The Three Snake-Leaves
There was once a man who was so poor that he and his son were nearly starving. One day the teenage boy said to him, “Dear father, I see you so sad and tired every day. It’s time for me to go out into the world and try to earn my own living.”
So his father wished him luck and said goodbye with many tears. Just at this time a great King was going to war another country, and the young boy joined his army. In the first battle with the enemy he was in great danger and many of the soldiers near him fell down dead, but the boy had a lucky escape. The commander was wounded, and several soldiers decided to run away from the battle as fast as they could. But the young man shouted at them to be brave: “No, we cannot let our country lose!” Then they turned back and followed their young leader, who led them forward, attacked and quickly defeated the enemy. The King heard about what the boy did. Without him, he would have lost the battle.
When the King heard that he owed this great victory to a teenage boy, he called the boy to his castle. “Thanks to you, our country defeated the enemy. I will give you great treasures, and you will become King after me,” said the King. The boy was delighted. What a change in his life this would be!
Now the King had a daughter who was very beautiful, but she was also very whimsical. She would only marry a man if he agreed to an important condition. The man must promise that if she died first, he must agree to be buried alive with her in the grave. “If he loves me,” she said, “he will not want to outlive me.” In return for this she would also promise to be buried in the grave with her husband.
Until now this strange condition had frightened away all the young men in the kingdom. However, the young soldier was so impressed with the beauty of the Princess that he said that he would marry her. Her father warned him and said, “Do you know what a terrible promise you will have to make?” “Yes,” replied the young man, “I must be buried with her in the grave if I outlive her. But my love for her is so strong, that I don’t care.” Then the King gave his permission, and the young Prince and Princess had a gorgeous wedding with lots of feasting, dancing and singing.
The young couple live happily together for some time, but then the young Princess became sick. She caught a terrible illness for which her doctors had no treatment. As she lay dead, the Prince remembered what he had promised. The thought of lying in the grave alive was horrible, but there was no escape. The King placed a guard at every exit from the castle, so that it was impossible to avoid his fate. On the day of the funeral her body was carried down and placed in the royal tomb. The Prince was taken there, too, and the door was locked.
Near to the coffin there was a table. On top of the table there were four lights, four loaves of bread, and four bottles of wine. The young man knew that when these supplies came to an end, he would starve. He sat down, feeling full of grief and sadness. He decided to take only a little piece of bread and the smallest drop of wine, to make them last as long as possible.
One day when he was close to death, he saw a white snake come out from a corner of the tomb and approach the body. He stood up in horror, thinking it was about to eat his wife’s body. He drew his sword and shouted, “You cannot touch that!” Then with two blows he cut the snake into three pieces.
After a while a second snake crept out of the corner, but as soon as he saw the other snake lying dead in three pieces, he went back and quickly returned with three green leaves in his mouth. Then he took the three separate pieces of the snake, placed them together and laid a leaf on each wound. As soon as they were joined, the first snake came back to life and rushed away with his friend. The leaves remained lying on the ground.
As he looked at the leaves, the poor young Prince though about the amazing thing he had just seen. He suddenly realized that a leaf which could restore a dead snake to life might be useful to human beings. He picked up the leaves, then softly approached his dead wife’s body. He laid one on her mouth and the other two on her eyes. In a moment he saw the effect of what he had done. The blood began to circulate in her veins and colour returned to her cheeks and lips. She drew a deep breath, opened her eyes and asked quietly, “Where am I?”
“You are with me, dear wife,” answered her husband; and then he told her everything that had happened, and how he had brought her back to life.
After drinking a little of the wine and eating some of the bread she became stronger and was able to stand up and walk to the door of the tomb with her husband. Here they knocked and shouted loudly for a long time, until at last the guard heard them and a message was sent to the King. He came himself very quickly and ordered the guards to open the door of the tomb. How astonished and full of joy he was to find them both alive! Now his anxiety was over. He had been so very, very sad.
The young Prince took the three leaves with him, and gave them to his servant, saying: “Look after these carefully for me, and check that they are safe every day. Who knows when we might need them again?!”
After this amazing event, there was a great change in the young Princess. She was grateful to her husband, but she did not want to be with him anymore. It was as if with her return to life, all her love for her husband had disappeared from her heart. How whimsical she was!
Soon after, the young man wanted to travel across the sea to see his old father, and she accompanied him. While they were on board ship, she forgot all the true and great love he had shown her. She forgot how he tried to bring her back to life when she was dead. Instead, she made friends with the ship’s Captain, who was as selfish and wicked as herself.
One day when the young man lay asleep on deck, she called the Captain to her. She told him to take her husband by the feet, while she lifted his head, and before he was awake enough to save himself, these two wicked people threw him overboard into the sea. When this shameful act was finished, she said to the Captain, “Now let’s sail home again and say that the Prince has died on the voyage. I will praise you so much to my father, that I know he will quickly agree to our marriage, and you will become king after his death.”
But the Prince had a loyal servant who was looking after the wonderful three leaves. He saw everything that his master’s wife had done. Unnoticed, he got on one of the small boats on the ship’s side, went back and soon discovered the body of the Prince. Quickly, he pulled the body into the boat and rowed away from wicked Princess and Captain. As soon as they couldn’t see him, he took the precious leaves out of his pocket and laid one on each eye and one on the mouth of the dead man. Immediately, the Prince came back to life and he was soon healthy enough to help row the boat. They both rowed with all their power day and night, and their little boat flew so quickly over the waves, that they arrived at the King’s palace long before his daughter and the Captain.
The King was very surprised when he saw his son-in-law and the servant enter and asked them what had happened. The prince told him about the wicked things she had done. “I cannot believe it!” he cried. “We will find out the truth when she returns home. For now, hide yourselves in a private room. Make yourselves at home until the ship returns.”
The Prince and his servant took the King’s advice, and a few days later the large ship appeared, and the guilty Princess appeared before her father with a sad face.
“Why have you come back alone?” he asked. “Where is your husband?”
“Ah! Dear father,” she replied, “I come home to you in great sorrow. During the voyage, my husband suddenly became ill and died. The good Captain looked after me and brought me home. If he hadn’t, something terrible would have happened to me. He stood by my husband’s deathbed, and he can tell you everything that happened. “Oh!” said the King, “I can bring your dead husband back to life again, so do not grieve any longer.” He threw open the door of the private room as he spoke and told his son-in-law and the servant to come out.
When the wife saw her husband, she was thunderstruck, and sank on her knees begging for mercy. “I can show you no mercy,” said the King. “Your husband was not only ready to be buried and die with you, but he brought you back to life. You murdered him while he slept Now, you will receive the reward you deserve.”
Then the Princess and the Captain were put in a boat full of holes, and sent out to sea, where their boat soon started to sink and they drowned.