St. Giles is wounded while protecting a doe

Pocket Bard’s notes: This is, at once, a touching and perplexing story. On the one hand, the idea that St. Giles is more concerned about the doe than himself is sweet and beautiful. On the other, I find it so strange that he prays to God not to be healed. You’d think, for a man who cured so many ill people, it would only be natural to want to be healed himself. Yet he doesn’t. I admit, I find St. Giles difficult to understand, but I still like this story.

St. Giles is wounded while protecting a doe
The Golden Legend, Volume II, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.147-148

The fame of his miracles spread widely, and, always aware of the dangers of human adulations, he left Veredonius [the hermit] and penetrated further into the desert, where he found a cave and a small spring. There was also a doe ready to hand, and she came at certain hours and nourished him with her milk.

The king’s men came hunting in that area and saw the doe. Caring nothing for other game, they pursued her with their dogs, and the dog, hard pressed, took refuge at her foster son’s feet. Giles wondered why the animal was whining and whimpering, which was not at all like her, so he went out, and, hearing the hunt, prayed to the Lord to save the nurse he had provided. No dog dared come closer than a stone’s throw, and the pack returned to the huntsmen barking and howling vehemently. Night drew on and the hunt turned for home. They came back the next day, but their labors were thwarted again, and they returned home as before.

Word of this reached the king, and, suspecting how matters stood, he came out with the bishop and a throng of huntsmen. When the dogs did not dare to come close to the doe but turned tail howling, the huntsmen surrounded the place, which was so thickly overgrown with thorn bushes as to be impenetrable. One of them incautiously shot an arrow, hoping to drive out the quarry, but instead inflicted a serious wound on the man of God as he prayed for his doe. The soldiers then cut a way through the brambles and came to the hermit’s cave. There they found the old man wearing a monk’s habit, white-haired, venerable with age, and the doe stretched out at his feet. Only the bishop and the king, having ordered the rest to stay back, came to him on foot. They asked him who he was and where he came from, and why he had chosen so dense a wilderness, and who had dared to wound him. When he had answered all their questions and they had humbly begged his pardon, they promised to send a physician to care for the wound and offered him many presents. But he refused medical care and spurned the gifts, which he did not even look at. Rather, knowing that power is made perfect in weakness, he prayed the Lord not to restore his health as long as he lived.

The king came often to visit the man of God and to receive from him the food of salvation. He offered Giles great wealth, but Giles refused to accept it and proposed instead that he use the treasure to build a monastery where the monastic way of life could be followed to the letter. The king did this, and Giles, finally yielding to the royal tears and entreaties, undertook the rule of the monastery.


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