At a medieval funeral in Wales, the mourners wait quietly until they hear a horse arrive outside. The widow, Mrs. Dighill, goes outside to greet a servant, who informs them that the man he was sent to find was too busy to come, and that there are no more similar ones to be had due to plague and famine. One of the mourners tells the servant to approach Dylan Evans and bring him there, and the widow says to offer Evans anything to come. As the servant rides off, the widow returns to sit with the other mourners.
The servant rides to the Evans hut and knocks on the door. Mrs. Evans says that her husband can’t come, but the servant explains that there is no one else available for the duty. She notes that she doesn’t get much word of the outside because her men are cast aside until they are needed, and then cast aside again afterward. When the servant asks how sick her husband is, Mrs. Evans says that they haven’t any food. The servant offers her husband as much food as he can eat, and says there is no one else they can get. Mrs. Evans asks if her husband can ride the servant’s horse, and the servant hesitates, saying that he wouldn’t want a sin-eater to ride it. However, he refuses to quarrel and agrees. Mrs. Evans asks what will happen to her husband, who has consumed the sins of others, and the servant admits that they have always cast the sin-eaters aside, but there are three gold coins waiting. She insists that her husband can ride the horse both ways and when the servant agrees, goes to tell Dylan.
Mrs. Evans goes to her husband’s room, where her son Ian is watching over his ailing father. Ian admits that despite his father’s illness, all he can think of is food. His mother tells him that he will soon eat, and says that Ian will go with the servant to the funeral to work as a sin-eater. Ian balks, but Mrs. Evans says that food is food. Her son refuses to be damned for all eternity, and Mrs. Evans suggests that he bring the food away. When Ian wonders how he can do it, she tells him to send everyone out and claim he can only eat sin in solitude. She explains the ritual, including the declaration that he is damned, and finally convinces Ian to go. However, as Ian leaves, Mrs. Evans tells him that neither she nor her husband will touch the food that he brings back.
Ian and the servant ride back to the funeral, and the Widow Dighill greets them. She insists that Ian is no sin-eater, but the servant says that a young boy is strong and can bear the burden of sin. They go inside and notes how thin Ian is, and wonders if he can take on an adult’s sin. The servant says that they have no other choices, and Ian speaks up, saying that he’s hungry. He goes to the corpse, and the food surrounding it. The mourners tell him to start, and Ian moans and whimpers. They wonder if he’s sincere, but the widow tells him to eat and cleanse her husband’s sins. She pushes him down, but Ian remembers his mother’s words and tells them all to go. The mourners disagree, but the widow and her servant realize they have no choice and lead everyone into the next room to listen to the wailing that will indicate the sin has passed.
Once everyone has left, Ian starts praying as loudly as he can while hiding the food beneath his robe. As he works, the starving Ian resists the urge to eat the food himself. Once he is done, he screams at the top of his lungs, and the mourners reenter the room. Ian runs out and the widow throws the three gold coins after him.
Ian makes his way back to his home and his mother ushers him inside. He unloads the food and gives her the coins, and then assures her that he didn’t eat one morsel. Mrs. Evans tells him that he can eat, but then takes it into her husband’s room. When Ian follows her in, he discovers that his father is dead. Mrs. Evans places the food around the corpse and tells Ian that he can’t let his father die unrepented and unshriven. She describes the food and tells Ian that he will one day have a son. Driven by hunger and guilt, Ian finally consumes the food, says that he takes on his father’s sins, and screams in mortal agony.
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