Icelandic folk-tale: The Bags of Sin

One has to hope the minister in this story learned something from his experience:
Once upon a time there was a minister or priest who was wont to moralise to his congregation. He preached sternly and told off his listeners for their sins with great gusto.

Among his parishioners was an old woman who rarely if ever came to church and the minister would scold her mercilessly for this, telling her that she would not be allowed into the kingdom of heaven if she continued to neglect her church-going duties. The old woman ignored this completely.

After some time had passed from the last scolding the old woman fell ill and sent for the minister, saying that she needed his services because she was being plagued by the sins of the human race. The minister hurried to her bed-side and was about to begin scolding her, for he could see that she was deeply worried and he thought it would be a chance to bring her back into the fold. But the old woman asked him to first listen to her and hear about her greatest worry. The minister agreed to this and listened carefully to what she had to say.

She told him: “Not long ago I dreamt that I arrived at the Pearly Gates and knocked on the door, as I was cold and needed shelter. A man opened the door; he had a large key-ring in his hand. I asked him his name and he said it was Peter. Then I knew with whom I was speaking and asked him to let me inside. 

Peter replied: “No, this is not the place for you.”

“Oh, please, “ I said, “please, good Peter, I am so very cold. Just let me inside. I will stay by the door.”

“No, you may not enter,” replied Peter. 

I then saw that there was a great big storehouse outside the gates and off to one side, and asked Peter if I could shelter in there. He told me I could and opened the door for me. I hurried  inside, but Peter stood in the doorway. Inside I saw huge piles of bags and sacks of all shapes and sizes. All of the were full of something and tied closed. I also saw piles of mittens, some of which were full while in others only the thumb was filled. 

I was curious and asked Peter what was inside the bags and the said it was all the sins of all the people in the world. 

I asked him: “May I see the bag belonging to my parish minister? It can not be a very big one, I think.”

“So, so,” said Peter, “take a look over there,” and he pointed to a tremendously large sack. I was quite astonished, because it was the biggest one I could see in there.

“What in the world?” I said, in wonder.  “But where, then, is my sack? It must be very, very big indeed.”

“Not so much,” said Peter and pointed to one of the mittens, which had a tiny bit inside the thumb. I was completely overcome with astonishment and walked out of the building in a daze. Peter slammed the door shut, and that woke me up. 

This is what has been bothering me,” said the old woman, “and the reason why I asked for you was so I could tell you all this.”

The minister didn’t know what to say and hurried away from her bedside as fast as he could.

Copyright notice: The wording used to tell this folk-tale is under copyright. The story itself is not copyrighted. If you want to re-tell it, for a collection of folk-tales, incorporate it into fiction, use it in a school essay or any kind of publication, please tell it in your own words or give the proper attribution if you choose to use the wording unchanged.


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