St. Nicholas helps a cheated moneylender

Pocket Bard’s notes: I love this story because it shows someone being clever in an attempt to cheat the law, and getting comeuppance. I also really like the way the borrower tries to cheat his moneylender.

That said, I admit this story gave me a few problems. First, parts of it are effectively a blood libel, given that the moneylender is Jewish and the “happy ending” to the story is his conversion. But it’s still a fun story. When I tell it to audiences, I generally leave out the fact that the moneylender is Jewish and simply play up the “lazy student” who borrowed money from “an honest moneylender.” I also generally leave out the wagon killing the borrower, and end the story with the moneylender recovering all his coins, praising St. Nicholas, and becoming a devotee.

St. Nicholas helps a cheated moneylender
The Golden Legend, Volume I, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.25

A man had borrowed some money from a Jew, giving him his oath on the altar of Saint Nicholas that he would repay it as soon as possible. As he was slow in paying, the Jew demanded his money, but the man declared that he had repaid it. He was summoned before the judge, who ordered him to swear that he had paid his debt. However, the man had put the money in a hollow staff, and before giving his oath he asked the Jew to hold the staff for him. He then swore that he had returned the money and more besides, and took back his staff: the Jew handed it over all unaware of the ruse. On his way home the dishonest fellow fell asleep by the roadside, and a coach, coming along at high speed, ran over him and killed him, also breaking open the staff and spilling the money. Being informed of this, the Jew hurried to the spot and saw through the trick; but, though the bystanders urged him to pick up the money, he refused unless the dead man were restored to life by the merits of Saint Nicholas, in which case he himself would become a Christian and accept baptism. At once the dead man was revived, and the Jew was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.


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