Nicholas: A Garland of Tales

for the Nights Before Christmas

adapted from Pamela Grenfell Smith

This collection of St. Nicholas tales could be told on the seven nights before or after St. Nicholas Day, or on seven nights closer to Christmas.

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Western St Nicholas

Byzantine St Nicholas

The Third Tale

There was a rich man in Myra whose son killed a friend in a fight over a game of cards. “What trouble!” the rich man said. “Surely my son shouldn’t have to be punished for this little problem.” So he and his son cooked up a story that three sailors had tried to rob the son and his friend.

The rich man went to the judge who would hear the case and gave him a fat bag of money. He told the judge, “When my son comes before you at his trial, old friend, perhaps this little gift will convince you that he is innocent!”

At his trial the son said, “A gang of rowdy sailors attacked me and my friend. They took all our money and when my friend tried to fight them off, they stabbed him.” What a liar! And he didn’t stop there. The son picked out three sailors and said they were the killers, and the judge sentenced these three innocent men to be put to death the very next morning.

Down by the harbor that night, no one could talk about anything else but this terrible injustice. Nicholas heard them talking as he wandered with his sack of bread. Everyone knew about the bag of money and the lies, but people were afraid to stand up to the wicked judge.

All night, Nicholas sat awake in the church, turning his heart towards the God who loves us and knows our names. At dawn, the judge’s doorkeeper heard a tremendous knock at the door. When he looked out, there was the Bishop of Myra with the acolytes, the deacons, the torch-bearers, and even the choir, who were singing a psalm.

“Surely your master’s heart is troubled,” Nicholas said to the doorkeeper. “After all, it is no small thing to sentence three men to death. Tell the honorable judge that the Bishop of Myra is here to say his morning prayers with him.”

So Nicholas went in. A silent, uneasy crowd waited outside the judge’s house until the judge appeared on his balcony. “It is my wish that Myra should be known as a merciful and compassionate city,” he declared loudly. “Therefore, I pardon these three sailors and they are free to go.”

The judge’s doorkeeper thought this was a fine story. Think of that crafty old judge being hauled out of bed at dawn to say his prayers! Whenever the doorkeeper wanted a cold drink or a hot meal, he’d find someone and tell the story all over again. They’d gladly treat him! And as for the wicked judge, the rich man, and his son — they knew that Nicholas’s eye was on them, and they mended their ways.

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Nicholas: A Garland of Tales is also available as a simple drama

Adapted from Nicholas: A Garland of Tales for the Nights before Christmas, by Pamela Grenfell Smith, Baba-Yaga.org Copyright © 1995 Pamela Grenfell Smith. Used under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. You are free to use and adapt it so long as

  1. you attribute authorship and copyright to Pamela Grenfell Smith,
  2. your use is non-commercial, and
  3. you may not copyright your adaptation of this work under a more restrictive copyright.

Illustrations copyright © 2002-2009 St. Nicholas Center All rights reserved.

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