How St. Eloi was cured of Pride

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

A smith, whose forge was on the Kerry side of the Shannon, was disturbed one night by an impatient traveller, whom he afterwards discovered to be one of the provincial fairy kings proceeding to make war on the fairy tribes of Cork, and anxious to have his horse shod.

The steed was so fiery and impatient of restraint that the smith dreaded to touch his hoof, whereupon Fear Dhoirche at once plucked the leg off and handed it to the artist, who was thus enabled to do his office without risk of being pranced on or kicked.

The inventor of the following legend had some such fiction as the above in his mind, when he told the world—


Before St. Eloi [1] became religious, and while he was still but a working goldsmith, he sometimes amused himself with shoeing horses.

He was very proud of his skill, and often boasted that he never saw that thing done by a man that he couldn’t match.

One day a mounted traveller stopped at his forge, and asked leave to fasten a loosened shoe on his horse.

Eloi gave permission, and was very much surprised to see him twist a fore leg of the beast out of the shoulder joint, bring it into the forge, and fasten on the shoe.

This being done, he rejointed the leg, patted the beast on the shoulder, and asked the smith if he knew any one who could do such a neat piece of work as that.

“Yes, I do,” said the conceited man; “I will do it myself.”

So he ordered one of his horses to be brought, and the fore-leg twisted out.

He was not able to get this done so satisfactorily as was desirable. There was some blood-shedding, and tearing of muscle, and skin.

He made as nice a shoe as could be seen however, and fastened it on in such style as elicited even the applause of his rival; and here his triumph came to a close.

When he brought the leg into the yard, the poor animal to whom it belonged was lying on his side expiring, and his tender-hearted though conceited master burst into a passion of grief for what he had done.

“Oh, what a proud, worthless creature I am!” cried he, “My poor beast tortured and killed by my heartless presumption!”

“Are you sure you are cured of pride and vanity by this mischance?” said the stranger.

“Oh, I am, I am! at least I hope so. I will never again, with God’s help, indulge a proud thought. But why did you induce me to do this wicked thing by setting me the example?”

“My object was to root a strong vice out of your heart. Give me the leg.”

So saying, he applied the broad end of the limb to its place, tapped the animal on the shoulder, and the next moment he was standing up strong and uninjured; but there was no appearance of the stranger or his steed.

While Eloi stood wrapped in joy and surprise, he was sensible of these words distinctly uttered, but he could not tell whether they were heard in his heart or his brain:—“Eligius, remember the promise made to your Guardian Angel.”


[1] Eligius, called Eloi by the French, was born near Limoges, A.D. 588. Having acquired the knowledge of working in metals, he was distinguished by the patronage of Clothaire II. and his successor Dagobert. His life at court was distinguished by works of charity; and so great was his reputation for sanctity, that on the decease of the Bishop of Noyon and Tournay he was elected his successor, and could hardly obtain time for receiving the successive grades of holy orders. It was the era of transition from Paganism to Christianity, and our saint’s efforts were attended by miracles of conversion and reformation of morals. He died, universally regretted, A.D. 659.