The Serpent Prince
It happened long ago, beyond the beyond, even beyond the seven seas and beyond the glass mountain. There was a castle hill and below it an enormous willow tree. The willow tree had ninety-nine branches and on the ninety-nine branches sat ninety-nine crows, and if you don’t listen to this story, they will peck your eyes out!There was once a king and a queen. They were very sad for they had no offspring. “Wife, it is your fault. You are at fault for you don’t want us to have even onechild.” “Don’t say that, my heart is aching as much as yours that we have no children. But if God doesn’t want to give us any, what can I do?”Well, one day the king went to attend to his own affairs in parliament. The queen felt deeply distressed. It was bad enough that she was without child; to make matters worse, her husband spoke ill of her. She threw her arms up towards the sky: “Dear God, why I am not worthy of having a child? If you don’t want me to have a child, give me a snake son, so I can at least have one offspring.”As soon as she uttered the words, there was a snake son.“My God, I must have offended you! Why did you bless me with this ugly beast? What will my husband say when he sees it? And the strangers, what will they say when they’ll learn that a snake child was born to the king?”Soon she telephoned her husband to call him home. He came running to find out what was wrong.“Look,” she said, “this is the boy we have. God gave him to us because I asked.” “Why did you ask for such a boy?” he said. “In my bitterness I said to God that if I am not worthy of a child, at least he should let me have a snake son. He was bom right away. Now what should we do?”Said the king: “We will not have him baptized for I am ashamed, and I don’t want even the priest to know the kind of offspring God gave us. We’ll name him later.