The Three Snake-leaves

: The Green Fairy Book

There was once a poor man who could no longer afford to keep his

only son at home. So the son said to him, 'Dear father, you are so

poor that I am only a burden to you; I would rather go out into

the world and see if I can earn my own living.' The father gave

him his blessing and took leave of him with much sorrow. About

this time the King of a very powerful kingdom was carrying on a

war; the youth therefore took servi
e under him and went on the

campaign. When they came before the enemy, a battle took place,

there was some hot fighting, and it rained bullets so thickly that

his comrades fell around him on all sides. And when their leader

fell too the rest wished to take to flight; but the youth stepped

forward and encouraged them and called out, 'We must not let our

country be ruined!' Then others followed him, and he pressed on

and defeated the enemy. When the King heard that he had to thank

him alone for the victory, he raised him higher than anyone else

in rank, gave him great treasures and made him the first in the


The King had a daughter who was very beautiful, but she was also

very capricious. She had made a vow to marry no one who would not

promise her that if she died first, he would allow himself to be

buried alive with her. 'If he loves me truly,' she used to say,

'what use would life be to him then?' At the same time she was

willing to do the same, and if he died first to be buried with

him. This curious vow had up to this time frightened away all

suitors, but the young man was so captivated by her beauty, that

he hesitated at nothing and asked her hand of her father. 'Do you

know,' asked the King, 'what you have to promise?' 'I shall have

to go into her grave with her,' he answered, 'if I outlive her,

but my love is so great that I do not think of the risk.' So the

King consented, and the wedding was celebrated with great


Now, they lived for a long time very happily with one another, but

then it came to pass that the young Queen fell seriously ill, and

no doctor could save her. And when she lay dead, the young King

remembered what he had promised, and it made him shudder to think

of lying in her grave alive, but there was no escape. The King had

set guards before all the gates, and it was not possible to avoid

his fate.

When the day arrived on which the corpse was to be laid in the

royal vault, he was led thither, then the entrance was bolted and

closed up.

Near the coffin stood a table on which were placed four candles,

four loaves of bread, and four bottles of wine. As soon as this

provision came to an end he would have to die. So he sat there

full of grief and misery, eating every day only a tiny bit of

bread, and drinking only a mouthful of ovine, and he watched death

creeping nearer and nearer to him. One day as he was sitting

staring moodily in front of him, he saw a snake creep out of the

corner towards the corpse. Thinking it was going to touch it, he

drew his sword and saying, 'As long as I am alive you shall not

harm her,' he cut it in three pieces. After a little time a second

snake crept out of the corner, but when it saw the first one lying

dead and in pieces it went back and came again soon, holding three

green leaves in its mouth. Then it took the three bits of the

snake and laid them in order, and put one of the leaves on each

wound. Immediately the pieces joined together, the snake moved

itself and became alive and then both hurried away. The leaves

remained lying on the ground, and it suddenly occurred to the

unfortunate man who had seen everything, that the wonderful power

of the leaves might also be exercised upon a human being.

So he picked up the leaves and laid one of them on the mouth and

the other two on the eyes of the dead woman. And scarcely had he

done this, before the blood began to circulate in her veins, then

it mounted and brought colour back to her white face. Then she

drew her breath, opened her eyes, and said, 'Ah! where am I?' 'You

are with me, dear lady,' he answered, and told her all that had

happened, and how he had brought her to life again. He then gave

her some wine and bread, and when all her strength had returned

she got up, and they went to the door and knocked and called so

loudly that the guards heard them, and told the King. The King

came himself to open the door, and there he found both happy and

well, and he rejoiced with them that now all trouble was over. But

the young King gave the three snake-leaves to a servant, saying to

him, 'Keep them carefully for me, and always carry them with you;

who knows but that they may help us in a time of need!'

It seemed, however, as if a change had come over the young Queen

after she had been restored to life, and as if all her love for

her husband had faded from her heart. Some time afterwards, when

he wanted to take a journey over the sea to his old father, and

they were on board the ship, she forgot the great love and

faithfulness he had shown her and how he had saved her from death,

and fell in love with the captain. And one day when the young King

was lying asleep, she called the captain to her, and seized the

head of the sleeping King and made him take his feet, and together

they threw him into the sea. When they had done this wicked deed,

she said to him, 'Now let us go home and say that he died on the

journey. I will praise you so much to my father that he will marry

me to you and make you the heir to the throne.' But the faithful

servant, who had seen everything, let down a little boat into the

sea, unobserved by them, and rowed after his master while the

traitors sailed on. He took the drowned man out of the water, and

with the help of the three snake-leaves which he carried with him,

placing them on his mouth and eyes, he brought him to life again.

They both rowed as hard as they could night and day, and their

little boat went so quickly that they reached the old King before

the other two did. He was much astonished to see them come back

alone, and asked what had happened to them. When he heard the

wickedness of his daughter, he said, 'I cannot believe that she

has acted so wrongly, but the truth will soon come to light.' He

made them both go into a secret chamber, and let no one see them.

Soon after this the large ship came in, and the wicked lady

appeared before her father with a very sad face. He said to her,

'Why have you come back alone? Where is your husband?'

'Ah, dear father,' she replied, 'I have come home in great grief;

my husband fell ill on the voyage quite suddenly, and died, and if

the good captain had not given me help, I should have died too. He

was at his death-bed and can tell you everything.'

The King said, 'I will bring the dead to life again,' and he

opened the door of the room and called them both out. The lady was

as if thunderstruck when she caught sight of her husband; she fell

on her knees and begged for mercy. But the King said, 'You shall

have no mercy. He was ready to die with you, and restored you to

life again; but you killed him when he was sleeping, and shall

receive your deserts.'

So she and her accomplice were put in a ship which was bored

through with holes, and were drawn out into the sea, where they

soon perished in the waves.