The White Snake is yet again another fairy tale we aren’t quite so familiar with. I don’t recall ever hearing this tale before I read it. I do have to wonder if this tale is where the band White Snake got their name. That would definitely bring some interesting questions into the idea of crappy eighties music.
Once upon a time there was a king who seemed to know all the gossip in his kingdom. Every evening he would eat a dish alone in the dining room. No one ever saw what was underneath the dish. One day a servant became curious and took the dish away to peek underneath. What he found was a white snake. He decided to try a bite. After eating a bit of this white snake, the servant found that he could talk to animals.
The queen’s ring was missing and the blame was going to be pinned on this servant because he was allowed everywhere in the castle. He was to be sentenced to death if he couldn’t turn up the ring. Well, using his new-found animal talking powers, he overheard a conversation between some birds. One bird was talking about how she had accidentally eaten a ring. The servant grabbed this bird up and took it to the cook, who sliced it open and found the ring. The king was so pleased he asked the young man what he wanted in return and he asked for a horse.
The young man went out traveling. He heard some fish in a barrel complaining about being caught. The man let them go and they promised to remember him. A little while later, the man heard some ants complaining about how they were always stepped on. The young man chose to use the other side of the path instead of walking over the ants. The ants said they would remember him. Later, he came to some ravens that had kicked their babies out of the nest before they were ready. The man killed his horse so the ravens would have something to eat. I think that’s a bit extreme. The ravens said they would remember them.
He walked on, because he doesn’t have a horse anymore, and found a kingdom where the princess was looking for a husband. Any suitor had to pass a challenge in order to marry her, but if he failed he would be put to death. This young man becomes all enamored with the princess and decides to go for it. The challenge is to find a ring the king has thrown into the sea. The young man is disconcerted about this, but before he can even really work up a good worry, the three fish he saved find him on the beach and bring him a shell. Inside the shell is the golden ring.
The king is happy about this, but the princess is not. She thinks the young man is below her. She insists upon another challenge. Ten large bags of millet, a grain, are thrown on the ground and all the grains are supposed to be picked up by morning. To the young man’s surprise the ants he helped out came and picked up every single piece of grain in the night. The princess was impressed, but she was still a little proud, so she insisted upon one more challenge.
The last challenge is difficult. The princess insists upon an apple from the tree of life. Nobody knows where this is and the young man is willing to go and look, but he doesn’t have to. The ravens he helped out have already flown to the tree of life and brought him back an apple. The young man gives it to the princess. They actually share the apple. They get married and are pretty happy.
Here’s that number three again.
I don’t really know what the white snake had to do with this tale. It’s never explained why this snake grants its eater the power to converse with animals. I have to wonder if this is one of those tales that has lost some of its pieces over the years. There is no mythology about the white snake in this tale other than if you eat it, you can talk to animals. A white snake would be pretty rare. Snakes are generally darker and earthy tones to blend in with their environments. Every once in a while, an albino snake does come along. I’ve never seen a completely white one, they’re usually like white and yellow or white and purple. It might be that the creators of this tale had actually seen an albino snake and considered it to be a magical creature rather than a genetic mutation. People used to use all kinds of strange stories to explain away genetic deformities and expression.
Again we have parallels to the story of Joseph from the Bible. This young man is a trusted servant. He is given privileges others aren’t, but is almost betrayed by the boss’s wife, just like the biblical version.
Talking to animals is this desire that has existed on the fringe of society for a long time. Generally, the idea shows up in children’s stories like The Wild Thornberries, which is a good show by the way. Kids more often would like the desire to speak to animals, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t adults who like to have this ability. Society has brought us tales of people who mesh with various animals so well that they’re called whisperers. Generally, we hear this term in relation to horses. Oh that person is a horse whisperer. There’s a dog whisperer. There is also a guy who is like a cat whisperer that comes on television. These are people who have studied these animals to such an extent it seems they can communicate with these animals. They are actually communicating with these animals, but it’s in gestures and body language rather than speech of the human kind or animal kind.
I would like to think that even back in the day of the Grimms there were people who cared about what animals felt. This tale is a testament to the fact that those people existed. There have always been people who would care for the welfare of creatures who cannot speak on their own. That’s a good thing. Like I mentioned in a previous post, death is still death and torture is still torture, it doesn’t matter what life form you are. It kind of plucks a little heart string to find out that there were people who cared for small creatures even back in a day when torture was a normal thing. Kudos anonymous people who made up this tale.
This man doles out kindness and kindness is returned to him. It’s a universal law. I don’t car what religion or lack thereof you claim to profess, whatever it may be, there is always this idea of reciprocation of deeds. If you do bad things, you’re going to get some bad things back. If you do good things, you’re going to get some good things back. It’s this whole idea of passing it on. A small thing you do for someone can lead that person in turn to do something for someone else. Then that person can do something for someone else, then another person can do something, and so on, and so on, and so on. The good and bad things you do create a ripple effect in life.
We all kind of live in this web. Think of a spider’s web. All the strands are connected somehow, right? A spider can feel the tiniest vibration of a single strand of the web all the way on the other side of the web because everything is connected. Think of life like that. You may not think anything of holding the door open for a little old lady, but imagine what the ripple effect might eventually become. We don’t see the ripple effects we cause most of the time, good or bad. Just remember that you create ripples even if you think you do not.
The three challenges in this story are more or less filler. The young man already proved himself when he rescued the various animals. The challenges were simply to illustrate that good things returned to him for his good deeds.
This is a sweet story. It’s pleasant. No one in the story is a terrible person. There have been quite a few of these Grimm’s tales with horrible people. It’s refreshing to find a tale where people aren’t jerks.