Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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Pilgrims, The


THERE was a husband and wife, who had been married two or three years, and had no children. At last, they made a vow to S. Giacomo di Galizia that if they only had two children, one boy and one girl, even if no more than that, they would be so grateful that they would go a pilgrimage to his shrine, all the way to Galizia.

               In due time two children were born to them, a boy and a girl, who were twins; and they were full of gladness and rejoicing, and devoted themselves to the care of their children, but they forgot all about their vow. When many years were passed, and the children were, it maybe, fifteen or sixteen years old, they dreamed a dream, both husband and wife in one night, that St. James appeared, and said:

               'You made a vow to visit my shrine if you had two children. Two children have been born to you, and you have not kept your vow; most certainly evil will overtake you for your broken word. Behold, time is given you; but if now you fulfil not your vow, both your children will die.'

               In the morning the wife told the dream to the husband, and the husband told the dream to the wife, and they said to each other, 'This is no common dream; we must look to it.' So they bought pilgrims' dresses, and went to 'Galizia,' the husband, and wife, and the son; but concerning the daughter they said, 'The maiden is of too tender years for this journey, let her stay with her nurse;' and they left her in the charge of the nurse and the parish priest. But that priest was a bad man--for it will happen that a priest may be bad sometimes; and, instead of leading her right, he wanted her to do many bad things, and when she would not listen to him, he wrote false letters to her parents about her, and gave a report of her conduct to shock her parents. When the brother saw these letters of the priest concerning his sister, he was indignant with her, and, without waiting for his parents' advice, went back home quickly, and killed her with his dagger, and threw her body into a ditch. But he went back to the shrine of St. James to live in penance.

               Not long had her body lain in the ditch when a king's son came by hunting, and the dogs scented the blood of a Christian lying in the ditch, and bayed over it till the huntsmen came and took out the body; when they saw it was the body of a fair maiden, yet warm, they showed it to the prince, and the prince when he saw the maiden, loved her, and took her to a convent to be healed of her wound, and afterwards married her; and when his father died, he was king and she became a queen.

               But her father and mother, hearing only that her brother had killed her and thrown her body in the ditch, and supposing she was dead, said one to the other, 'Why should we go back home, seeing that our daughter is dead? What have we to go home for? There is nothing but sorrow for us there.' So they remained at the shrine of St. James, and built a hospice for poor pilgrims, and tended them.

               Meantime the daughter, who had become a queen, she also had two children, a boy and a girl, and her husband rejoiced in them and in her. But troubled times came, and her husband had to go forth to battle, and while she was left without him in the palace, the viceroy came to her and wanted her to do wrong, and when she would not listen to him, he took her two children and killed them before her eyes. 'What do I here,' said she, 'seeing my two children are dead?' And she took the bodies of her children and went forth. When she had wandered long by solitary places, she came one day to a mountain, and at the foot of the mountain sat a dwarf, [1] and the dwarf had compassion when he saw how she was worn with crying, and he said to her, 'Go up the mountain and be consoled.' Thus she went up the mountain till she saw a majestic woman, with an infant in her arms; and this was the Madonna, you must know. [2]

               When she saw a woman like herself, with a child too, for all that she looked so bright and majestic, she was consoled; and she poured all her story into her ear. 'And I would go to S. Giacomo di Galizia to ask that my husband's love may be restored to me, for I know the viceroy will calumniate me to him; but how can I leave these children?' Then the lady said, 'Leave your children with me, and they shall be with my child, and go you to Galizia as you have said, and be consoled.' So she put on pilgrim's weeds, and went to Galizia.

               Meantime the king came back from battle, and the viceroy told him evil about the queen; and his mother, who also believed the viceroy, said, 'Did I not tell you a woman picked up is never good for anything?' [3] But the king was grieved, for he had loved the queen dearly, and he took a pilgrim's dress and went to Galizia, to the shrine of S. Giacomo, to pray that she might be forgiven. Then the viceroy, he too was seized with compunction, and, unknown to the king, he too became a pilgrim, and went to do penance at the same shrine.

               Thus it happened that they all met together, without knowing each other, in the hospice that that husband and wife had built at Galizia; and when they had paid their devotions at the shrine, and all sat together in the hospice in the evening, all told some tale of what he had seen and what he had heard. But there sat one who told nothing. Then said the king to this one, 'And you, good man, why do you tell no story?' for he knew not that it was the queen, nor that it was even a woman.

               Thus appealed to, however, she rose and told a tale of how there had been a husband and wife who had made a vow that if they had children, they would go a pilgrimage to S. Giacomo di Galizia; 'and,' said she, 'they were just two people such as you might be,' and she pointed to the two who were founders of the hospice. And that when they were absent, and left their daughter behind, the parish priest calumniated her, so that her brother came back and stabbed her, and threw her body in a ditch. 'And he was just such a young man, strong and ardent, as you may have been,' and she pointed to the son of the founders. 'But that maiden was not dead,' she went on, 'and a king found her, and married her, and she had two children, and lived happily with him till he went to the wars, then the viceroy calumniated her till she ran away out of the palace; and the viceroy was just such a one, strong and dark, as you may be,' and she pointed to the viceroy, who sat trembling in a corner; 'and when the king came back, he told him evil of her; but that king was noble and pious as you may be,' and she pointed to the king, 'and in his heart he believed no evil of his wife, but went to S. Giacomo di Galizia to pray that the truth might be made plain.'

               As she spoke, one after another they all arose, and said, 'How comes this peasant to know all the story of my life; and who has sent him to declare it here!' and they were all strangely moved, and called upon the peasant to tell them who had shown him these things. But the supposed peasant answered, 'My old grandfather, as we sat on the hearth together.' [4] 'That cannot be,' said they, 'for to every one of us you have told his own life; and now you must tell us more, for we will not rest till we have righted her who has thus suffered.' When she found them so earnest and so determined to do right, she said further, 'That queen am I!' and she took off her hood, and they knew her, and all fell round and embraced her. Then said the king, 'And on this viceroy, on whose account you have suffered so sadly, what vengeance will you have on him?' But she said, 'I will have no vengeance; but now that he has come to the shrine of Galizia, God will forgive him; and may he find peace!'

               Thus all were restored and united; and when she had embraced her parents and her brother, and spent some days with them, she went home with her husband and reigned in his kingdom.


The story seemed to be ended, and I hoped it was, for the way in which the children were left seemed a poetic way of describing their death; but to make sure, I said, 'And the children, they remained with the Madonna?'

               'No, no! I forgot. It's well you reminded me. No; by their way home they went back to the mountain, and they found their children well cared for by that "Majestic Lady," and playing with her Bambino; she gave the children back, and blessed them, and then went up to heaven; and they built a chapel in the place where she had been.'


[1] 'Uomicino,' a little man. As the narrator had come to the borders of Wonderland, this must, I think, be taken to be one of those dwarfs--little men of the mountains, 'Bergmänlein,' who have so large a place in German, especially in Tirolean mythology, but are so rarely to be met in that of Rome.

[2] 'Una donna maestosa con un bambino in braccia; e questa era la Madonna, capisce.' This use of the verb capire to express 'you see,' &c., is a favourite Romanism; in Tuscany they use the verb intendere.

[3] 'Donna trovata non fu mai buona.'

[4] 'Il nonno accanto al fuoco.' Giving to understand that it was an old traditionary tale.

APPENDIX E. p. 208.

               Charles Louandre ('Chefs-d'oeuvre des Conteurs Français,' Paris, 1873) gives an episode out of the 'Voyage d'outremer du Comte de Ponthieu' (a Roman of the thirteenth century), which has curious analogies both with this tale of the Pilgrims, with another Roman story I have in MS., and with that of 'The Irish Princess' in 'Patrañas.' Adèle de Ponthieu was married to Thiébault de Domart. They go a pilgrimage to S. James of Compostella to pray that they may have heirs. Robbers overcome them by the way, bind Thiébault to a tree, and ill-treat Adèle. As soon as she escapes from them Thiébault calls to her to cut his bonds with his sword; she, judging it better that he should die than live to blush for her, attempts to take his life with the same blow which severs the cord; he foresees her intention and circumvents it. He does not divine her motive, but yet makes no allusion to the matter till they return from their pilgrimage, then he puts it as an A and B case to her father; the father decides such a woman should die. She is put into a barrel and cast into the sea; the barrel is picked up by merchants who sell her to the Sultan, and she becomes the mother of the mother of Saladin. Meantime her father and husband cannot rest for love of her, they go to search the world over for her. A shipwreck makes them the property of the Sultan who makes a present of them to Adèle. She, recognising them, pretends to be a Saracen soothsayer, and by revealing her acquaintance with their previous history, like the injured Queen in 'The Pilgrims,' brings them to an expression of penitence and of lasting love for her. She then escapes with them and lives happily with her husband, the Pope prescribing to her a certain penitential rule of life to purge her involuntary infidelity.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Pilgrims, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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