The White Snake
A servant saves himself from a false accusation and wins princess by understanding the language of animals.
Long ago there lived a king whose wisdom was famous throughout the land. Nothing remained unknown to him, and it was as if news of the most hidden things were brought to him through the air. But he had a strange custom. Every noon, when the table was empty and no one was present, a trusted servant had to bring another bowl. But it was covered, and the servant himself did not know what was in it, and no one knew, because the king did not uncover it or eat from it until he was all alone. This had been going on for a long time, when one day curiosity overcame the servant who was carrying the bowl away again, so that he could not resist, but took the bowl to his chamber. When he had carefully closed the door, he lifted the lid and there he saw that a white snake was lying inside. At the sight of it he could not restrain the desire to taste it; he cut off a piece of it and put it in his mouth. But no sooner had it touched his tongue than he heard a strange whispering of fine voices outside his window. He went and listened, then he realized that it was the sparrows talking to each other and telling each other all sorts of things they had seen in the field and forest. The pleasure of the snake had given him the ability to understand the language of the animals.
It happened that on this very day the queen lost her most beautiful ring and the suspicion fell on the trusted servant, who had access everywhere, that he had stolen it. The king had him brought before him and threatened him with severe scolding that if he did not know who had stolen it by tomorrow, he would be looked upon and judged. It did not help that he protested his innocence, he was released with no better notice. In his anxiety and fear he went down to the courtyard and considered how he could help himself out of his distress. There the ducks were sitting peacefully next to each other by a flowing water, resting, preening each other with their beaks and holding a confidential conversation. The servant stopped and listened to them. They told each other where they had wiggled around this morning and what good food they had found, then one of them said peevishly, "I have something heavy in my stomach, I swallowed a ring that was lying under the queen's window in the haste." Then the servant immediately grabbed her by the collar, carried her into the kitchen and said to the cook "butcher this one, she is well fed." "Yes," said the cook, weighing her in his hand, "she has spared no pains to fatten herself, and has long been waiting to be roasted." He cut her neck, and when she was gutted, the queen's ring was found in her stomach. The servant could now easily prove his innocence before the king, and since the latter wished to right his wrong, he allowed him to beg a pardon and promised him the greatest position of honor he could wish for at his court.
The servant refused everything and asked only for a horse and travel money, for he felt like seeing the world and wandering around in it for a while. When his request was granted, he set out and one day passed a pond where he noticed three fish caught in the pipe and gasping for water. Although it is said that the fish were mute, he heard their lament that they had to perish so miserably. Because he had a compassionate heart, he dismounted from his horse and put the three prisoners back into the water. They wriggled with joy, stuck out their heads and called out to him, "We want to remember you and repay you for saving us. He rode on, and after a while he thought he heard a voice in the sand at his feet. He listened and heard how an ant king complained "if only the people with the clumsy animals stayed away from us! there the stupid horse with his heavy hooves tramples down my people without mercy!" He turned onto a side path and the Ant King called out to him "we will remember you and repay you." The path led him into a forest and there he saw a father and mother raven standing by their nest and throwing out their young. "Away with you, you gallows swine," they cried, "we can no longer feed you; you are big enough, and can feed yourselves." The poor boys lay on the ground, flapping and flapping their wings, crying out "we helpless children, we are to feed ourselves and cannot yet fly! what is left for us but to die here of hunger!" Then the good youth dismounted, killed the horse with his rapier, and left it for the young ravens to feed on. The ravens hopped over, fed themselves and called out "we will remember you and repay you.
He now had to use his own legs, and when he had gone a long way, he came to a large city. There was a great noise and crowd in the streets, and someone came on horseback and announced that "the king's daughter was looking for a husband, but whoever wanted to apply for her would have to accomplish a difficult task, and if he could not do it happily, he would forfeit his life. Many had already tried it, but in vain had staked their lives on it. The youth, when he saw the king's daughter, was so dazzled by her great beauty that he forgot all danger, stepped before the king and announced himself as a suitor.
Immediately he was led out to the sea and a golden ring was thrown into it before his eyes. Then the king told him to retrieve this ring from the bottom of the sea, and added "if you come up again without it, you will be thrown down again and again until you perish in the waves. Everyone pitied the beautiful youth and then left him lonely by the sea. He stood on the shore and thought about what he should do, when he suddenly saw three fish swimming along, and they were none other than the ones he had saved. The middle one had a shell in his mouth, which he put on the beach at the feet of the young man, and when he picked it up and opened it, the gold ring was inside. Full of joy he brought it to the king and expected that he would grant him the promised reward. The king's proud daughter, however, when she heard that he was not her equal, spurned him and demanded that he solve a second task first. She went down to the garden and scattered ten sacks of millet on the grass herself. "He must have picked them up tomorrow before the sun comes out," she said, "and not a grain must be missing." The young man sat down in the garden and thought about how it would be possible to solve the task, but he could not think of anything, sat there all sad and expected to be led to death at dawn.
But when the first rays of sunlight fell in the garden, he saw the ten sacks all well filled standing next to each other, and not a grain was missing in them. The ant king had arrived during the night with his thousands and thousands of ants, and the grateful animals had read the millet with great diligence and collected it into the sacks. The king's daughter herself came down to the garden and saw with amazement that the young man had accomplished what he had set out to do. But she could not yet subdue her proud heart and said, "Even if he has solved the two tasks, he shall not become my husband until he has brought me an apple from the tree of life." The youth did not know where the tree of life was, he set out and always wanted to go as long as his legs would carry him, but he had no hope of finding it. When he had already wandered through three kingdoms and came to a forest in the evening, he sat down under a tree and wanted to sleep: then he heard a noise in the branches and a golden apple fell into his hand. At the same time three ravens flew down to him, sat down on his knees and said "we are the three young ravens whom you saved from starvation; when we grew up and heard that you were looking for the golden apple, we flew over the sea to the end of the world, where the tree of life stands, and fetched the apple for you." Full of joy, the youth set out on his way home and brought the golden apple to the beautiful king's daughter, who now had no excuse left. They shared the apple of life and ate it together: then their hearts were filled with love for him, and they reached old age in undisturbed happiness.