Monday, April 9

Grimmoire 16: The Three Snake Leaves

Once upon a time there was a poor man who could no longer provide enough food for his only son...

Yes, more famine. Only this time the boy goes out into the world on his own so as not to be a burden. But let's leave this part of the story aside for this next little juicy tidbit:
The king had a daughter who was very beautiful but also very strange, for she had made a vow that she would accept as her lord and master only a man who would let himself be buried alive with her if she should die first.
Very strange indeed.

The lesson is going to fall to the king's daughter because obviously the boy is going to meet her, get buried with her alive, and somehow survive to show that such unusual and cruel demands are met with a fitting rejoinder. Yes, the boy agrees, and the princess dies, and it's while entombed that the boy sees a snake. He cuts the snake to pieces only to be amazed when another snake comes and lays three leaves on the chopped up snake to heal it and bring it back to life. The boy takes the leaves and revives his wife and -- huzzah! -- she is alive and they are released from the tomb!

And how does she repay her hubby? Well, one day they are on a voyage and she becomes enamored with the ship's captain. But what's to stop her from killing her faithful hubby and tossing him into the sea? Nothing, but the boy/husband's servant has the ability to go overboard and save him, reviving him with those snake leaves. And then they row ashore and tell the king, the strange princess's father. He cannot believe such a thing and hides his son-in-law when the princess returns.

She tells such a tale of woe, about how her husband died at sea, and has as her witness the ship's captain. King Daddy asks why she did not honor her husband the way he honored her and thrown herself overboard and then -- oops -- out pops her restored hubby.

Dad's decision is swift: she and the ship captain must sail out to sea in a boat with holes drilled into it. A long, slow, sinking death at sea, lots of time to contemplate how she ended up in that predicament and no way out.

Despite the eye-for-an-eye ending on this, I do find myself liking this tale because it speaks directly to the idea of children being demanding, ungrateful and cruel and calls them to task for it. Indulgent parents don't come off smelling so sweet either when you think of it. I come and go with my feelings about morals in fables but something about this one feels contemporary.

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