When I read a short story by Ambrose Bierce, 'Monk and the Hangman's daughter', I found a strange expression as below:

At length we reached the bank of a stream whose silvery waters presented a most refreshing sight. In its crystal depths between the rocks we could see beautiful golden trout as large as the carp in the pond of our monastery at Passau. Even in these wild places Heaven had provided bountifully for the fasting of the faithful.

I just wondered if they used to eat some golden trout after fasting in those years.

Why did Bierce use that expression in the first place?

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    Your question would be better if you gave a hint about what you already know. Do you, for instance, know that the monastery at Passau was a Catholic monastery, and that traditionally the eating of fish is allowed while fasting? (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting#Roman_Catholicism .) – kimchi lover Apr 25 '18 at 0:38
  • I have no knowledge about catholic or monastery life. But I've checked wikipedia as you mentioned, which solved my question. – Jay Lee Apr 25 '18 at 3:33
  • Thank you so much! – Jay Lee Apr 25 '18 at 3:34
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    @kimchilover Why not turn that into an answer, so it can be voted on and accepted? :-) – Rand al'Thor Apr 25 '18 at 18:13

Traditionally, in the Catholic church, eating fish is allowed during periods of fasting. See, for instance, this Wikipedia article. So the presence of the golden trout is doubly good for the protagonists: not only is tasty food available, but it is the kind of food that they are allowed to eat even during fast periods.

The figure of the gluttonous monk was a medieval commonplace, as in the Canterbury Tales. (If you google "monk gluttony" you will find many instances.)

A few paragraphs before the trout, the text has this passage:

When I observed this error of the women, and saw how the maidens kept their eyes upon me, I became frightened, and wondered if I could resist should temptation accost me; and often I thought, with fear and trembling, that vows and prayer and penance alone do not make one a saint; one must be so pure in heart that temptation is unknown. Ah me!

That is, the girls looked at the narrator in a way that made him, um, notice. So here we have a hint of two sins, gluttony and lust, in the first few pages of the story. Without reading the rest of the story, it looks to me like the author is setting up the narrator as a man of malleable morals.

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