The Italian people possess an inexhaustible store of legends which they have inherited from the Middle Ages. With the great mass of these stories--legends of the saints or local legends--we have at present nothing to do. It is enough to say that they do not differ materially from the legends of the other Catholic peoples of Europe. The class to which we shall devote our attention in this chapter is that of popular legendary stories which have clustered around the person of our Lord and his disciples, and around other favorite characters of mediæval fancy, such as Pilate, The Wandering Jew, etc. To these may be added tales relating to the other world and stories which are of a legendary nature. The first stories which we shall mention are those referring to mythical journeys of our Lord and his apostles.
The first, "St. Peter and the Robbers" (Pitrè, No. 121), relates that once while the Master was journeying with the apostles they found themselves at night out in the fields, and took shelter in a cabin belonging to some shepherds, who received them very inhospitably and gave them nothing to eat. Soon after, a band of robbers attacked the flock and robbed the shepherds, who ran away. The robbers came to the cabin, and when they heard from the apostles how shabbily they had been treated, gave them the supper that the shepherds had prepared for themselves, and went their way. "Blessed be the robbers!" said St. Peter, "for they treat the hungry poor better than the rich do." "Blessed be the robbers!" said the apostles, and ate their fill.
This story, as can easily be seen, is a tradition of the robbers who pretend to have been blessed by Christ. St. Peter is the hero of several stories, in which he plays anything but a dignified rôle. In one (Pitrè, No. 122), he is sent to buy some wine, and allows himself to be persuaded by the wine merchant to eat some fennel-seed. After this he cannot distinguish between good and bad wine, and purchases an inferior kind. When the Master tasted it he said: "Eh! Peter! Peter! you have let yourself be deceived."  Peter tasted it again and saw that it was sour. Another apostle was sent to get some good wine, and "hence it is that when you have to taste wine to see whether it is good, you must not eat fennel-seed."
L. THE LORD, ST. PETER, AND THE APOSTLES.
ONCE, while the Master was on a journey with the thirteen apostles, they came to a village where there was no bread. The Master said: "Peter, let each one of you carry a stone." They each took up a stone--St. Peter a little bit of a one. The others were all loaded down, but St. Peter went along very easily. The Master said: "Now let us go to another village. If there is any bread there, we shall buy it; if there is none, I will give you my blessing and the stones will become bread."
They went to another town, put the stones down, and rested. The Master gave them his blessing, and the stones became bread. St. Peter, who had carried a little one, felt his heart grow faint. "Master," he said, "how am I going to eat?" "Eh! my brother, why did you carry a little stone? The others, who loaded themselves down, have bread enough."
Then they went on, and the Master made them each carry another stone. St. Peter was cunning this time and took a large one and all the others carried small ones. The Lord said to the others: "Little ones, we will have a laugh at Peter's expense." They arrived at another village, and all the apostles threw away their stones because there was bread there; and St. Peter was bent double, for he had carried a paving-stone with him to no purpose.
On their journey they met a man; and as St. Peter was in advance of the others, he said: "The Lord is coming shortly; ask Him a favor for your soul." The man drew near and said: "Lord, my father is ill with old age. Cure him, Master." The Lord said: "Am I a physician? Do you know what you must do? Put him in a hot oven and your father will become a boy again." They did so, and his father became a little boy.
The idea pleased St. Peter, and when he found himself alone he went about seeking to make some old men young. By chance there met him one who was seeking the Master because his mother was at the point of death and he wanted her cured. St. Peter said: "What do you want?" "I want the Master, for I have an old mother who is very ill, and the Master alone can cure her." "Fortunately Peter is here! Do you know what you must do? Heat an oven and put her in it, and she will be cured." The poor man believed him, for he knew that the Lord loved St. Peter, so he went home and immediately put his mother in the hot oven. What more could you expect? The old woman was burned to a coal. "Ah! santu di ccà e di ddà!"  cried the son; "that scurvy fellow has made me kill my mother!" He hastened to St. Peter. The Master was present, and when he heard the story could not control his laughter, and said: "Ah, Peter! what have you done?" St. Peter tried to excuse himself, but the poor man kept crying for his mother. What must the Master do? He had to go to the house of the dead, and with a blessing which he there pronounced he brought the old woman to life again, a beautiful young girl, and relieved St. Peter of his great embarrassment.
 This story is an attempt to explain the origin of the word 'nfinucchiari (infinocchiare) to impose on one, by the word finocchio, fennel-seed.
 This is the strongest imprecation in Sicily.
This tale has multiple ATU classifications:
ATU 750A: The Three Wishes
ATU 753: Christ and the Smith
ATU 774: Christ and St. Peter
Lord, St. Peter, and the Apostles, The
Italian Popular Tales
Crane, Thomas Frederick
Houghton Mifflin and Company
Year of Publication:
Country of Origin:
ATU 750A: The Three Wishes