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  1. The Cuckoo and the Hawk (Fable)
  2. Great by Dust
  3. The Enchanted Snake

The Cuckoo and the Hawk

A hawk made fun of a cuckoo, for even though they were shaped in much the same way, the cuckoo preferred to eat earth worms rather than prey on other birds. A few days later the cuckoo saw the hawk was chasing the pidgeons of a farmer when it suddenly was captured by him. The hawk was then hung up on a high rock to instil fear in other birds of prey who might be fond of pidgeons.

The cuckoo said, "How much better it would have been for you, hawk, to have hunted worms rather than to attack other birds."

Those who chase after the meat of others might get into serious life crises.

(Abstemius, retold)


Great by Dust

A four-horse chariot was racing in the stadium, and there was a fly sitting on the chariot. When a mighty dust was stirred up, now from the pounding of the horses' hooves, now from the turning of the wheels, the fly said, "What a great force of dust I have aroused!"

By trickery some try to shift onto themselves a glory they far from deserve.

(Abstemius, retold)


The Enchanted Snake

There once was a poor woman who would have given all she possessed for a child, but she did not have one. One day that her husband went to the wood to fetch brushwood. When he had brought it home, he discovered a pretty little snake among the twigs.

When the peasant's wife saw the little snake she sighed deeply and said, "Even the snakes have their brood; I have no children."

The little snake looked up into her face and said: "Since you have no children, be a mother to me instead. You may not repent it, for I will love you as if I were your own son."

Sabatella was frightened at hearing a snake speak, but answered, "Okay. I will look after you like a mother."

She gave the snake a little hole in the house for its bed, fed it with all the nicest food she could think of and seemed as if she never could show it enough kindness. Day by day it grew bigger and fatter and at last one morning it said to the peasant, "Dear papa, I am now of a suitable age and wish to marry."

"I quite agree," answered the peasant, "I'll do my best to find another snake like you and arrange a match between you."

The snake answered: "Why, if you do that, we shall be no better than the vipers and reptiles. That is not what I want at all. No; I' would much prefer to marry the king's daughter. So please, go without delay and tell the king that a snake wishes to marry his daughter."

The peasant went to the king and got an audience. He said, "King, I have often heard that people lose nothing by asking, so I have come to ask on behalf of a snake to let him have your daughter for his wife. Are you thus willing to mate a dove with a serpent?"

The king decided he talked nonsense, and said, in order to get quit of him, "Go home and tell that snake that if he can turn this palace into ivory, inlaid with gold and silver, and do it before tomorrow at noon, I will let him marry my daughter."

With a hearty laugh he dismissed the peasant.

When the peasant brought the answer back to the snake, the little creature did not seem the least put out, but said, "Tomorrow morning, before sunrise, you must go to the wood and gather a bunch of green herbs and then rub the threshold of the palace with them and then you will see what happens."

The peasant did not say a word, but before sunrise next morning he went to the wood and gathered a bunch of herbs and rubbed them on the palace floor as he had been told the night before. Hardly had he done so than the walls turned into ivory that was inlaid with gold and silver. The king, when he rose and saw the miracle that had been done, was beside himself with amazement and did not know what he was to do.

But when the peasant came on behalf of the snake next day and demanded the princess for him, the king answered, "Do not be in such a hurry. If the snake really wants to marry my daughter, he must do some more things first and one of them is to turn all the paths and walls of my garden into pure gold before noon tomorrow."

When the snake was told of this new condition, he answered, "Go early tomorrow morning and gather all the odds and ends of rubbish you can find in the streets. Then throw them on the paths and walls of the garden and you'll see what happens."

The peasant rose at cockcrow, took a large basket under his arm and carefully gathered broken bits of pots and pans and jugs and lamps and other trash. As soon as he scattered them over the paths and walls of the king's garden, the paths and walls turned into glittering gold. People were amazed to see it, and the king too. But still he had no heart to part with his daughter, so when the peasant came to remind him of his promise he answered, "I have still a third demand to make. If the snake can turn all the trees and fruit of my garden into precious stones, then I promise him my daughter in marriage."

When the peasant told the snake what the king had said, he answered, "Tomorrow morning, early, you must go to the market and buy all the fruit you see there and then sow all the stones and seeds in the palace garden. If I'm not mistaken, the king will be satisfied with the result."

The peasant rose at dawn and took a basket on his arm. Then he went to the market and bought all the pomegranates, apricots, cherries and other fruit he could find there and sowed the seeds and stones in the palace garden. All of a sudden the trees were all ablaze with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and other precious stones.

This time the king felt he had to keep his promise and called his daughter to him. He said, "My dear, more as a joke than anything else I asked a bridegroom to accomplish three tasks that seemd impossible. But now he has done all I required, so I need to stick to my part of the bargain. Be a good child; as you love me, do not force me to break my word, but give yourself up with as good grace as you can to what may come your way."

The princess said, "Yes, father."

When the king heard this, he told the peasant to bring the snake to the palace and be received as his son-in-law.

The snake came to the court in a carriage made of gold and drawn by six white elephants. The courtiers shook and trembled with fear at the sight of him, but the princess said, "I'm not going to fly from the one that has been chosen for my husband."

When the snake saw her, he wound its tail round her and kissed her. Then he led her into a room, shut the door, threw off its skin, and changed into a beautiful young man with golden locks and flashing eyes. He embraced the princess tenderly and said many pretty things to her.

When the king saw the snake shut itself into a room with his daughter, he said to his wife, "Heaven be merciful, for I fear it is all over with hour daughter now. The snake has most likely swallowed her up."

Then they put their eyes to the keyhole to see what had happened, and caught sight of a beautiful youth standing before their daughter with the snake's skin lying on the floor beside him.

In their excitement they burst open the door and seizing the skin they threw it into the fire. But no sooner had they done this than the young man called out, "Oh, what have you done?" and before they had time to look round he had changed himself into a dove, and dashing against the window he broke a pane of glass and flew out of sight.

The princess complained bitterly and laid all the blame on her parents, even though they had meant no harm. But the princess refused to be comforted. At night, when all in the palace were asleep, she stole out by a back door. She was disguised as a peasant woman, and was determined to seek for her lost happiness till she found it.

When she got to the outskirts of the town, led by the light of the moon, she met a fox who offered to accompany her.

She accepted: "You are most heartily welcome, for I do not know my way at all about the neighbourhood."

They went on their way together and came at last to a wood. They paused to rest under the shade of a tree where a spring of water refreshed the grass nearby with its spray.

They laid themselves down on the green carpet and soon fell fast asleep. When they woke up the sun was high in the heavens and birds were singing.

The fox said to the princess: "If you only understood what these birds are saying, you would be happier."

"What are they saying?" she asked.

At first the wily fox refused to tell her, but at last he told her that they had spoken of the misfortunes of a beautiful young prince. A wicked enchantress had turned him into a snake for seven years. At the end of this time he had fallen in love with a charming princess, but her parents had forced their way into the room on the wedding-night and had burnt the skin. He was then changed into a dove, had broken a pane of glass in trying to fly out of the window and had wounded himself so badly that the doctors despaired of his life.

The princess asked whose son he was and if there was any hope of his recovery. The fox told that the birds had he said was the son of the king of Vallone Grosso and that what could cure him was to rub the wounds on his head with . . . something.

"What something?" said the princess.

The fox did not dare to tell her what that something was. It was a part of anyone who heard and told what the birds knew. So he just ran away. At a distance he called to her, "Something of me, princess!" As he did, he did not look where he put his feet and got caught in a trap. It snapped over him and cut off a part of his tail. His life was saved, though.

The princess went up to the tail in the trap and took it with her to the royal palace of Vallone Grosso. There she let it be known that she had come to cure the young prince.

The king commanded her to be brought before him at once and was much astonished when he saw that it was a girl who undertook to do what all the cleverest doctors of his kingdom had failed in.

'All I ask," said the princess who was dressed as a peasant woman, "is that if I succeed, you will give me your son in marriage."

The king, who had given up all hopes that his son would recover, answered: "Only restore him to life and health and he shall be yours. It is only fair, I would say."

They went into the prince's room. The moment the princess had rubbed the blood-smeared tail on his wounds the illness left him and he was as sound and well as ever.

When the king saw his son restored to life and health, he turned to him and said: "My dear son, I promised this young woman that if she should cure you, she would get you. You must fulfil the promise I made her, since it is our debt."

But the prince answered: "Father, I have just married another. I cannot be faithless to her."

When the princess heard these words and saw how deeply rooted the prince's love for her was, she felt happy. Blushing rosy red, she said: "This can be easily solved! Love me as her!"

The prince: "Though I were to lose my life for it, I could not agree to fail her."

The princess could not keep silent any longer about who she was, and threw off her peasant's dress. Then the prince recognised her at once. He told his father who she was and what she had done for him. "She saved me, and she was right: my love problem could be solved," he said to his father.

They invited her father and mother and the old peasant couple to their court and had a great wedding feast and proved that love goes a long way.


ATU 425A, The Search for the Lost Husband.

An Italian fairy tale. Giambattista Basile wrote a variant in the Pentamerone. The Langs drew on this variant for the tale in The Green Fairy Book.



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