goes." The next day the horse came and the baker loaded him, and gave the apprentice a piece of bread for himself. Vincenzo followed the horse, and after a while came to a river of milk, and began to eat bread and milk, and could not overtake the horse again. He then returned to his master, who, seeing him return to no purpose, said: "To-morrow the horse will come again; if you cannot tell me where he goes I will no longer have you for my apprentice." The next day the apprentice followed the horse again, and came to a river of wine, and began to eat bread and wine, and lost sight of the horse. He returned to his master in despair at having lost the horse. His master said: "Listen. The first time, one pardons; the second time, one condones; the third time, one beats. If to-morrow you do not follow the horse I will give you a good thrashing and send you home." What did poor Vincenzo do? He followed the horse the next day with his eyes open. After a while he came to a river of oil. "What shall I do? the horse will get away from me now!" So he tied the horse's reins to his girdle and began to eat bread and oil. The horse pulled, but Vincenzo said: "When I finish the bread I will come." When he had finished the bread he followed the horse, and after a time he came to a cattle-farm where the grass was long and thick and the cattle so thin that they could scarcely stand on their feet. Vincenzo was astonished at seeing the grass so long and the cattle so lean. Then he came to another farm, and saw that the grass was dry and short, and the cattle fatter than you can believe. He said to himself: "Just see! There, where the grass was long, the cattle were lean; here, where you can hardly see the grass, the cattle are so fat!" The horse kept on, and Vincenzo after him. After a while he met a sow with her tail full of large knots, and wondered why she had such a tail. Farther on he came to a watering-trough, where there was a toad trying to reach a crumb of bread, and could not. Vincenzo continued his way, and arrived at a large gate. The horse knocked at the gate with his head, and the door opened and a beautiful lady appeared, who said she was the Madonna. When she saw the youth she asked: "And what are you here for?" Vincenzo replied: "This horse comes constantly to my master's to get an ounceworth of bread, and my master never has been able to find out where he carries it." "Very well; enter," said the lady; "I will show you where he carries it." Then the lady began to call all the souls in purgatory: "My children, come hither!" The souls then descended; and to some she gave the worth of a grano of bread, to some the worth of a baiocco, and to others the worth of five grani, and the bread was gone in a moment. When the bread had disappeared, the lady said to Vincenzo: "Did you see nothing on your way?" "Yes, lady. The first day that my master sent me to see where the horse went, I saw a river of milk." The lady said: "That is the milk I gave my son." "The second day I saw a river of wine." "That," said the lady, "is the wine with which my son was consecrated." "The third day I saw a river of oil." "That is the oil that they ask of me and of my son. What else did you see the third day?" "I saw," answered Vincenzo, "a farm with cattle. There was plenty of grass, but the cattle were lean. Afterwards I saw another farm, where you could scarcely see the grass, and the cattle were fine and fat." "These, my son, are the rich, who are in the midst of wealth; and no matter how much they eat, it does no good; and the fat ones, that have no grass to eat, are the poor, for my son supports and fattens them. What else did you see?" "I saw a sow with her tail full of knots." "That, my son, is those who repeat their rosaries and do not offer their prayers to me or to my son; and my son makes knots in them." "I also saw a watering-trough, with a toad that was reaching after a crumb of bread, and could not get it." She said: "A poor person asked a woman for a bit of bread, and she gave his hand such a blow that she made him drop it. And what else did you see, my son?" "Nothing, lady." "Then come with me, and I will show you something else." She took him by the hand and led him into hell. When the poor youth heard the clanking of chains and saw the darkness, he came near dying, and wanted to get out. "You see," said the lady, "those who are lamenting and in chains and darkness are those who are in mortal sin. Now come, and I will take you to purgatory." There they heard nothing, and the darkness was so great that they could see nothing. Vincenzo wished to depart, for he felt oppressed by anguish. "Now," said the lady, "I will take you to the church of the Holy Fathers. Do you see it, my son? This is the church of the Holy Fathers, which first was full and now is empty. Come; now I will take you to limbo. Do you see these little ones? These are those who died unbaptized." The lady wished to show him paradise; but he was too confused, so the lady made him look through a window. "Do you see this great palace? There are three seats there; one for you, one for your master, and one for your mistress." After this she took him to the gate. The horse was no longer there. "Now," said Vincenzo, "how shall I find my way back? I will follow the tracks of the horse, and so will get home." The lady answered: "Close your eyes!" Vincenzo closed his eyes, and found himself behind his master's door. When he entered he told all that had occurred to his master and mistress. When he had finished his story all three died and went to paradise.18

The most famous story of the class we are now considering is, however, the one best known by its French title, "Bonhomme Misère." The French version was popular as a chap-book as early as 1719, running through fifteen editions from that date. The editor of the reprint referred to in the note, as well as Grimm (II. 451), believed the story to be of Italian origin and that the original would some day be discovered.19 This has proved to be the case, and we have now before us a number of versions. These may be divided into two classes: one independent, the other constituting a part only of some other story. The latter class is generally connected with the cycle of our Lord's journeys upon earth, and is represented by "The Master Thief" and "Brother Lustig" in Germany, and "Beppo Pipetta" from Venice. The Sicilian versions which we shall mention first, although independent stories, are connected with the cycle of our Lord's journeys upon earth. We give first two versions from Pitrè (Nos. 124, 125).


Once upon a time there was a father and a mother who had a little boy. They died and the child was left in the street. One of the neighbors had pity upon him and took him in. The boy throve well and when he had grown up, the one who had sheltered him said: "Come now, Occasion (for this was the boy's name), you are a man; why do you not think about supporting yourself and relieving us from that care?" So the lad made up a bundle and departed. He journeyed and journeyed until his clothes were worn out and he was almost dead from hunger. One day he saw an inn and entered it, and said to the innkeeper: "Do you want me for a servant? I wish only a piece of bread for my wages." The host said to his wife: "What do you say, Rosella? We have no children; shall we take this lad?" "Yes;" and so they took him.

The boy was very attentive and did willingly whatever was commanded him, and at last his master and mistress, who had grown to love him like a son, went before the judge and adopted him.

Time passed and the innkeeper and his wife died and left all their property to the young man, who, when he saw himself in possession of it, made known: "That whoever should come to Occasion's inn could have food for nothing." You can imagine the people that went there!

Now the Master and his apostles happened once to pass that way, and when St. Thomas read this announcement he said: "Unless I see and touch with my hands I shall not believe it. Let us go to this inn." They went there and ate and drank and Occasion treated them like gentlemen. Before leaving St. Thomas said: "Occasion, why don't you ask a favor of the Master?" Then Occasion said: "Master, I have before my door this fig-tree, and the children do not let me eat one of the figs. Whoever goes by climbs up and pulls off some. Now I would like this favor, that when any one climbs this tree, he must stay there until I permit him to come down." "Your request is granted," said the Lord, and blessed the tree.

It was a fine thing! The first who climbed up for figs stuck fast to the tree without being able to move; another came, the same thing; and so on; all stuck fast, one by the hand, another by the foot, another by the head. When Occasion saw them he gave them a sound scolding and let them go. The children were frightened and touched the figs no more.

Years passed and Occasion's money was coming to an end; so he called a carpenter and told him to cut up the fig-tree and make him a bottle out of it. This bottle had the property that Occasion could shut up in it whoever he wished. One day Death went to fetch him, for Occasion was now very old. Occasion said: "At your service; we will go. But see here, Death, first do me a favor. I have this bottle of wine, and there is a fly in it, and I don't like to drink from it; just go in there and take it out for me, and then we will go." Death very foolishly entered the bottle, when Occasion corked it and put it in his wallet, saying: "Stay a bit with me."

While Death was shut up no one died; and everywhere you might see old men with such long white beards that it was a sight. The apostles, seeing this, went to the Master about it several times, and at last he visited Occasion. "What is this? Here you have kept Death shut up so many years, and the people are falling down from old age without dying!" "Master," said Occasion, "do you want me to let Death out? If you will give me a place in paradise, I will let him out." The Lord thought: "What shall I do? If I don't grant him this favor, he will not leave me in peace." So he said: "Your request is granted!" At these words Death was set at liberty; Occasion was permitted to live a few years longer, and then Death took him. Hence it is "That there is no death without Occasion."


Once upon a time there was a convent at Casteltermini which contained many monks, one of whom was named Brother Giovannone. At the time when the Lord and all his apostles were on their travels they visited this convent, and all the monks asked the Lord to pardon their souls; Brother Giovannone asked nothing. St. Peter said to him: "Why do you not ask pardon for your soul, like the others?" "I don't wish anything." St. Peter said: "Nothing? When you come to paradise we will talk about it." When the Master had taken his departure and had gone some distance, Brother Giovannone began to cry out: "Master, Master, wait! I want a favor, and it is that any one I command must get into my pouch." The Master said: "This request is granted."

Brother Giovannone was old and one day Death came and said to him: "Giovannone, you have three hours to live!" Brother Giovannone replied: "When you come for me you must let me know half an hour before." After a while Death came and said: "You are a dead man!" Brother Giovannone replied: "In the name of Brother Giovannone, into my pouch with you, Death!" Then he carried his pouch to a baker and asked him to hang it up in the chimney until he came for it. For forty years no one died. At the end of that time Brother Giovannone went and set Death free, so that he might himself die, for he was so old he could do no more. The first one that Death killed when he was free was Brother Giovannone, and then he destroyed all those who had not died in the forty years.

After he was dead Brother Giovannone went and knocked at the gate of paradise and St. Peter said to him: "There is no room for you here." "Where must I go, then?" asked Brother Giovannone. "To purgatory," answered St. Peter. So he knocked at purgatory and they told him: "There is no place for you here." "Where must I go, then?" "To hell." He knocked at hell and Lucifer asked: "Who is there?" "Brother Giovannone." Then Lucifer said to his devils: "You take the mace; you, the hammer; you, the tongs!" Brother Giovannone asked: "What are you going to do with these instruments?" "We are going to beat you." "In the name of Brother Giovannone, into my pouch with you, all you devils!" Then he hung the pouch about his neck and carried all the devils to a smith who had eight apprentices, and the master, nine. "Master-smith, how much do you want to hammer this pouch eight days and nights?" They agreed upon forty ounces, and hammered day and night and the pouch was not reduced to powder, and Brother Giovannone was always present. The last day the smiths said: "What the devil are these; for they cannot be pounded fine!" Brother Giovannone answered: "They are indeed devils! Pound hard!" After they were through hammering, he took the pouch and emptied it out in the plain; the devils were so bruised and mangled that they could hardly drag themselves back to hell. Then Brother Giovannone went and knocked again at paradise. "Who is there?" "Brother Giovannone." "There is no room for you." "Peter, if you don't let me in I will call you baldhead." "Now that you have called me baldhead," said St. Peter, "you shall not enter." Brother Giovannone said: "Ah, what is that you say? I will be even with you!" So he stood near the gate of paradise and said to all the souls who were going to enter: "In the name of Brother Giovannone, into my pouch, all you souls!" and no more souls entered paradise. One day St. Peter said to the Master: "Why do no more souls enter?" The Lord answered: "Because Brother Giovannone is behind the gate putting them all in his pouch." "What shall we do?" said St. Peter. The Lord answered: "See if you can get hold of the pouch and bring them all in together." Brother Giovannone heard all this outside. What did he do? He said: "Into the pouch with myself!" and in a moment was in his own pouch. When St. Peter looked Brother Giovannone was not to be seen, so he seized the pouch and dragged it into paradise and shut the gate at once, and opened the pouch. The first one who came out was Brother Giovannone himself, who began at once to quarrel with St. Peter because St. Peter wished to put him out, and Brother Giovannone did not want to go. Then the Lord said: "When one once enters the house of Jesus, he does not leave it again."20

These stories have close parallels in two Roman legends collected by Miss Busk. In the first, the innkeeper asks first for the faculty of always winning at cards; and second, that any one who climbs his fig-tree must stay there. When Death comes the host asks her (Death is feminine in Italian) to climb the tree and pick him a few figs. When once up the tree, the host refuses to let her down until she promises him four hundred years of life. Death has to consent and the host in turn promises to go quietly with her when she comes again. At the end of the four hundred years Death takes the host to paradise. They pass by hell on the way and the host proposes to the devil to play for the newly received souls. The host wins fifteen thousand, which he carries with him to paradise. St. Peter objects to letting the "rabble" in, and Jesus Christ himself says: "The host may come in himself, but he has no business with the others." Then the host says that he has made no difficulty about numbers when Christ has come to his inn with as many as he pleased. "That is true! that is right!" answered Jesus Christ. "Let them all in! let them all in!"21

In the other story, a priest, Pret' Olivo, received from the Lord, in reward for his hospitality, the favor of living a hundred years, and that when Death came to fetch him he should be able to give her what orders he pleased, and that she must obey him. Death called at the end of the hundred years, and Pret' Olivo made her sit by the fire while he said a mass. The fire grew hotter and hotter, but Death could not stir until Pret' Olivo permitted her to, on condition that she should leave him alone a hundred years. The second time Death called, Pret' Olivo asked her to gather him some figs and commanded her to stay in the tree. So Death a second time was obliged to promise him a respite of a hundred years. The next time Death called, Pret' Olivo put on his vestments and a cope, and took a pack of cards in his hand and went with Death. She wanted to take him directly to paradise, but he insisted on going around by the way of hell and playing a game of cards with the Devil. The stakes were souls, and as fast as Pret' Olivo won, he hung a soul on his cope until it was covered with them; then he hung them on his beretta, and at last was obliged to stop, for there was no more room to hang any souls. Death objected to taking all these souls to paradise, but could not take Pret' Olivo without them. When they arrived at paradise St. Peter made some objection to admitting them, but the Master gave his permission and they all got in.22

The Tuscan version, which contains some of the traits of the last story, is as follows:


Godfather Misery was old,—God knows how old! One day Jesus and St. Peter, while wandering through the world to name the countries, came to Godfather Misery's, who offered his visitors some polenta, and gave them his own bed. Jesus, pleased with this reception, gave him some money, and granted him these three favors: that whoever sits on his bench near the fire cannot get up; that whoever climbs his fig-tree cannot descend; and finally, out of regard to St. Peter, the salvation of his soul. One day Death came to Godfather Misery, and wanted to carry him off. Godfather Misery said: "It is too cold to travel." Death pressed him; then he asked her to sit by the fire and warm herself a moment, and he would soon be ready. Meanwhile he piled wood on the fire. Death felt herself burning, and tried to move, but could not; so she had to grant Godfather Misery another hundred years of life. Death was released; the hundred years passed, and Death returned. Godfather Misery was at the door, pretending to wait for her, and looking at his fig-tree in sorrow. He begged Death to pick him a few figs for their journey. So Death climbed up, but could not descend until she granted Godfather Misery another hundred years. Even these passed, and Death reappeared. This time there was no help, he must go. Death gave him time only to recite an Ave Maria, and a Paternoster. Godfather Misery, however, could not find this time, and said to Death, who was hurrying him: "You have given me time, and I am taking it." Then Death had recourse to a stratagem, and disguised herself like a Jesuit, and went where Godfather Misery lived, and preached. Godfather Misery at first did not attend these sermons, but his wife finally persuaded him to go to the church and hear a sermon. Just as he entered, the preacher cried out that whoever said an Ave Maria should save his soul. Godfather Misery, who recognized Death, answered from a distance: "Go away! you will not get me." Then Death went away in despair, and never got hold of him again. Godfather Misery still lives, since misery never ends.23

In another Tuscan story, similar gifts are bestowed upon a smith, who had always been a good Christian, to enable him to avoid a contract he had made with the Devil, to sell him his soul for two years of life. The first time the Devil comes he sits on the bench near the fire, and cannot rise again until he extends his contract two years. The next time he comes he does not enter the house, but looks in at a window that has the power to detain any one who looks through it. Again the contract is extended. The third time the Devil is caught in the fig-tree, and then a new contract is drawn up, that the Devil and the smith are never to see each other again.24

The second class of versions of the story of "Bonhomme Misère" is where the legend is merely an episode of some other story. This class comprises two stories from the territory of Venice. The first is entitled "Beppo Pipetta," from the hero who saved the king's life, which is threatened by some robbers. The king was in disguise, and Beppo did not know who he was until he was summoned to the palace to be rewarded. The king told Beppo that he need not be a soldier any longer, but might remain with him or wherever he pleased, and offered to pay for all he needed; for he had saved his life. We give the rest of the story in the words of the original.


When his first joy at this good fortune was over, Beppo decided to visit his relations. There he met a man in the street who entered into conversation with him, and they chatted for a long time, until they finally went into an inn to refresh themselves with something to eat and drink. "How happens it," asked his new friend, who was vastly entertained by Beppo's conversation, "that you, a soldier, carry no knapsack?" "Hm!" said Beppo, "I don't care to weigh myself down on a march with unnecessary things. I have no effects, and if I need anything, I have a good master who pays all my bills." "Now," said the stranger, "I will give you a knapsack, and a very valuable one too; for if you say to any one, 'Jump in,' he will jump into the sack." With these words the stranger took his leave.

"Wait," thought Beppo; "I will put this to the proof." And, indeed, a favorable opportunity offered itself, for just then the landlord appeared to demand the payment of his bill. "What do you want?" asked Beppo. "My money; you might know that of yourself." "Let me alone! I have no money." "What? you ragged soldier"—"Jump in!" said Beppo; and the landlord went over his ears into the sack. Only after long entreaty, and on condition that he would never again present his bill, would Beppo let him out again. "Just wait, fellow! I'll teach you how to insult soldiers," said he to the landlord, as he went out.

Tired and hungry after a long walk, Beppo again turned into an inn. There he saw a man who was continually emptying a purse, but never finished, for it always became full again. He quickly snatched the purse out of the man's hand, and ran out of the inn, but no less quickly did the owner run after him; and since he had not walked as far as Beppo, who had been wandering about all day, he soon caught up with him. Then Beppo cried: "Jump in!" and the owner was in the sack. "Listen," said Beppo, after he had somewhat recovered his breath, "listen and be reasonable. You have had the purse long enough; give it to me now, or else you shall always stay in the sack." What could the man do? Willingly or unwillingly, he had to give up the purse in order to get out of the accursed sack.

For two years Beppo stayed at home, doing much good with the purse, and much mischief with the sack, until at last he began to long for the capital again, and returned there; but what was his astonishment at seeing everything hung with black, and everybody in mourning. "Do you not know what the trouble is?" he was asked, in reply to his questions as to the cause of this sorrow; "don't you know that to-morrow the Devil is going to carry away the king's daughter, on account of a foolish vow that her father once made?" Then he went directly to the king, in order to console him, but the latter would not put any faith in him. "Your Majesty," said he, "you do not know what Beppo Pipetta can do. Only let me have my own way."

Then he prepared, in a room of the palace, a large table, with paper, pen, and ink, while the princess, in the next room, awaited her sad fate in prayer. At midnight a fearful noise was heard, like the roaring of the tempest; and at the last stroke of the clock, the Devil came through the window into—the sack which Beppo held open for him, crying, "Jump in!" "What are you doing here?" asked Beppo of the raging Devil. "How does that concern you?" "I have my reasons," was the bold reply. "Wait a little, you rascal!" cried Beppo; "I'll teach you manners!" and he seized a stick and belabored the sack until the Devil in anguish called upon all the saints. "Are you going to carry off the princess, now?" "No, no; only let me out of this infamous sack!" "Do you promise never to molest her?" "I promise, only let me out!" "No," said Beppo; "you must repeat your promise before witnesses, and also give it in writing." Then he called some gentlemen of the court into the room, had the promise repeated, and permitted the Devil to stretch one hand out of the sack, in order to write as follows: "I, the very Devil, herewith promise that I will neither carry away H. R. H., the Princess, nor ever molest her in future. Satan, Spirit of Hell."

"Good!" said Beppo; "the affair of the princess is now ended. But now, on account of your previous impoliteness, allow me to give you a few blows that may serve as reminders of me on your journey." When he had done this, he opened the sack, and the Devil went out as he had come in, through the window.

Then the king gave a great feast, at which Beppo sat between him and the princess; and there was joy throughout the whole kingdom.

After a while Beppo took a pleasure trip and came to a place that pleased him so much that he decided to remain there; but the police must needs go through certain ceremonies and wanted to know who he was, whence he came, and a multitude of other things. Then he anwered: "I am myself; let that suffice you. If you want to know anything more, write to the king." Accordingly they wrote to the king, but he commanded them to treat him with respect and not to disturb him.

When he had lived for many years in this place and had grown old, Death came and knocked at his door. Beppo opened it and asked: "Who are you?" "I am Death," was the answer. "Jump in!" cried Beppo, in great haste, and behold! Death was in the sack. "What!" he exclaimed, "shall I, who have so much to do, loiter my time away here?" "Just stay where you are, you old villain," replied Beppo, and did not let him out for a year and a half. Then there was universal satisfaction throughout the world, the physicians being especially jubilant, for none of them ever lost a patient. Then Death begged so humbly and represented so forcibly what would be the consequences of this disorder, that Beppo agreed to let him out, on condition that Death should not come back for him unless he was willing. Death departed and sought by means of a few wars and pestilences to make up for lost time.

At length Beppo grew so old that life became distasteful to him. Then he sent for Death, who, however, would not come, fearing that Beppo might change his mind. So the latter decided to go himself to Death. Death was not at home; but remembering his vacation in the sack, had prudently left the order that in case a certain Beppo Pipetta should come, he was to be beaten soundly; an order which was executed punctiliously. Beaten and cast out by Death, he went sadly to hell; but there the Devil had given the porter orders to show him the same attention that he had received at Death's abode, and that command also was conscientiously obeyed.

Smarting from the blows he had received, and vexed that neither Death nor the Devil wanted him, he went to paradise. Here he announced himself to St. Peter, but the saint thought that he had better first consult the Lord.

Meanwhile Beppo threw his cap over the wall into paradise. After he had waited a while, St. Peter reappeared and said: "I am very sorry, but our Lord does n't want you here." "Very well," said Beppo, "but you will at least let me get my cap," and with that he slipped through the gate and sat down on the cap. When St. Peter commanded him to get up and begone, he replied, composedly: "Gently, my dear sir! at present I am sitting on my own property, where I do not receive orders from any one!"

And so he remained in paradise.25

The story known to our readers from the Grimm collection, "Godfather Death," is found in Sicily and Venice. The version from the latter place given in Bernoni (Trad. pop. p. 6) is as folldws:


Once upon a time there was a peasant and his wife who had a child that they would not baptize until they could find a just man for his godfather. The father took the child in his arms and went into the street to look for this just man. After he had walked along a while, he met a man, who was our Lord, and said to him: "I have this child to baptize, but I do not want to give him to any one who is not just; are you just?" The Lord answered: "But—I don't know whether I am just." Then the peasant passed on and met a woman, who was the Madonna, and said to her: "I have this child to baptize and do not wish to give him to any one who is not just; are you just?" "I don't know," said the Madonna; "but go on, for you will find some one who is just." He went his way and met another woman, who was Death, and said to her: "I have been sent to you, for I have been told that you are just, and I have this child to baptize, and do not wish to give it to one who is not just; are you just?" Death said: "Yes, I believe I am just! Let us baptize the child, and then I will show you whether I am just." Then they baptized the child, and afterwards Death led the peasant into a very long room, where there were many lights burning. "Godmother," said the man, astonished at seeing all the lights, "what are all these lights?" Death said: "These are the lights of all the souls in the world. Would you like to see, friend? this is yours and this is your son's." When the peasant saw that his light was about to expire, he said: "And when the oil is all consumed, godmother?" "Then," answered Death, "you must come with me, for I am Death." "Oh! for mercy's sake," cried the peasant, "let me at least take a little oil from my son's lamp and put it in mine!" "No, no, godfather," said Death, "I don't do anything of that sort; you wished to see a just person, and a just person you have found. And now go home and arrange your affairs, for I am waiting for you."26

We can mention but briefly another Venetian legend which, like several of those already given, reaches back to the Middle Ages. A wealthy knight, who has led a wicked life, repents when he grows old, and his confessor enjoins on him a three years' penance. The knight refuses, for he might die at the end of two years and lose all that amount of penance. He refuses in turn a penance of two years, of one year, and even of a month, but agrees to do penance for one night. He mounts his horse, takes leave of his family, and rides away to the church, which is at some distance. After he has ridden for a time, his daughter comes running after him and calls him back, for robbers have attacked the castle. He will not be diverted from his purpose, and tells her that there are servants and soldiers enough to defend the house. Then a servant cries out that the castle is in flames, and his own wife calls for help against violence. The knight calmly continues his way, leaving his servants to act for him, and simply saying: "I have no time for it now."

Finally he enters the church and begins his penance. Here he is disturbed by the sexton, who bids him depart, so that he can close the church; a priest orders him to leave, as he is not worthy to hear a mass; at midnight twelve watchmen come and order him to go with them to the judge, but he will not move for any of them; at two o'clock a band of soldiers surround him and order him to depart, and at five o'clock a wild throng of people burst into the church and cry: "Let us drive him out!" then the church begins to burn, and the knight finds himself in the midst of flames, but still he moves not. At last, when the appointed hour comes, he leaves the church and rides home to find that none of his family had left the castle, but the various persons who had tried to divert him from his penance were emissaries of the Devil. Then the knight sees how great a sinner he was and declares that he will do penance all the rest of his life.27

Bernoni in his Leggende fantastiche gives nine legends, one of which is the story of St. Peter's mother, mentioned above. Of the remaining ones, several may be classed under ghost stories, and two illustrate the great sanctity attached by the Italian to the spiritual relationship contracted by godmothers and godfathers, and by groomsmen and the bride. It is well known that in the Romish Church a godfather or godmother contracts a spiritual relationship with the godson or goddaughter and their parents which would prevent marriage between the parties. This relationship the popular imagination has extended to the godfather and godmother, and any improper intimacy between the two is regarded as the most deadly sin. The first of Bernoni's legends is entitled:


Here in Venice, heaven knows how many centuries ago, there was a gentleman and a lady, husband and wife, who were rich people. Well, there frequented their house a compare (godfather) of St. John; and it came to pass that he and his comare (godmother, i. e. the one who had been godmother to the same child to which he had been godfather), the lady of the house, made love to each other in secret. This lady had a maid, and this maid knew everything. So one day this lady said to the maid: "Hold your tongue, and you'll see that you will be satisfied with me. When I come to die, you shall have an allowance of a dollar a day." So this maid kept always on good terms with the lady. It happened that the compare fell very ill. The lady was so desperately sorry, that her husband kept saying to her: "Come, will you make yourself ill too? It's no use fretting, for it's what we must all come to." At last the compare died. And she took it so to heart, that she fell ill in earnest. When her husband saw her giving way to such low spirits, he began to suspect that there had been something between her and the compare; but he never said a word about it to annoy her, but bore it like a philosopher. The maid was always by her mistress' bedside, and the mistress said to her: "Remember that, if I die, you must watch by me quite alone, for I won't have any one else." And the maid promised her that she would. Well, that day went by, and the next day, and the next, and the lady got worse and worse, until at last she died. You can fancy how sorry her husband was. And the maid and the other servants were very sorry, too, for she was a very good lady. The other servants offered to sit up and watch with the maid; but she said: "No; I must sit up by myself, for my mistress said she would have no others." And they said: "Very well. If you want anything, ring the bell, and we shall be ready to do anything you want." Then the maid had four tapers lighted, and placed at the foot of the bed, and she took the Office for the Dead in her hand and began to read it.

Just at midnight the door of the room burst open, and she saw the figure of the compare come in. Directly she saw him she felt her blood turn to water. She tried to cry out, but she was so terrified that she couldn't make a sound. Then she got up from her chair and went to ring the bell; and the dead man, without saying a word (because, of course, dead folks can't talk), gave her a sharp blow on the hand to prevent her from ringing. And he signed her to take a taper in her hand, and come with him to her mistress' bed. She obeyed. When the dead man got to the bedside, he took the lady, and sat her up on the bed, and he began to put her stockings on her feet, and he dressed her from head to foot. When she was dressed, he pulled her out of bed, took her by the arm, and they both went out at the door, with the maid going before them to light the way. In this palace there was an underground passage—there are many like it in Venice—and they went down into it. When they got to a certain part of it, he gave a great knock to the taper that the maid had in her hand, and left her in the dark. The maid was so terrified that she fell down on the ground, all rolled up together like a ball, and there she lay.

At daybreak the other servants thought they would go and see how the maid was getting on, as she had not called them all night. So they went and opened the door of the room, and saw nobody there at all, either living or dead. They were frightened out of their wits, and ran to their master, and said: "Oh, mercy on us, there's nobody left, neither the dead woman nor the live one! The room's quite empty." Said the master: "You don't say so!" Then he dressed himself as fast as he could, and went and looked, and found nobody. And he saw that the clothes his wife wore to go out in were gone too. Then he called the servants, and said to them: "Here, take these torches, and let us go and look in the underground passage." So all the people went down there with lighted torches; and after searching about a bit, they found the poor maid, who gave no sign of life. The servants took her by one arm; but it was all bent up stiff, and wouldn't move. And they tried the other arm, and that was the same, and all her body was knotted together quite stiff. Then they took up this ball of a woman, and carried her up-stairs, and put her on her bed. The master sent for the doctors, to see if they could bring back life to her. And by degrees she began to open her eyes and move her fingers. But she had had a stroke and couldn't speak. But by the movements of her fingers they could make out nearly everything she wanted to say. Then the master had the torches lighted again, and went down again into the underground passage, to see if he could find any trace of the dead woman. They looked and looked, but they could find nothing but a deep hole. And the master understood directly that that was where his wife and her compare had been swallowed up. And upon that he went up-stairs again; but he wouldn't stay any longer in that palace, nor even in Venice, and he went away to Verona. And in the palace he left the maid, with her dollar a day and people to take care of her and feed her, for to the end of her days she was bedridden and couldn't speak. And the master would have every one free to go and see that sight, that it might be a warning to all people who had the evil intention of not respecting the baptismal relationship.28

The second of Bernoni's legends turns on the peculiar sanctity of the relation of a groomsman (compare de l'anelo) to the bride. The full title is: "About a compare de l'anelo who pressed the bride's hand with evil intent." It is as follows:


You must know that we Venetians have a saying that the groomsman is the godfather of the first child. Well, in the parish of the Angel Raphael it happened that there was a young man and woman who were in love with each other. So they agreed to be married, and the bridegroom looked out for his best man. According to custom, directly he had chosen his best man, he took him to the bride's house, and said to her: "Look here, this is your groomsman." Directly the groomsman saw the bride he fell so much in love with her that he consented more than willingly to be the best man. Well, the wedding day came, and this man went into the church with evil thoughts in his heart. When they came out of the church they had a collation, according to custom, and then in the afternoon they had a gondola to go to the tavern, as people used to do on such days. First the bride got into the gondola, with the best man, and then the bridegroom and the relations. When they were getting into the boat the groomsman took the bride's hand to help her in, and he squeezed it, and squeezed it so hard that he hurt her severely.

As time went on he saw that the bride thought nothing about him, and he began not to care for her, either. But by and by he began to have a sort of scruple of conscience about what he had done to his comare on the wedding day. And the more he thought of it, the more he felt this scruple. So he made up his mind to go to confession, and to tell his confessor what he had done, and with what evil intention. "You have committed a great sin, my son," said the priest; "I shall give you a penance,—a heavy penance. Will you do it?" "Yes, father," said he; "tell me what it is." The priest answered: "Listen. You must make a journey in the night-time to a place that I shall tell you of. But mind; whatever voices you hear, you must never turn back for an instant! And take three apples with you, and you will meet three noblemen, and you must give one apple to each of them." Then the priest told him the place he was to go to, and the groomsman left him. Well, he waited until night-fall, and then he took his three apples and set out. He walked and walked and walked, until at last he came to the place the priest had told him of, and he heard such a talking and murmuring, you can't think! One voice said one thing, and one another. These were all folks who had committed great sins against St. John; but he knew nothing about that. He heard them calling out: "Turn back! turn back!" But not he! No; he went straight on, without ever looking round, let them call ever so much. After he had gone on a while he saw the three noblemen, and he saluted them and gave them an apple apiece. The last of the three had his arm hidden under his cloak, and the compare saw that the gentleman had great difficulty in stretching his arm out to take the apple. At length he pulled his arm from under his cloak, and showed a hand swelled up to such a huge size that the compare was frightened to look at it. But he gave him the apple, the same as to the others, and they all three thanked him and went away. The compare returned home again, and went to his confessor and told him all that had happened. Then the priest said: "See, now, my son, you are saved. For the first of the three noblemen was the Lord, the second was St. Peter, and the third was St. John. You saw what a hand he had. Well, that was the hand you squeezed on the wedding day; and so, instead of squeezing the bride's hand, you really hurt St. John!"29

The third legend is entitled: "Of two compari of St. John who swore by the name of St. John." Two compari who had not seen each other for some time met one day, and one invited the other to lunch and paid the bill. The other declared that he would do the same a week hence. When he said this they happened to be standing where two streets crossed. "Then we meet a week from to-day at this spot and at this hour!" "Yes." "By St. John, I will not fail!" "I swear by St. John that I will be here awaiting you!" During the week, however, the compare who had paid for the lunch died. The other did not know he was dead, and at the appointed time he went to the place to meet him. While there a friend passed, who asked: "What are you doing here?" "I am waiting for my compare Tony." "You are waiting for your compare Tony! Why, he has been dead three days! You will wait a long time!" "You say he is dead? There he is coming!" And, indeed, he saw him, but his friend did not. The dead man stopped before his compare and said: "You are right in being here at this spot, and you can thank God; otherwise, I would teach you to swear in the name of St. John!" Then he suddenly disappeared and his compare saw him no more, for his oath was only to be at that spot.

The sanctity of an ordinary oath is shown in the fourth story: "Of two lovers who swore fidelity in life and death." Two young persons made love, unknown to the girl's parents. The youth made her swear that she would love him in life and death. Some time after, he was killed in a brawl. The girl did not know it, and the young man's ghost continued to visit her as usual, and she began to grow pale and thin. The father discovered the state of the case, and consulted the priest, who learned from the girl, in confession, how matters stood, and came with a black cat, a stole, and book, to conjure the spirit and save the girl.

The fifth legend is entitled: "The Night of the Dead"; i. e. the eve of All Saints' Day. A servant girl, rising early one morning as she supposed (it was really midnight), witnesses a weird procession, which she unwittingly disturbs by lowering her candle and asking the last passer-by to light it. This he does; but when she pulls up her basket she finds in it, besides the lighted candle, a human arm. Her confessor tells her to wait a year, until the procession passes again, then hold a black cat tightly in her arms, and restore the arm to its owner. This she does, with the words: "Here, master, take your arm; I am much obliged to you." He took the arm angrily, and said: "You may thank God you have that cat in your arms; otherwise, what I am, that you would be also."

The sixth legend is of an incredulous priest, who believes that where the dead are, there they stay. It is as follows:


Once upon a time there was a parish priest at San Marcuola, here in Venice, who was a very good man. He couldn't bear to see women in church with hats or bonnets on their heads, and he had spirit enough to go and make them take them off. "For," said he, "the church is the house of God; and what is not permitted to men ought not to be permitted to women." But when a woman had a shawl over her shoulders he would have her throw it over her head, that she might not be stared at and ogled. But this priest had one fault: he did not believe in ghosts; and one day he was preaching a sermon, and in this sermon he said to the people: "Listen, now, dearly beloved brethren. This morning, when I came into the church here, there comes up to me one of my flock, and she says to me, all in a flutter: 'Oh, Father, what a fright I have had this night! I was asleep in my bed, and the ghosts came and twitched away my coverlet!' But I answered her: 'Dear daughter, that is not possible; because where the dead are, there they stay.'" And so he declared before all the congregation that it was not true that the dead could come back and be seen and heard. In the evening the priest went to bed as usual, and about midnight he heard the house-bell ring loudly. The servant went out on to the balcony and saw a great company of people in the street, and she called out: "Who's there?" and they asked her if the Priest of San Marcuola was at home. And she said Yes; but he was in bed. Then they said he must come down. But the priest, when he heard about it, refused to go. They then began to ring the bell again and tell the servant to call her master; and the priest said he wouldn't go anywhere. Then all the doors burst open, and the whole company marched up-stairs into the priest's bedroom, and bade him get up and dress himself and come with them; and he was obliged to do what they said. When they reached a certain spot they set him in the midst of them, and they gave him so many knocks and cuffs that he didn't know which side to turn himself; and then they said: "This is for a remembrance of the poor defunct;" and upon that they all vanished away and were seen no more, and the poor priest went back home, bruised from head to foot. And so the ghosts proved plain enough that it isn't true to say: "Where the dead are, there they stay."30

The story of Don Juan appears in the seventh legend, entitled:


There was once a youth who did nothing but eat, drink, and amuse himself, because he was immensely wealthy and had nothing to think about. He scoffed at every one; he dishonored all the young girls; he played all sorts of tricks, and was tired of everything. One day he took it into his head to give a grand banquet; and thereupon he invited all his friends and many women and all his acquaintances.

While they were preparing the banquet he took a walk, and passed through a street where there was a cemetery. While walking he noticed on the ground a skull. He gave it a kick, and then he went up to it and said to it in jest: "You, too, will come, will you not, to my banquet to-night?" Then he went his way, and returned home. At the house the banquet was ready and the guests had all arrived. They sat down to the table, and ate and drank to the sound of music, and diverted themselves joyfully.

Meanwhile midnight drew near, and when the clock was on the stroke a ringing of bells was heard. The servants went to see who it was, and beheld a great ghost, who said to them: "Tell Count Robert that I am the one he invited this morning to his banquet." They went to their master and told him what the ghost had said. The master said: "I? All those whom I invited are here, and I have invited no one else." They said: "If you should see him! It is a ghost that is terrifying." Then it came into the young man's mind that it might be that dead man; and he said to the servants: "Quick! quick! close the doors and balconies, so that he cannot enter!" The servants went to close everything; but hardly had they done so when the doors and balconies were thrown wide open and the ghost entered. He went up where they were feasting, and said: "Robert! Robert! was it not enough for you to profane everything? Have you wished to disturb the dead, also? The end has come!" All were terrified, and fled here and there, some concealing themselves, and some falling on their knees. Then the ghost seized Robert by the throat and strangled him and carried him away with him; and thus he has left this example, that it is not permitted to mock the poor dead.31

The ninth and last of Bernoni's legends is a story about Massariol, the domestic spirit of the Venetians. A man of family, whose business takes him out at night, finds in the street a basket containing an infant. The weather is very cold, so the good man carries the foundling home, and his wife, who already has a young child, makes the little stranger as comfortable as possible. He is cared for and put in the cradle by the side of the other child. The husband and wife have to leave the room a moment; when they return the foundling has disappeared. The husband asks in amazement: "What can it mean?" She answers: "I am sure I don't know; can it be Massariol?" Then he goes out on the balcony and sees at a distance one who seems like a man, but is not, who is clapping his hands and laughing and making all manner of fun of him, and then suddenly disappears.

The same mischievous spirit plays many other pranks. Sometimes he cheats the ferrymen out of their toll; sometimes he disguises himself like the baker's lad, and calls at the houses to take the bread to the oven, and then carries it away to some square or bridge; sometimes, when the washing is hung out, he carries it off to some distant place, and when the owners have at last found their property, Massariol laughs in their faces and disappears. The woman who related these stories to Bernoni added: "Massariol has never done anything bad; he likes to laugh and joke and fool people. He, too, has been shut up, I don't know where, by the Holy Office, the same as the witches, fairies, and magicians."

Pitrè's collection contains little that falls under the second heading of this chapter. The following story, however, is interesting from its English parallels:


Once upon a time there was a girl called Saddaedda, who was crazy. One day, when her mother had gone into the country and she was left alone in the house, she went into a church where the funeral service was being read over the body of a rich lady. The girl hid herself in the confessional. No one knew she was there; so, when the other people had gone, she was left alone with the corpse. It was dressed out in a rose-colored robe and everything else becoming, and it had ear-rings in its ears and rings on its fingers. These the girl took off, and then she began to undress the body. When she came to the stockings she drew off one easily, but at the other she had to pull so hard that at last the leg came off with it. Saddaedda took the leg, carried it to her lonely home, and locked it up in a box. At night came the dead lady and knocked at the door. "Who's there?" said the girl. "It is I," answered the corpse. "Give me back my leg and stocking!" But Saddaedda paid no heed to the request. Next day she prepared a feast and invited some of her playfellows to spend the night with her. They came, feasted, and went to sleep. At midnight the dead woman began to knock at the door and to repeat last night's request. Saddaedda took no notice of the noise, but her companions, whom it awoke, were horrified, and as soon as they could, they ran away. On the third night just the same happened. On the fourth she could persuade only one girl to keep her company. On the fifth she was left entirely alone. The corpse came, forced open the door, strode up to Saddaedda's bed, and strangled her. Then the dead woman opened the box, took out her leg and stocking, and carried them off with her to her grave.32

This chapter would be incomplete without reference to treasure stories. A number of these are given by Miss Busk in her interesting collection. A few are found in Pitrè, only one of which needs mention here, on account of its parallels in other countries. It is called Lu Vicerrè Tunnina, "Viceroy Tunny" (tunnina is the flesh of the tunny-fish). There was at Palermo a man who sold tunny-fish. One night he dreamed that some one appeared to him and said: "Do you wish to find your Fate? Go under the bridge di li Testi (of the Heads, so the people call the Ponte dell' Ammiraglio, a bridge now abandoned, constructed in 1113 by the Admiral Georgios Antiochenos); there you will find it." For three nights he dreamed the same thing. The third time, he went under the bridge and found a poor man all in rags. The fish-seller was frightened and was going away, when the man called him. It was his Fate. He said: "To-night, at midnight, where you have placed the barrels of fish, dig, and what you find is yours."

The fish-dealer did as he was told; dug, and found a staircase, which he descended, and found a room full of money. The fish-dealer became wealthy, lent the king of Spain money, and was made viceroy and raised to the rank of prince and duke.33


  1. This story is an attempt to explain the origin of the word 'nfinucchiari (infinocchiare) to impose on one, by the word finocchio, fennel-seed.
  2. This is the strongest imprecation in Sicily.


1. It is the LXXV. novel of the Testo Gualteruzzi (Biagi, p. 108): Qui conta come Domeneddio s' accompagnò con un giullare. The Lord once went in company with a jester. One day the former went to a funeral, and the latter to a marriage. The Lord called the dead to life again, and was richly rewarded. He gave the jester some of the money with which he bought a kid, roasted it and ate the kidneys himself. His companion asked where they were, and the jester answered that in that country the kids had none. The next time the Lord went to a wedding and the jester to a funeral, but he could not revive the dead, and was considered a deceiver, and condemned to the gallows. The Lord wished to know who ate the kidneys, but the other persisted in his former answer; but in spite of this the Lord raises the dead, and the jester is set at liberty. Then the Lord said he wished to dissolve their partnership, and made three piles of money, one for himself, another for the jester, and the third for the one who ate the kidneys. Then the jester said: "By my faith, now that you speak thus, I will tell you that I ate them; I am so old that I ought not to tell lies now." So some things are proved by money, which a man would not tell to escape from death. For the sources and imitations of this story see D'Ancona, Le Fonti del Novellino, in the Romania, No. 10, p. 180, (Studj, p. 333). To D'Ancona's references may be added the following: Grimm, 147, "The Old Man made young again"; Asbjørnsen and Moe, No. 21 [Dasent, Pop. Tales, No. XIV.], Ny Samm. No. 101 [Dasent, Tales from the Fjeld, p. 94, "Peik"]; Ralston, R. F. T. p. 350; Simrock's Deutsche Märchen, Nos. 31b (p. 148), 32; Romania, No. 24, p. 578, "Le Foie de Mouton" (E. Cosquin, Contes pop. lorrains, No. 30); Brueyre, p. 330; and an Italian version, which is simply an amplification of the one in the Cento nov. ant., in the recently published Sessanta Nov. pop. montalesi, Nerucci, No. 31.

2. See Jahrbuch, VII. pp. 28, 396. The professional pride of the smith finds a parallel in an Irish story in Kennedy, "How St. Eloi was punished for the sin of Pride." Before the saint became religious he was a goldsmith, but sometimes amused himself by shoeing horses, and boasted that he had never found his master in anything. One day a stranger stopped at his forge and asked permission to shoe his horse. Eloi consented, and was very much surprised to see the stranger break off the horse's leg at the shoulder, carry it into the smithy and shoe it. Then the stranger put on again the horse's leg, and asked Eloe if he knew any one who could do such a good piece of work. Eloi tries himself, and fails miserably. The stranger, who is Eloi's guardian angel, cures the horse, reproves the smith for his pride, and disappears. See Brueyre, p. 329, and Bladé, Agenais, p. 61, and Köhler's notes, p. 157.

3. Bernoni, Punt. I. p. 1, "I cinque brazzi de Tela.'' See Benfey, Pant. I. p. 497, where the same story (without the coarseness of the Italian version) is related of Buddha, who tells the hospitable woman that "what she begins shall not end until sunset." She begins to measure linen and it lengthens in her hands so that she continues to measure it all day. The envious neighbor receives the same gift, but before she begins to measure the linen, she thinks she will water the swine; the bucket does not become empty until evening, and the whole neighborhood is inundated. See Benfey's parallels, ut. sup. pp. 497–98, and Grimm, No. 87, notes.

4. These four legends are in Pitrè, Cinque Novelline popolari siciliane, Palermo, 1878. In the third story, "San Pietru e sò cumpari," St. Peter gets something to eat from a stingy man by a play on the word mussu, "snout," and cu lu mussu, "to be angry." For a similar story see Pitrè, III. 312. A parallel to the first of the above legends may be found in Finamore, No. 34, IV., where are also some other legends of St. Peter.

Since the above note was written, some similar legends have been published by Salomone Marino in the Archivio per lo Studio delle Tradizioni popolari, vol. II. p. 553. One "The Just suffers for the Sinner" ("Chianci lu giustu pri lu piccaturi") relates how St. Peter complained to our Lord that the innocent were punished with the guilty. Our Lord made no answer, but shortly after commanded St. Peter to pick up a piece of honey-comb filled with bees, and put it in the bosom of his dress. One of the bees stung him, and St. Peter in his anger killed them all, and when the Lord rebuked him, excused himself by saying: "How could I tell among so many bees which one stung me?" The Lord answered: "Am I wrong then, when I punish men likewise? Chianci lu giustu pri lu piccaturi."

Another legend relates the eagerness of St. Peter's sister to marry. Thrice she sent her brother to our Lord to ask his consent, and thrice the Lord, with characteristic patience, answered: "Tell her to do what she wishes."

A third legend explains why some are rich and some are poor in this world. Adam and Eve had twenty-four children, and one day the Lord passed by the house, and the parents concealed twelve of their children under a tub. The Lord, at the parents' request, blessed the twelve with riches and happiness. After he had departed, the parents realized what they had done, and called the Master back. When he heard that they had told him a falsehood about the number of their children, he replied that the blessing was bestowed and there was no help for it. "Oh!" said Adam in anguish, "what will become of them?" The Lord replied: "Let those who are not blessed serve the others, and let those who are blessed support them." "And this is why in the world half are rich and half are poor, and the latter serve the former, and the former support the latter."

The last of these legends which I shall mention is entitled: "All things are done for money." ("Tutti cosi su' fatti pri dinari.") There once died a poor beggar who had led a pious life, and was destined for paradise. When his soul arrived at the gate and knocked, St. Peter asked who he was and told him to wait. The poor soul waited two months behind the gate, but St. Peter did not open it for him. Meanwhile, a wealthy baron died and went, exceptionally, to paradise. His soul did not need even to knock, for the gate was thrown open, and St. Peter exclaimed: "Throw open the gate, let the baron pass! Come in Sir Baron, your servant, what an honor!" The soul of the beggar squeezed in, and said to himself: "The world is not the only one who worships money; in heaven itself there is this law, that all things are done for money."

5. Pitrè, No. 126, where other Sicilian versions are mentioned. A version from Siena is in T. Gradi, Proverbi e Modi di dire, p. 23, repeated in the same author's Saggio di Letture varie, p. 52, and followed by an article by Tommaseo, originally printed in the Institutore of Turin, in which Servian and Greek parallels are given. Besides the Venetian variant mentioned in the text, there are versions from Umbria and Piedmont cited by Pitrè, a Tuscan one in Nov. tosc. No. 26, and one from the Tyrol in Schneller, No. 4. Pitrè, in his notes to Nov. tosc. No. 26, mentions several other versions from Piedmont, Friuli, and Benevento. An exact version is also found in Corsica: see Ortoli, p. 235.

6. This reminds one of the "Sabbath of the Damned:" see Douhet, Dictionnaire des Légendes, Paris, 1855, p. 1040.

7. Pitrè, in a note to this story, mentions several proverbial sayings in which Pilate's name occurs: "To wash one's hands of the matter like Pilate," and "To come into a thing like Pilate in the Creed," to express engaging in a matter unwillingly, or to indicate something that is mal à propos.

8. Pitrè, I. p. cxxxvii., and Pitrè, Appunti di Botanica popolare siciliana, in the Rivista Europea, May, 1875, p. 441.

9. Pitrè, I. p. cxxxviii.

10. This legend is mentioned in a popular Sicilian legend in verse, see Pitrè, Canti pop. sic. II. p. 368, and is the subject of a chap-book, the title of which is given by Pitrè, Fiabe, vol. IV. p. 397.

11. Preghiere pop. veneziane raccolte da Dom. Giuseppe Bernoni, p. 18.

12. Pitrè, I. p. cxxxiii. For earlier appearances of the Wandering Jew in Italian literature, see A. D'Ancona, La Leggenda dell' Ebreo errante, Nuova Antologia, serie II. vol. XXIII. 1880, p. 425; Romania, vol. X. p. 212, Le Juif errant en Italia au XIIIe siecle, G. Paris and A. D'Ancona; vol. XII. p. 112, Encore le Juif errant en Italie, A. D'Ancona, and Giornale Storico, vol. III. p. 231, R. Renier, where an Italian text of the XVIII. cent, is printed for the first time. The myth of the Wandering Jew can best be studied in the following recent works: G. Paris, Le Juif Errant, Extrait de l'Encyclopedic des Sciences Religieuses, Paris, 1880; Dr. L. Neubaur, Die Sage vom ewigen Juden, Leipzig, 1884; P. Cassel, Ahasverus, die Sage vom ewigen Juden, Berlin, 1885. The name Buttadeu (Buttadæus in the Latin texts of the XVII. cent.) has been explained in various ways. It is probably from the Ital. verb buttare, to thrust away, and dio, God.

13. Crivòliu is a corruption of Gregoriu, Gregory, and the legend is, as Köhler says, a peculiar transformation of the well-known legend of "Gregory on the Stone." For the legend in general, see A. D'Ancona's Introduction to the Leggenda di Vergogna e la Leggenda di Giuda, Bologna, 1869, and F. Lippold, Ueber die Quelle des Gregorius Hartmann's von Aue, Leipzig, 1869, p. 50 et seq. See also Pitrè's notes to No. 117. An example of this class of stories from Cyprus may be found in the Jahrb. XI. p. 357.

14. See Köhler's notes to Gonz., No. 90, and Sacre Rappresentazioni dei Secoli XIV.-XVI. raccolte e illustrate di A. D'Ancona, Florence, 1872, III. p. 435. There is another legend of St. James of Galicia in Busk, p. 208, entitled "The Pilgrims." A husband and wife make the usual vow to St. James that if he will give them children they will make the pilgrimage to Santiago. When the children are fifteen and sixteen the parents start on the pilgrimage, taking with them the son, and leaving the daughter in charge of a priest, who wrote slanderous letters about her, whereupon the son returned suddenly, slew his sister, and threw her body in a ditch. A king's son happened to pass by, found the body, and discovered that it still contained life. He had her cured, and married her, and they afterwards became king and queen. While the king was once at war, the viceroy tempted the queen, and when she would not listen to him, killed her two children and slandered her to the king. The queen took the bodies of the children and wandered about until she met the Madonna, who took the children, and the queen went to Galicia. The king and viceroy also made a pilgrimage to the same place where the queen's parents had dwelt since the supposed death of their daughter. All met at the saint's shrine and forgave each other, and the Madonna restored the children alive and well.

There are two or three other stories in Pitrè and Gonz. in which saints appear in the rôle of good fairies, aiding the hero when in trouble. One of these stories, "The Thankful Dead" (Gonz., No. 74), has already been mentioned in Chapter II. p. 131; two others may be briefly mentioned here. The first is Gonz., No. 74, "Of one who by the help of St. Joseph won the king's daughter." A king proclaims that he will give his daughter to any one who builds a ship that will go by land and water. The youngest of three brothers constructs such a vessel by the help of St. Joseph, after his two brothers have failed. The saint, who is not known to the youth, accompanies him on the voyage on the condition that he shall receive the half of everything that the youth receives. During the voyage they take on board a man who can fill a sack with mist, one who can tear up half a forest and carry the trees on his back, a man who can drink up half a river, one who can always hit what he shoots at, and one who walks with such long steps that when one foot is in Catania the other is in Messina. The king refuses to give his daughter to the youth in spite of the ship that goes by land and water. The youth, however, by the help of his wonderful servants and St. Joseph, fulfils all the king's requirements, and carries away the princess. When the youth returned home with his bride and treasures, St. Joseph called on him to fulfil his promise to him. The youth gives him half of his treasures, and even half of the crown he had won. The saint reminds him that the best of his possessions yet remains undivided,—his bride. The youth determines to keep his promise, draws his sword, and is about to cut his bride in two, when St. Joseph reveals himself, blesses the pair, and disappears.

This story is sometimes found as a version of the "Thankful Dead," see Chapter II. note 12. The second story is Pitrè, No. 116, "St. Michael the Archangel and one of his devotees," of which there is a version in Gonz., No. 76, called, "The Story of Giuseppino." In the first version a child, Pippino, is sold by his parents to the king in order to obtain the means to duly celebrate the feast of St. Michael, to whom they were devoted. The child is brought up in the palace as the princess's playmate; but when he grows up the king is anxious to get rid of him, and so sends him on a voyage in an unseaworthy vessel. St. Michael appears to the lad, and tells him to load the ship with salt. They set sail, and the rotten ship is about to go to pieces, when the saint appears and changes the ship into a vessel all of gold. They sell the cargo to a king who has never tasted salt before, and return to their own country wealthy. The next voyage Pippino, by the saint's advice, takes a cargo of cats, which they sell to the king of a country overrun by mice. Pippino returns and marries the king's daughter. In the version in Gonz., Giuseppino is a king's son, who leaves his home to see the world, and becomes the stable-boy of the king whose daughter he marries. The three cargoes are: salt, cats, and uniforms. On the last voyage, Giuseppino captures a hostile fleet, and makes his prisoners put on the uniforms he has in his ship. With this army he returns, and compels the king to give him his daughter. St. Joseph acts the same part in this version as St. Michael in Pitrè's.

The story of "Whittington and his Cat" will at once occur to the reader. See Pitrè's notes to No. 116, and vol. IV. p. 395, and Köhler to Gonz., No. 76.

15. Köhler has no note on this legend, and I have been unable to find in the list of saints any name of which Onirià or Nerià may be a corruption.

16. The references to this story will best be found in Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst, ed. Oesterley, No. 682, and in the same editor's notes to the Gesta Romanorum, cap. 80. To these may be added a story by De Trueba in his Narraciones populares, p. 65, entitled, "Las Dudas de San Pedro;" Luzel, Légendes Chrétiennes, I. 282, II. 4; Fiore di Virtù, Naples, 1870, p. 68; Etienne de Bourbon, No. 396 (Anecdotes historiques, légendes et apologues tirés du Receuil inédit d'Etienne de Bourbon, pub. pour la Société de l'Hist. de France par A. Lecoy de la Marche, Paris, 1877.

Since the above was written, several important contributions to the literature of this story have been made. The first in point of time and importance is a paper by Gaston Paris in the Comptes Rendus of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, vol. VIII. pp. 427–449 (reprinted in La Poésie du Moyen Age, Leçons et Lectures par Gaston Paris, Paris, 1885). Next may be mentioned "The Literary History of Parnell's Hermit," by W. E. A. Axon, London, 1881 (reprinted from the Seventh Volume of the Third Series of Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Session 1879–80). An Icelandic version is in Islendzk Aeventyri, Isländische Legenden, Novellen und Märchen, herausgegeben von Hugo Gering, Halle, 1884, vol. II. p. 247. The legend is clearly shown by Gaston Paris to be of Jewish origin.

17. There is another version of this story in Gonz., No. 86, "Von dem frommen Kinde" ("The Pious Child"), Köhler in his notes cites Grimm's Children's Legends, No. 9, and Schneller, No. 1. In this last story a pious child is cruelly treated by his step-mother, and leaves his home to live in a convent. One day he notices in a corner a neglected crucifix covered with dust and cobwebs. He sees how thin the figure is, and at meal-time brings his food where the crucifix is and begins to feed the image, which opens its mouth and eats with appetite. As the image grows stouter the pious child grows thinner. The Superior learns one day the fact, and tells the child to ask the Lord to invite him and the Superior to his table. The next day both die suddenly after mass.

In a story in Gonz., No. 47, "Of the pious youth who went to Rome," the youth talks to the image on the crucifix in a familiar way, and receives information about questions put to him by various persons. The youth also dies suddenly at the end of the story.

18. Pitrè, No. 111. Another Sicilian version is in Gonz., No. 88, "The Story of Spadònia." Spadònia is the son of a king, who every day has bread baked and sent to the souls in purgatory by means of an ass sent for that purpose by the Lord. Spadònia becomes king, and sends one of his servants, Peppe, to see where the ass goes. Peppe crosses a river of clear water, one of milk, and one of blood. Then he sees the thin oxen in a rich pasture, and the reverse; in addition he beholds a forest with small and large trees together, and a handsome youth cutting down now a large tree, now a small one, with a single stroke of a bright axe. Then he passed through a door with the ass, and sees St. Joseph, and St. Peter, and all the saints, and among them God the Father. Farther on Peppe sees many saints, and among them the parents of Spadònia. Finally Peppe comes where the Saviour and his Mother are on a throne. The Lord says to him that Spadònia must marry a maiden named Sècula, and open an inn, in which any one may eat and lodge without cost. The Lord then explains what Peppe has seen. The river of water is the good deeds of men which aid and refresh the poor souls in purgatory; the river of milk is that with which Christ was nourished; and the river of blood that shed for sinners. The thin cattle are the usurers, the fat, the poor who trust in God, the youth felling the trees is Death.

Peppe returns and tells his master all he had seen, and Spadònia wanders forth in search of a maiden called Sècula. He finds at last a poor girl so called, and marries her, and opens an inn as he had been directed. After a time the Lord and his Apostles visit the inn, and the king and his wife wait on them, and treat them with the utmost consideration. The next day after they had departed Spadònia and his wife find out who their guests were, and hasten after them in spite of a heavy storm. When they overtake the Lord they ask pardon for their sins, and eternal happiness for all belonging to them. The Lord grants their request, and tells them to be prepared at Christmas, when he will come for them. They return home, give all their property to the poor, and at Christmas they confess, take communion, and die peacefully near each other, together with Sècula's old parents.

This curious legend has no parallels in Italy out of Sicily. It is, however, found in the rest of Europe, the best parallel being L'Homme aux dents rouges, in Bladé, Agenais, p. 52. Köhler cites Bladé, Contes et proverbes pop. rec. en Armagnac, p. 59, and Asbjørnsen, No. 62 [Dasent, Tales from the Fjeld, p. 160, "Friends in Life and Death"]. To these may be added the story in Schneller, p. 215, and the references given by Köhler in his notes to Gonz., No. 88.

19. See Champfleury, De la littérature populaire en France. Recherches sur les origines et les variations de la légende du bonhomme Misère, Paris, 1861. It contains a reprint of the oldest yet known edition of the chap-book, that of 1719. The most valuable references to the legend in general will be found (besides the above work, and Grimm's notes to Nos. 81, 82) in the Jahrb. V. pp. 4, 23; VII. 128, 268; and in Pitrè's notes, vol. III. p. 63, and IV. pp. 398, 439. All the Italian versions are mentioned in the text or following notes. To the stories from the various parts of Europe mentioned in the articles above cited, may be added Webster, Basque Legends, pp. 195, 199. Since this note was written another Tuscan version has been published by Pitrè in his Nov. tosc. No. 28, who cites in his notes: Ortoli, p. 1, § 1, No. XXII. (Corsica); and two literary versions in Cintio de' Fabritii, Venice, 1726, Origine de' volgari proverbi, and Domenico Batacchi in his Novelle galanti: La Vita e la Morte di Prete Ulivo.

20. See Pitrè, No. 125.

21. See Busk, p. 178.

22. See Busk, p. 183.

23. Novelline di Sto. Stefano, No. XXXII. A version from Monferrato is found in Comparetti, No. 34, entitled, "La Morte Burlata" ("Death Mocked"), in which a schoolmaster, who is a magician, tells one of his scholars that he will grant him every day any favor he may ask. The first day the scholar asks that any one who climbs his pear-tree must remain there; the second day he asks that whoever approaches his fireplace to warm himself must stay there; and finally he asks to win always with a pack of cards that he has. When the possessor of these favors has lived a hundred years Death comes for him, but is made to climb the tree, and is forced to grant the owner another hundred years of life. The fireplace procures another respite, and then the man dies and goes to paradise; but the Lord will not admit him, for he had not asked for mercy. Hell will not receive him, for he had been a good man; so he goes to the gate of purgatory and begins playing cards, with souls for stakes, and wins enough to form a regiment. Then he goes to paradise, and the Lord tells him he can enter alone. But he persists in going in with all those who are attached to him; so all the souls enter too.

24. Novelline di Sto. Stefano, No. 33. A similar story, told in greater detail, is in Schneller, No. 17, "Der Stöpselwirth" ("The Tapster"). A generous host ruins himself by his hospitality, and borrows money of the Devil for seven years; if he cannot repay it his soul is to belong to the lender. The host continues his liberality, and at the end of seven years is poorer than before. The Lord, St. Peter, and St. John come to the tavern and tell the landlord to ask three favors. He asks that whoever climbs his fig-tree may remain there; whoever sits on his sofa must stay there; and finally, whoever puts his hands in a certain chest must keep them there. The Devil first sends his eldest son after the money. The host sends him up the fig-tree, and then gives him a sound beating. Then the Devil sends his second son, whom the landlord invites to sit on his sofa, and gives him a sound thrashing too. Finally the Devil himself comes, and the host tells him to get his money himself out of the chest. The Devil sticks fast, and is set free only on condition of renouncing all claims to the landlord's soul.

The conclusion of the story is like that of "Beppo Pipetta."

There is another story about a bargain with the Devil in the Novelline di Sto. Stefano, No. 35, "Le Donne ne sanno un punto piu del diavolo" ("Women know a point more than the Devil"). A fowler sells his soul to the Devil for twelve years of life and plenty of birds. When the time is nearly up the fowler's wife persuades him to alter his bargain with the Devil a little. The latter is to give up his claim if the former can find a bird unknown to the Devil. The Devil consents, and comes the last day and recognizes easily every bird, until finally the fowler's wife, disguised with tar and feathers, comes out of a case and frightens the fowler and the Devil so that he runs away.

The mysterious bird recalls the one in Grimm, No. 46, "Fitcher's Bird."

25. Jahrbuch, VII. 121. The wonderful sack occurs in another Venetian story, Widter-Wolf, No. 14, "Der Höllenpfortner" ("The Porter of Hell"). The gifts are: a gun that never misses, a violin that makes every one dance, and a sack into which every one must spring when commanded by the owner. See Köhler's notes to this story, Jahrb. VII. 268. A Corsican version is in Ortoli, p. 155. The episode of the Devil beaten in the sack is also found in Comparetti, No. 49, "Il Ramaio." A wandering smith gives alms to St. Peter and the Lord, and receives in return a pouch like the above. When the Devil comes to fetch him he wishes him in his sack, and gives him a good pounding. When the smith dies he gets into paradise by throwing his bag inside and wishing himself in it.

There are two other stories in which the Devil gets worsted: they are Gianandrea, No. VI., "Quattordici" ("Fourteen"), and Fiabe Mantovane, No. 11, "Pacchione." In these stories a cunning person is sent to the Devil to bring back a load of gold. The cunning person takes a long pair of tongs, catches the Devil by the nose, loads his horse, and returns in safety.

The first part of the story of "Quattordici" is found in the Basque Legend of "Fourteen:" see Webster, p. 195.

26. Another Venetian version is in Widter-Wolf, No. 3, "Der Gevatter Tod" ("Godfather Death"). There are also two Sicilian versions: Pitrè, No. 109, "La Morti e sò figghiozzu" ("Death and her Godson"); and Gonz., No. 19, "Gevatter Tod," which do not differ materially from the version given in our text. References to European parallels may be found in Köhler's notes to Widter-Wolf, No. 3, Jahrb. VII. p. 19; to Gonz., No. 19, and in Grimm's notes to No. 44.

27. Widter-Wolf, No. 16, "Der standhafter Büsser" ("The Constant Penitent"), Jahrb. VII. p. 273. For parallels, see Köhler's article, Die Legende von dem Ritter in der Capelle, Jahrb. VI. p. 326.

28. Bernoni, Legg. fant. p. 3. The translation in text, as well as that of the two following stories, I have taken from The Cornhill Magazine, July, 1875, "Venetian Popular Legends," p. 86.

Another story illustrating the same point is found in Pitrè, No. 110, Li Cumpari di S. Giuvanni, which is translated as follows by Ralston in Fraser's Magazine, April, 1876, "Sicilian Fairy Tales," p. 424.


Once upon a time there lived a husband and wife, and they were both bound in gossipry with a certain man. The husband got arrested, and was taken away to prison. Now the gossip was very fond of his cummer, and used often to go and visit her. One day she said to him: "Gossip, shall we go and see my husband?" "Gnursi, cummari" ("Certainly, cummer"), said her gossip; so off they went. On the way they bought a large melon—for it was the melon season—to take to the poor prisoner. We are but flesh and blood! The gossip and his cummer sinned against St. John. In short, they brought things to a pretty pass. St. John wasn't going to let that pass unpunished. When they had come to the prison and had visited the prisoner, before going away they wanted to make a present to the jailer; so they gave him the melon. He cut it open before their eyes. Horror of horrors! When the melon was cut open, there was found in the middle of it a head! Now this was the head of St. John, which had slipped itself in there for the purpose of bringing home their sin to the minds of the gossips. The matter immediately came to the ears of justice, and they were arrested. They confessed the wrong they had done. The husband was set at liberty, and the gossip and his cummer were sent to the gallows.

In regard to Saint John and the relationship of godfather, see Pitrè's note in vol. I. p. 73.

29. Bernoni, p. 7; Cornhill Magazine, p. 88.

30. Bernoni, p. 17; Cornhill Magazine, p. 89.

31. Bernoni, p. 19. There are prose versions of the closely related story of Don Juan in Busk, p. 202, "Don Giovanni," and in Nov. tosc. No. 21, "Don Giovanni." There are poetical versions of this legend in G. Ferraro, Canti popolari raccolti a Ponlelagoscuro, No. 19; "La Testa di Morto," in Rivista di Filologia Romanza, vol. II. p. 204; Ive, Canti pop. istriani, Turin, 1877, cap. xxv. No. 6, "Lionzo;" Salomone-Marino, Leggende pop. sicil. XXVII. "Lionziu."

32. Pitrè, No. 128. The version in the text is Ralston's condensation, taken from Fraser's Magazine, p. 433. As Pitrè notes, there is some slight resemblance between this story and that of "Cattarinetta" in Schneller, No. 5, which has a close parallel in Bernoni, Trad. pop. venez. Punt. III. p. 76, "Nono Cocon," and one not so close in Papanti, Nov. pop. livor, No. 1, "La Mencherina," p. 7. There is a close parallel to the Sicilian story in a Tuscan tale, "La Gamba" ("The Leg"), in Novelline pop. toscane, pubb. da G. Pitrè, p. 12. In a note Pitrè mentions a variant from Pratovecchio in which the leg is of gold. He also gives copious references to versions from all parts of Europe. The English reader will recall at once Halliwell's story of "Teeny-Tiny" (Nursery Tales, p. 25). To the above references may be added: "Le Pendu" in Cosquin, Contes pop. lorrains, No. 41, in Romania, No. 28. p. 580. Since the above note was written, another Tuscan version has been published by Pitrè, Nov. tosc. No. 19.

33. Pitrè, No. 203. The parallels to this story may best be found in J. Grimm's Kleinere Schriften, III. p. 414, Der Traum von dem Schatz auf der Brücke. To Grimm's references may be added: Graesse, Sagenschatz Sachsen's, No. 587; Wolf, Hesseche Sagen, No. 47; Kuhn, Westfalische Sagen, No. 169; and Vierzig Veziere, p. 270.