Gesta Romanorum (1905)/Of the Inheritance and Joy of a faithful Soul

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A certain powerful lord sent his two sons to study, that they might, by their own assiduity, obtain a livelihood. After some time he sent letters to them, to command their return to their own country; and they returned accordingly. One of the brothers rejoiced at this, and was received with equal pleasure. He was, moreover, put in possession of a fair inheritance. But the other was much distressed at his recall. When his mother ran out to meet him, she kissed him, and while doing so bit off his lips. His sister, also, following the mother's example, bit off his nose. His brother also put out his eyes; and the father, entering, caught him by the hair of his head and flayed him alive.[1]


My beloved, the rich lord is God, and the two sons are soul and body; the latter of which is unwilling to return to its native earth. The sister and brothers are toads and serpents, who devour the nose, eyes, &c.


  1. I omitted in its proper place to notice a fable somewhat similar in the Latin Æsop. It is as follows:—

    "There was a young child which in his youth began to steal, and all that he did steal he brought to his mother, and the mother took it gladly, and would in no wise correct him; and after he had stolen many things, he was taken and condemned to be hanged; and as men led him to the justice, his mother followed him and wept sore: and then the child prayed the justice that he might say somewhat to his mother, and having leave, he approached to her, and making as tho' he would speak to her in her ear, with his teeth he bit off her nose: for which, when the judge blamed him, he answered him in this manner, My lord, she is the cause of my death, for if she had well chastised me, I had not come to this shame."

    This fable, it is true, has a different application, and the plot of it (so to speak) likewise varies; but the singular thought of biting off a person's nose can have had but one origin.