Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories | Annotated Tale

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Why is the foot of man arched?

The Pact between God and the Devil.

WHEN God created the world, I do not know how it came about and why it was done, enough that it was done, God made a pact with the devil which they signed and sealed, and God kept the document in which it was stated that they had divided the world between them. It was settled that all the dead should go to the devil and all that was living should belong to God. After a while, the devil repented himself of this arrangement and tried to get hold of the contract. Taking advantage of God's indulgence, he stole into heaven, and, taking the document, he made off with it. Clever though he thinks himself to be, the devil is a fool and remains a fool. So, going down from heaven, he lost the document, and did not even notice his loss until after he had plunged deep down to the bottom of the sea. The document which had fallen out of his hands was lying on the sand of the seashore.

               When God noticed what the devil had done, he sent a frost so hard that it split the stones and covered up all the waters with a thick crust of ice, so that the devil could not get out. Then God sent St. Peter to fetch the agreement where it lay. St. Peter descended and was about to take it, when a magpie which watched his doings went to the sea, and whack! whack! made a hole in the ice with its beak. That was just what the devil was waiting for, and quick as lightning he came up from the bottom of the sea. But quick as he was, St. Peter was quicker, and picking up the pact he went up to heaven. The devil went after him, but could not catch him up.

               When St. Peter got near the gate of heaven, the devil, seeing that he had escaped him, threw his spear after him. He missed him; but not entirely, for he hit St. Peter in the sole of his foot. St. Peter cried out of pain. God asked him what had happened, and he replied, "The devil has hit me in my foot with his venomous spear."

               "Cut that bit out and throw it away," said God.

               St. Peter did as he was told, and, cutting out the wounded part from the sole of his foot, threw it at the devil. Since then the human foot is short of that bit which St. Peter had cut out when the devil had hit him with his spear.


It is not quite clear from the story as it stands whether the magpie acted as a confederate of the devil, and picked a hole in the ice deliberately so as to free him from the imprisonment, or whether the magpie quite innocently went and helped the devil against St. Peter. There is no sequel here to its action. It is neither punished nor rewarded. In this respect the story is imperfect.

               There exists another popular legend intended to explain the arch in the sole of the human foot. According to the latter, it so happened that the Archangel Michael was the foremost angel in the fight between Satan and the heavenly hosts, which added to the discomfiture of Satan. When he finally was hurled down from heaven he tried to get hold of the archangel. But the angel was too quick for him. The devil missed him, but not entirely, for he seized the archangel by the sole of his foot and tore out a part of the flesh. Since then the sole of the human foot is curved in the middle. That portion is missing, which was torn out of the sole of the archangel.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why is the foot of man arched?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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