The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Twenty – Fun Fact

Have you ever tied a string around your finger in order to remember something? According to some, the act of having that constant reminder on your finger helps you to remember things. This same general idea relates to today’s Fun Fact as well. The Fun Fact for The Prince and the Pauper Chapter 20 focuses on…


Keep reading or watch the video below for more information.

Reference in The Prince and the Pauper

“‘Thou shalt wear a hair shirt next thy skin; thou shalt drink water only; and thou shalt be at peace; yes, wholly at peace; for whoso comes to seek thee shall go his way again, baffled; he shall not find thee, he shall not molest thee.‘” (p. 127) 

In this scene, the hermit is telling Edward all about what his time is going to be like while staying at his hut. As part of his speech, he mentions that Edward will wear a “hair shirt” next to thy skin.

What is a hair shirt?

  • A shirt made from rough, uncomfortable cloth
    • Usually goat’s hair
  • Some religious people wear this to punish themselves
    • Called mortification or penance
  • Called cilicium in Latin
  • Helped the wearer to resist temptations and served to discourage outward luxury and comfort in life
  • Some included a bit of spiked metal

Metaphorical Meaning

If you say that someone is wearing a hair shirt, you mean that they are trying to punish themselves to show they are sorry for something they have done.
Example sentence: No one is asking you to put on a hair shirt and give up all your luxuries.

Other Fun Facts

  • Earliest hairshirts were probably the sackcloths mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible
  • Have been worn by clergy, monks, nuns, friars and lay people in history
  • They are still used today – altar cloths during Lent
  • In the Game of Thrones books and movies, people of various fictional faiths wear them

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