Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Snake’s Bride

In a small village, there lived a man and his wife, who gave birth to a very beautiful daughter. Immediately after the delivery, the mother died of an acute illness. The husband alone took the responsibility of looking after the girl.

One day, the father met a big bembochen, a snake, while he was collecting firewood in the mountain. The snake threatened to eat him. The man did not fear the loss of his own life, but could only think of his daughter, who had no mother and soon would lack a father too. Who would care for her? Reflecting on the unhappy thought over and over again brought tears into his eyes, so that even the snake was filled with pity.

“Please do not kill me, for I have to care for my daughter,” the man entreated. “She has no one else to look after her. Have mercy on me and I will do anything for you.”

“In that case, I will spare you, but you must promise me one thing,” the snake replied. “Give me your daughter. I will take care of her. But if you fail to keep your promise, I will kill you.”

The choice before him was painful, but he had no other options. The man promised to give away his daughter. Only then did the snake spare his life.

His daughter did not want to go away. How could she think of marrying a horrible snake? But her great love for her father made her accept the proposal.

The next morning, the father took his daughter to the mountain and offered her to the snake. Yet no sooner did he hand over his daughter then the snake transformed into a handsome prince. It was such a miracle! He was a real prince indeed! An old witch had turned him into a snake and his curse was destined to be over only when a girl would faithfully promise to marry him. The prince and the man’s daughter lived happily thereafter.

In a faraway land, there lived a rich, but selfish man, who also had a daughter. On hearing the story of the cursed prince and his transformation, the selfish man went to search for one such snake to marry his daughter. He desired greater riches than those he already had.

In the woods, the man found a large snake sleeping peacefully in the long grass, snared it in a net, and forcibly carried it home. Upon arriving, he thrust his daughter and the snake into a room and locked it from the outside. That night, hearing a flurry of noises coming from the other room, he grew exultant thinking of the miracle happening in his own home. He could hardly wait for dawn.

In the morning, the father unlocked the door and peered in to greet the miraculous couple. However, to his disappointment and horror, all that remained of his daughter was a piece of her hand, curled in a gesture of supplication. The snake too had died of the miracle, drenched in a pool of blood.

(From my book - The Cuckoo and the Pigeon - a collection of Bhutanese folktales)

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