From the Gesta Romanorum
The oldest collection of European fairy tales and legends
from the Middle Ages compiled by Hermann Hesse.
The Three Journeymen*
A story of heaven and how to get there.
Three journeymen once went out to seek work and it happened that between the three of them they had no more than one piece of bread and could find no other nourishment. And still they were very hungry, and thus spoke to each other: "If we divide this bread into thirds, it won't satisfy the hunger of any of us. Let us consider this dilemma in a reasonable way and decide how we should deal with this bread."
One of them replied: "Let us all lie down to sleep on the street and each one shall dream. Whoever has the most wonderful dream shall have the entire piece of bread." The other two replied: "Your advice is good," and they began to sleep. But the one who had offered the advice got up while the others slept and ate all of the bread. He didn't leave a single crumb for his fellow travelers. When he had finished he awoke his comarades and said: "Get up quickly, it is time for each to tell his dream."
The first fellow said: "Dear friends, I had a most wonderful dream. A golden ladder descended from heaven to earth on which angels ascended and descended. They guided my soul out of my body into heaven. When I arrived there, I saw the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So much happiness resided in my soul and never before has an eye bore witness to nor an ear heard what I perceived. And that was my dream."
The second fellow said: "In my dream a devil came with iron and burning tools, tore my soul from my body, abused me and spoke: "As long as God reigns in heaven you shall remain in this place."
The third fellow replied: "But listen to my dream! It was as if an angel came to me and said: "Dearest one, do you want to see where your comarades are?" I replied: "Yes, my lord. We were to divide the bread between us but I fear that they have run off with it." But the angel replied: "No, that is not the case, the bread is lying next to us, follow me."
The angel then led me to heaven's door and I, per his request, poked my head behind the door and saw what seemed to be you being led away into heaven. You sat on a golden throne and had many splendid wines and meals before you. And the angel spoke: "See, your fellow journeyman lives in abundance among many friends, enjoys sumptious meals and shall stay there for an eternity. For whosoever has entered heaven can never leave. Come with me, I want to show you what has happened to your other comrade."
But as I followed him he led me to the door of hell and I saw you, and as you have said, you were suffering the most severe torment. But because large quantities of bread and wine were being brought to you, I asked: "O dear friend, I don't want you to lie in such misery!". But you replied: "As long as God reigns in heaven, I will remain here, because I deserve it. Quickly get up and eat the entire piece of bread, then you will once more see our fellow journeyman." So I, as you have seen, arose and ate the entire piece of bread, as you commanded.