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Main > Ukrainian folktales > Fairy tale "The Serpent-Wife"

The Serpent-Wife

There was once a gentleman who had a labourer who never went about in company. His fellow-servants did all they could to make him come with them, and now and then enticed him into the tavern, but they could never get him to stay there long, and he always wandered away by himself through the woods. One day he went strolling about in the forest as usual, far from any village and the haunts of men, when he came upon a huge Serpent, which wriggled straight up to him and said, “I am going to eat thee on the spot!” But the labourer, who was used to the loneliness of the forest, replied, “Very well, eat me if thou hast a mind to!”––Then the Serpent said, “Nay! I will not eat thee; only do what I tell thee!” And the Serpent began to tell the man what he had to do. “Turn back home,” it said, “and thou wilt find thy master angry because thou hast tarried so long, and there was none to work for him, so that his corn has to remain standing in the field. Then he will send thee to bring in his sheaves, and I’ll help thee. Load the wagon well, but don’t take quite all the sheaves from the field. Leave one little sheaf behind; more than that thou needst not leave, but that thou must leave. Then beg thy master to let thee have this little sheaf by way of wages. Take no money from him, but that one little sheaf only. Then, when thy master has given thee this sheaf, burn it, and a fair lady will leap out of it; take her to wife!”

The labourer obeyed, and went and worked for his master as the Serpent had told him. He went out into the field to bring home his master’s corn, and marvellously he managed it. He did all the carrying himself, and loaded the wagon so heavily that it creaked beneath its burden. Then when he had brought home all his master’s corn, he begged that he might have the remaining little sheaf for himself. He refused to be rewarded for his smart labour, he would take no money; he wanted nothing for himself, he said, but the little sheaf he had left in the field. So his master let him have the sheaf.

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