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The Greek word apokryptein means "to hide away". The Apocrypha are "hidden" books, books of the Old Testament left out from the Protestant Old Testament, but included in Catholic canon. The apocrypha contain a few tales whose echoes linger in folk tales still.

The Book of Tobit

Tobit was a pious, devout man who had, with his family, been taken captive to Ninevah. Through a series of misfortunes Tobit lost his property, his position and even his eyesight. Feeling he was nearing life's end, he decided to send his son, Tobias, to a distant city where, in a more prosperous time, he had left money in the care of a friend. He instructed Tobias to collect the money and come home.

A travelling companion was hired to accompany the young Tobias on his way. Unknown to Tobit and his family, the companion turned out to be the angel Raphael disguised as a man named Azarias. Tobias and the angel set out on their journey, and Tobias' dog accompanied them.

While they stopped at a stream along the way, a large fish attacked Tobias who then caught it and hauled it to the riverbank. The angel instructed Tobias to take the fish's heart and liver and gall. The hired companion proved very knowledgeable and explained that smoke made from burning the liver and heart of the fish would drive away evil spirits. Moreover, the gall was useful for healing blindness.

As they neared the city of Ecbatana, Raphael told Tobias he was about to marry a young woman (introduced to the reader earlier in the story). Sarah, a young kinswoman to Tobias, was in a sad state of affairs because the demon Asmodeus, who desired her, had successively strangled each of Sarah's seven husbands on their wedding night before the marriages could be consummated. This made Tobias uneasy, but the angel assured him that smoke made from burning the heart and liver of the fish would drive the evil demon far away.

In the course of the narrative things turned out just as the angel Raphael had indicated. Tobias married Sarah, drove away the demon, inherited half of her father's wealth, secured Tobits money from the distant city and journeyed home.

Tobias was sorely missed by Tobit and his wife, Anna, who were distressed because of Tobias' unusually long absence. There was a touching reunion when Tobias did return. Tobias applied gall from the fish to his father'ed eyes who then received his sight. When Tobit attempted to pay Azarias, Raphael revealed to all of them his angelic nature, exhorted them to righteous living and ascended into heaven before their eyes.

The folktale type

The tale stands comparison with the folktale type AT 507, The Monster's Bride. A folktale with similar features. [The Companion]

Hans-Jörg Uther sums up this folktale type:

507 The Monster's Bride. (Including the previous types 507A-507C.) This type consists of one introductory part and two different main parts. The ending is often the same.

Introductory part:

While traveling a young man provides a suitable funeral for an unknown man whose corpse was mistreated by creditors. Later he meets a traveling companion (servant) who wants to help him on the condition that they will divide all their winnings. Cf. Type 505. On their way, the traveling companion obtains (three) magic objects (e.g. boots, magic hood, cloak, sabre, feather). The young man woos a princess who is in love with a magician (ogre, devil). Her suitors have to guess her thoughts three times (bring hidden objects, solve difficult tasks). If they fail they are executed.

Main part:

(1) With the help of the magic objects, the companion of the young man becomes invisible and follows the princess on her way to the magician. There he finds the solutions. He frees the princess by beating, burning, or killing the magician. On the wedding night the young man has to submerge the princess (in different forms) three times in a bath to release her from her enchantment. (Previous Type 507A.) Cf. Type 306.

(2) All bridegrooms of a princess have perished during the bridal night. The young man marries her on advice of his companion. A snake (snakes) comes into the chamber or crawls out of the princess's mouth to kill the young man, but the companion kills it. (Previous Types 507B, 507C.) Cf. Types 840, 1145.


(After a year) the companion demands his half of the winnings and divides the princess in two parts. Snakes crawl out of her body. He puts the halves together and the princess is disenchanted forever.

In a few variants the companion only pretends to divide the princess to test the faith of the young man, and then discloses his identity as the grateful dead man. Cf. Type 505. Combinations: 306, 307, 571, 910, 945, and 1115.

Remarks: Documented in the Christian legend of Tobias in the apocryphal Book of Tobit . . .

[Source: Uther 2004, No. 507.]

Susanna in the Garden

At the time of Daniel, Susanna was the beautiful wife of a prominent man in the city of Babylon. She was faithful to her husband and of a righteous character. One hot afternoon Susanna decided to bathe in the pool inside a walled garden on her husband's large estate. She had her maids close the doors to the garden and sent them to get her toiletries.

The estate was the meeting place for Jewish leaders and magistrates who held court there daily till noon. Two important elders who often came to the estate were obsessed with Susanna's beauty. Each secretly harboured lustful thoughts in his heart and they both decided - independently of one another - to sneak back to the garden to get a glimpse of Susanna after all the other officials had gone home. Catching one another in the same deceptive act, they conspired together to force Susanna to be with them.

On the afternoon that Susanna decided to bathe, the two wicked elders were hiding in the garden. As soon as the maids closed the garden doors to fetch her things, the elders rushed on Susanna and threatened to testify that they caught her committing adultery with a young man if she would not consent to have sex with them both.

Susanna did not give in to them but called for help. At once, the two elders also began calling for help and opened the garden door. They explained to the horrified servants that they caught Susanna with a young man who fled when they tried to detain him. Next day Susanna was summoned to the court, and the elders told their fabricated story. Though Susanna was known to be of flawless character, no one could doubt the testimony of the two honorable elders, and Susanna was sentenced to death. Susanna prayed to God for deliverance.

Daniel entered the scene and was permitted to cross-examine the two elders in defense of Susanna. Having one of the wicked elders removed from the court, Daniel asked the first elder under what kind of tree the adulterous act was committed. On asking the same question of the second elder it was discovered that their testimonies did not agree. Susanna was acquitted and the two wicked elders were put to death instead. And Daniel was recognized as a wise and godly man.

Apocryphal tales, tales from the apocrypha, a folktale type, Literature  

Uther, Hans-Jörg. The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Vol. 1. FF Communications No. 284-86, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.

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