Italian Popular Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Story of Judas, The

Judas is believed to have hanged himself on a tamarind-tree, which, before that time, was a tall, beautiful tree. After Judas's death it became the diminutive, shapeless shrub called vruca, which is a synonym for all that is worthless. The soul of the traitor is condemned to wander through the air, and every time it sees this shrub it pauses, and imagines it sees its miserable body dangling from it, the prey of birds and dogs. [1] This popular legend is told in the following words:


YOU must know that Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus Christ. Now when Judas betrayed him, his Master said: "Repent, Judas, for I pardon you." But Judas, not at all! he departed with his bag of money, in despair and cursing heaven and earth. What did he do? While he was going along thus desperate he came across a tamarind-tree. (You must know that the tamarind was formerly a large tree, like the olive and walnut.) When he saw this tamarind a wild thought entered his mind, remembering the treason he had committed. He made a noose in a rope and hung himself to the tamarind. And hence it is (because this traitor Judas was cursed by God) that the tamarind-tree dried up, and from that time on it ceased growing up into a tree and became a short, twisted, and tangled bush; and its wood is good for nothing, neither to burn, nor to make anything out of, and all on account of Judas, who hanged himself on it.

               Some say that the soul of Judas went to the lowest hell, to suffer the most painful torments; but I have heard, from older persons who can know, that Judas's soul has a severer sentence. They say that it is in the air, always wandering about the world, without being able to rise higher or fall lower; and every day, on all the tamarind shrubs that it meets, it sees its body hanging and torn by the dogs and birds of prey. They say that the pain he suffers cannot be told, and that it makes the flesh creep to think of it. And thus Jesus Christ condemned him for his great treason. [2]


[1] Pitrè, I. p. cxxxvii., and Pitrè, Appunti di Botanica popolare siciliana, in the Rivista Europea, May, 1875, p. 441.

[2] Pitrè, I. p. cxxxviii.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Story of Judas, The
Tale Author/Editor: Crane, Thomas
Book Title: Italian Popular Tales
Book Author/Editor: Crane, Thomas Frederick
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin and Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1885
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: ATU 777: The Wandering Jew

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