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July 28, 2014

The Decameron Day 1 Story 3 by Giovanni Boccaccio- Summary

The Decameron Day 1 Story 3 by Giovanni Boccaccio- Summary

Storyteller: Filomena

The tale that Neifile told brings back to my memory a dangerous incident that once happed to a Jew; and since God and the truth of our faith have already been well dealt with by us, from now on nothing should prevent us from descending to the acts of men. Now, I shall tell you this story, and when you have heard it, perhaps you will become more cautious when you reply to questions put to you (pp. 42-3).

Saladin the Sultan of Babylon came from humble beginnings and defeated Christian and Saracen Kings many times. There came a time when he was in need of money and having used up all of his fighting battles and on frivolous displays of his magnificence, he decided to ask a rich Jew named Melchisedech, who loaned money at extravagant rates in Alexandria, for the money. The Sultan knew he would not agree to help willingly; so he would have to come up with a plan. He asked the Jew which religion he believed to be the true one: Judaism, Saracen, or Christianity. The Jew realized that the Sultan was trying to find a way to pick a fight with him; so he could not hold one above the others. He tells the Sultan that in order to answer his question he will tell him a story.

There once was a wealthy man who had a precious ring among his collection of jewels. This ring was very beautiful and was worth a lot of money. He wanted to honor the ring by bequeathing it to his descendants; keeping it in the family forever. He ordered that whichever one of his sons had the ring shall be honored as the rightful heir and head of the family. The ring had been passed down from generation to generation. The ring finally ended up in the hands of a man who had three sons, he loved them equally. He had promised to leave the ring to each of his sons, and he secretly had the ring duplicated. When the father was about to die he secretly gave each son a ring. Once he died each son declared that he was the true heir. When they discovered that each had rings, the rings were indistinguishable from each other; they decided to leave the true heir undecided. To this day there is no true heir. The Jew told the Sultan that just like the rings the question of one true religion will remain undecided. The Sultan realizing that he had been outwitted came out an asked the Jew for the money and it was given to him. Saladin more than repaid him and always considered him an esteemed friend.


Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron. Translated by Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella, Signet Classic, 1982.