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  • Writer's pictureJoyce Slater

Story of the Month: Chelm Justice

It was terrible, it was horrible, it was a scandal. The town cobbler murdered one of his customers, was arrested, tried before a judge, found guilty, and sentenced to hang for his crime, all on the same day. Everyone agreed that the crime warranted a hanging and that justice would be done.


That is until a man arose and cried out before the whole court, “Your Honor, Your Honor please. You have sentenced to death by hanging the town cobbler! He’s the only cobbler the town has. If you hang him who will mend our shoes, we’ll have to go barefoot!” Then all the people of Chelm cried in one voice, “Who, who will mend our shoes?”


The judge nodded in agreement and considered his verdict. “Good people of Chelm, what you say is true. Since we only have one cobbler it would be a great wrong against our community to hang him. But this was a terrible crime and I have decreed it must be punished by hanging,” After a pause the judge said “I have the answer, since there are two roofers in the town let one of them be hanged instead”.


Adapted from Best-Loved Folktales Of The World, Selected by Joanna Cole.

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