Dream Bread

folktales of type 1626
assembled and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2011


  1. The Three Dreams (Petrus Alphonsi).

  2. The Three Travelers (The Masnavi).

  3. Jesus, Peter, and Judas (The Toledot Yeshu).

  4. Of the Deceits of the Devil (Gesta Romanorum).

  5. Comical History of Three Dreamers. (Spain).

  6. The "Dream-Bread" Story Once More (USA).

  7. Link to The Three Travelers and the Load (W. A. Clouston).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Three Dreams

Petrus Alphonsi

Two burghers and a simple peasant, on their way to Mecca, found themselves with no food except enough flour to make a single small loaf of bread. The two burghers took counsel together how they might cheat their companion of his share, and proposed that whichever of the three should have the most wonderful dream while the bread was baking should have the loaf all to himself. Thinking thus to deceive the peasant, they placed the dough in the ashes and lay down to sleep. But the peasant saw through their trick, arose and ate the loaf when it was half baked, and lay down again. Then one of the burghers, as though frightened by his dream, awoke and called the other.

"What's the matter?"

"I've had a wonderful dream. Two angels opened the gates of heaven and brought me before the Lord."

"That is a splendid dream," replied the other; "but I dreamed that two angels came, clove the earth asunder, and took me into hell."

The peasant heard all this, but nevertheless pretended to be asleep. The burghers, however, who were taken in by their own trick (decepti et decipere volentes), called him to wake up.

"Who is calling me?" he cried in great terror. "Have you come back?"

"Where should we come back from?"

"Why, I just had a dream in which I saw two angels take one of you and open the gates of heaven and lead him before the Lord; then two angels took the other of you, opened the earth, and led him into hell. And when I saw this, I realized that neither of you would return, so I got up and ate the bread."

The Three Travelers

The Masnavi

A Muslim was traveling with two unbelievers, a Jew and a Christian, like wisdom linked with the flesh and the devil. God was "nigh unto his faithful servant," and when the first stage was completed he caused a present of sweetmeats to be laid before the travelers. As the Jew and the Christian had already eaten their evening meal when the sweetmeats arrived, they proposed to lay them aside till the morrow; but the Muslim, who was keeping fast, and therefore could not eat before nightfall, proposed to eat them that night. To this the other two refused to consent, alleging that the Muslim wanted to eat the whole of the sweetmeats himself.

Then the Muslim proposed to divide them into three portions, so that each might eat his own portion when he pleased; but this also was objected to by the others, who quoted the proverb, "The divider is in hell."

The Muslim explained to them that this proverb meant the man who divides his allegiance between God and lust; but they still refused to give way, and the Muslim therefore submitted, and lay down to sleep in the endurance of the pangs of hunger.

Next morning, when they awoke, it was agreed between them that each should relate his dreams, and that the sweetmeats should be awarded to him whose dream was the best.

The Jew said that he had dreamed that Moses had carried him to the top of Mount Sinai, and shown him marvelous visions of the glory of heaven and the angels.

The Christian said he had dreamed that Jesus had carried him up to the fourth heaven and shown him all the glories of the heavens.

Finally the Muslim said that the Prophet Muhammad had appeared to him in person, and after commending him for his piety in saying his prayers and keeping fast so strictly on the previous night, had commanded him to eat up those divinely provided sweetmeats as a reward, and he had accordingly done so.

The Jew and the Christian were at first annoyed with him for thus stealing a march upon them; but on his pointing out that he had no option but to obey the Prophet's commands, they admitted that he had done right, and that his dream was the best, as he had been awake, while they were asleep.

The moral is, that the divine treasure is revealed as an immediate intuition to those who seek it with prayer and humble obedience, and not to those who seek to infer and deduce its nature and quality from the lofty abstractions of philosophy.

Jesus, Peter, and Judas

The Toledot Yeshu

On the journey from Rome to Jerusalem, Jesus, Peter, and Judas stopped at a small inn, and the host had only one goose to offer his three guests.

Jesus then took the goose and said, "This is verily not sufficient for three persons; let us go to sleep, and the whole goose shall be his who shall have the best dream."

Whereupon they lay down to slumber. In the middle of the night Judas arose and ate the goose.

When morning came, the three met, and Peter said, "I dreamed I sat at the foot of the throne of Almighty God."

And to him Jesus answered, "I am the son of Almighty God, and I dreamed thou wert seated near me; my dream is therefore superior to thine, and the goose shall be mine to eat."

Then Judas said, "And I, while I was dreaming, ate the goose."

And Jesus sought the goose, but vainly, for Judas had devoured it.

Of the Deceits of the Devil

Gesta Romanorum

There were once three friends, who agreed to make a pilgrimage together. It happened that their provisions fell short, and having but one loaf between them, they were nearly famished.

"Should this loaf," they said to each other, "be divided amongst us, there will not be enough for any one. Let us then take counsel together, and consider how the bread is to be disposed of."

"Suppose we sleep upon the way," replied one of them; "and whosoever hath the most wonderful dream shall possess the loaf?"

The other two acquiesced, and settled themselves to sleep. But he who gave the advice arose while they were sleeping and eat up the bread, not leaving a single crumb for his companions. When he had finished he awoke them. "Get up quickly," said he, "and tell us your dreams."

"My friends," answered the first, "I have had a very marvelous vision. A golden ladder reached up to heaven, by which angels ascended and descended. They took my soul from my body, and conveyed it to that blessed place, where I beheld the Holy Trinity, and where I experienced such an overflow of joy as eye hath not seen nor ear heard. This is my dream."

"And I," said the second, "beheld the devils with iron instruments, by which they dragged my soul from the body, and plunging it into hell flames, most grievously tormented me, saying, 'As long as God reigns in heaven this will be your portion.'"

"Now then," said the third, who had eaten the bread, "hear my dream. It appeared as if an angel came and addressed me in the following manner: 'My friend, would you see what is become of your companions?' I answered, 'Yes, Lord. We have but one loaf between us, and I fear that they have run off with it.' 'You are mistaken,' he rejoined, 'it lies beside us; follow me.' He immediately led me to the gate of heaven, and by his command I put in my head and saw you; and I thought that you were snatched up into heaven and sat upon a throne of gold, while rich wines and delicate meats stood around you. Then said the angel, 'Your companion, you see, has an abundance of good things, and dwells in all pleasures. There he will remain for ever; for he has entered the celestial kingdom, and cannot return. Come now where your other associate is placed.' I followed, and he led me to hell-gates, where I beheld you in torment, as you just now said. Yet they furnished you, even there, with bread and wine in abundance. I expressed my sorrow at seeing you in misery, and you replied, 'As long as God reigns in heaven here I must remain, for I have merited it. Do you then rise up quickly and eat up all the bread, since you will see neither me nor my companion again.' I complied with your wishes, arose, and eat the bread."


My beloved, the Saracens and Jews, the rich and powerful, and, finally, the perfect among men, are typified by the three companions. The bread represents the kingdom of heaven.

Comical History of Three Dreamers


Three companions, of whom two were tradesmen and townsmen, and the third a villager, on the score of devotion, went on pilgrimage to a noted sanctuary; and as they went on their way, their provision began to fail them, insomuch that they had nothing to eat, but a little flour, barely sufficient to make of it a very small loaf of bread.

The tricking townsmen seeing this, said between themselves, "We have but little bread, and this companion of ours is a great eater; on which account it is necessary we should think how we may eat this little bread without him."

When they had made it and set it to bake, the tradesmen seeing in what manner to cheat the countryman, said, "Let us all sleep, and let him that shall have the most marvelous dream betwixt all three of us, eat the bread."

This bargain being agreed upon, and settled between them, they laid down to sleep. The countryman, discovering the trick of his companions, drew out the bread half baked, ate it by himself, and turned again to sleep. In a while, one of the tradesmen, as frightened by a marvelous dream, began to get up, and was asked by his companion, why he was so frightened.

He answered, "I am frightened and dreadfully surprised by a marvelous dream: it seemed to me that two angels, opening the gates of heaven, carried me before the throne of God with great joy."

His companion said, "This is a marvelous dream, but I have seen another more marvelous, for I saw two angels, who carried me over the earth to hell."

The countryman hearing this, made as if he slept; but the townsmen, desirous to finish their trick, awoke him; and the countryman, artfully as one surprised, answered, "Who are these that call me?"

They told him, "We are thy companions."

He asked them, "How did you return?"

They answered, "We never went hence; why d'ye talk of our return?"

The countryman replied, "It appeared to me that two angels, opening the gates of heaven, carried one of you before our Lord God, and dragged the other over the earth to hell, and I thought you never would return hither, as I have never heard that any had returned from paradise, nor from hell, and so I arose and eat the bread by myself.

The "Dream-Bread" Story Once More


The following verses (to the tune of "Pop goes the Weasel") were communicated to me through the mediation of Mr. Max Deutch by Mr. Frank Wolff. They were composed by the latter in conjunction with an employee of the St. Louis Post Office. He is unable to identify any part as his contribution, and knows the tale merely as a floating anecdote.
Two Irishmen and a Hebrew one day
Went out for recreation.
They took enough provisions along
To spend a week's vacation.

One night they got lost in the woods;
The night was dark and lonely.
At last the food they had gave out,
Except a piece of baloney.

As one of them took up a knife,
I said, "It's no use of carving,
For if we share this piece of baloney,
It won't keep us from starving."

So I suggested we all go to sleep,
And so did Maloney.
And the one that had the best of dreams
Wins the piece of baloney.

The following morn we all got up,
It was quarter after seven.

One of them said: "I had a dream,
I died and went to heaven;
St. Peter met me at the gate,
Riding on a pony.

I guess that dream couldn't be beat,
So that wins the piece of baloney."

The other one said: "I too had a dream;
I died and went to heaven;
St. Peter met me at the gate,
Stuck out his hand, and said, 'Hello, Maloney!'

I guess that dream couldn't be beat,
So that wins the piece of baloney."

The Hebrew said: "It's true, my friend,
That you were sleeping.
The reason why I know it is
'Cause I was peeping.

I saw you both go up in heaven;
And, believe me, I was lonely;
I thought you'd never come back again,
So I got up and ate the baloney."

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised June 12, 2011.