|The Book of Legends|
|by Horace Elisha Scudder|
|Legends to supplement Fifty Famous Stories Retold. Includes the stories of St. George and the Dragon, William Tell, King Cophetua, St. Christopher, The Wandering Jew, and the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, retold in fine English prose. Ages 7-10 |
THE LEGEND OF ST. CHRISTOPHER
 THERE was a mighty man living
in the land of Canaan. He was so strong and could carry
such heavy loads that he was named Offero, meaning "The
Bearer." In those days men born in poverty were wont to join
themselves to the rich and noble and serve them; in
return, they were cared for all through life by their
Offero was proud of his strength, and said he
would serve no one but the greatest king on earth. So he
went from one country to another, until he came to one
where the king was richer and more powerful than all other
kings whom he had seen. Here Offero stayed, and
entered the service of this great ruler.
But one day, as he stood by the king in the Palace, a
minstrel sang and played. In his song, now and then, he
uttered the name of Satan. Every time he did so, the king
trembled and made the sign of the cross. Now Offero had
never heard of Satan, and he asked the king why he
trembled. At first the king made no answer.
 "Tell me," said Offero, "or I will leave thee."
"I tremble," said the king, "because I fear Satan. I make the
sign of the cross that he may have no power over me, for he
is as wicked as he is strong."
"Dost thou fear him?" asked Offero. "Then will I leave thee
and seek him, for I can serve no master who is afraid of a
Thus Offero left the king and went off in search of Satan.
As he was crossing a great desert, he came upon a mighty
being who marched at the head of a vast army. This great
one hardly looked at the giant Offero, but as he passed him
"Whither goest thou? whom dost thou seek?"
"I seek Satan," said Offero. "I would have him for my
master, for he is the mightiest being on earth."
"I am he," said Satan. "Come with me, and thy service shall
be easy and pleasant."
Offero joined the army of Satan, and went marching on with
it. By and by they came to a place where four roads met,
and by the wayside stood a cross. When Satan saw the
cross, he turned in great haste, and led his army quickly
 "Why is this?" asked Offero. "What is this cross? and why
dost thou avoid it?"
Satan gave no answer.
"Tell me," said Offero, "or I will leave thee."
Then Satan said:—
"I fear the cross because upon it Christ hung, and I fly
from it, lest he destroy me."
Then Offero left Satan and went in search of Christ. After
many days he came upon a holy man, and asked him, as he had
asked others, where he should find Christ. The holy man
began to teach him, and said to him:—
"Thou art right. Christ is the greatest king on earth
and in heaven. But it is no light thing to serve him. He
will lay great burdens
on thee. And first thou must fast."
"I will not fast," said Offero; "for my strength makes me a
good servant, and if I fast I shall be weak."
"Besides, thou must pray."
"I know not how to pray, neither will I learn," said the
proud giant. Then the holy man said:—
"Wilt thou use thy strength? Find out some broad, deep
river, with a swift current, so swift that men cannot cross
"I know such a stream," said Offero.
 "Then go to it, and help those who struggle with its waters.
Carry across on thy broad shoulders the weak and the little
ones. This is a good work, and it may be that Christ will
Offero was glad to be given this task. He built a hut on
the bank of the river, and there he dwelt. Whenever one
tried to cross the stream, Offero gave him aid. Truly, he
was The Bearer, for he carried many across on his
shoulders, so that not one was lost. For a staff he used a
great palm-tree, which he plucked up by the roots.
Long he lived in his hut, and great was the help which
he gave to travellers. At last, one night, as he was
resting, he heard a voice, like that of a weak child,
"Offero, wilt thou bear me over?"
He went to the bank of the river, but he could find no
one. He went back to his hut and lay down. Again he heard
the same voice. This happened three times. Then he lighted a
lantern, and went out to search the country about. Now he
came upon a little child, who begged him:—
"Offero, Offero, bear me over to-night."
He lifted the child and placed him on his
 broad shoulders; he took his stout staff and began to cross
the flood. But all at once the winds blew, the waves rose,
and there was a roaring in his ears, as if the great ocean
were let loose; the weight on his shoulders bore him down
more and more, until he feared he should sink. But he
held firmly to his stout staff, and at last reached the
other bank, and placed his burden safely on the ground.
"What have I borne?" cried Offero. "It could not have
been heavier if it had been the whole world."
Then the child answered:—
"Thou didst wish to serve me and I have chosen thee as my
servant. Thou hast borne, not the whole world, but the king
of the whole world, on thy shoulders. That thou mayest
know who I am, fix thy staff in the earth."
Offero did so, and, lo! out of the bare palm-staff sprang
leaves, and among the leaves were rich clusters of dates.
Then Offero knew that it was Christ whom he had borne, and
he fell down at his feet.
Offero now was in the service of Christ, and not long after
he went to Samos, where the heathen were killing the
Christians. A man struck him, but the giant only said:—
 "I am a servant of Christ. I cannot strike thee back."
He was bound with chains and taken to Dagnus, king of
Lycia. So mighty was the giant that Dagnus fainted with fear
when he saw him. When Dagnus came to himself, he asked the
"Who art thou?"
"My name," he said, "was Offero, the Bearer, but now
I serve Christ. I have borne him on my shoulders. For
this I am now called Christ-offero, the Christ-Bearer."
Thus it was that Christopher won his name, and because he
was true to his name he is called St. Christopher.
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