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格林童话: 三片蛇叶(英)

2006-06-28 13:51

The Three Snake-leaves

  Once upon a time there was a poor man who could no longer afford to keep his only son. So his son said:" Dear father, you have fallen on very hard times and I'm a burden to you; it will be better if I go away and try to earn my living." His father gave him his blessing and took leave of him with great sadness. At this time the king of a powerful kingdom was engaged in a war; the young man took service with him and joined the fighting. And when they met the enemy a battle took place, and there was great peril and a great hail of bullets, with his comrades falling all round him. And when even the commander was killed the rest wanted to take to their heels, but the young man stepped forward and rallied them, crying:" We must not let our fatherland perish." At this the others followed him, and he pressed forward and defeated the enemy. When the king heard that he owed the victory to him alone, he raised him above all the others, gave him great wealth and made him the first man in his kingdom.

  The king had a daughter who was very beautiful, but there was also something very strange about her. She had made a vow to take no man for her lord and husband unless he promised to let himself be buried alive with her if she died before him. "If he truly loves me," she said, "why would he want to go on living?" In return she was prepared to do the same for him and go down into the grave with him if he died first. This strange vow had hitherto deterred all suitors, but the young man was so entranced by her beauty that he was heedless of everything, and asked her father for her hand. "But do you know what promise you will have to make?" said the king. "I shall have to go to her grave with her if I outlive her," he replied, "but my love is so great that I care not for this danger." Then the king consented and the marriage was celebrated with great magnificence.

  They now lived happily and contentedly for a time, and then it happened that the young queen fell seriously ill and no doctor could help her. And when she lay there dead, the young king remembered what he had had to promise, and he was filled with horror at the thought of being buried alive, but there was no help for it: the king had ordered all the gates to be watched, and there was no way of escaping his fate. When the day came for the queen's dead body to be laid to rest in the royal vault, he was taken down into it with her, and then the door was locked and bolted.

  Beside the coffin stood a table on which there were four candles, four loaves of bread and four bottles of wine. As soon as these provisions gave out he would have to die of hunger. So there he sat full of grief and sorrow, eating only a morsel of bread each day and drinking only a mouthful of wine, and yet he realized that his death was coming closer and closer. Now as he sat there staring in front of him, he saw a snake crawl out of one corner of the vault and approach the coffin. Thinking it was going to gnaw at the dead body, he drew his sword and exclaimed:" You shan't touch her so long as I am alive!" And he hacked the snake into three pieces. A few moments later a second snake came crawling out of the corner, but when it saw the other one lying dead and dismembered it turned back, and presently approached again carrying three green leaves in its mouth. Then it took the three pieces of the snake, put them together the way they belonged, and laid one of the leaves on each of the wounds. At once the dismembered parts joined, the snake stirred and came to life again, and both snakes crawled quickly away leaving the leaves behind them.

  The unfortunate prince had watched all this, and he now began to wonder whether the miraculous power of the leaves which had restored the snake to life might also help a human being. So he picked up the leaves and laid one of them on the dead woman's mouth and the other two on her eyes. and scarcely had he done so when her blood stirred in her veins, rose into her pallid countenance and gave it the flush of life again. She drew breath, opened her eyes and said:" Alas, where am I?" "You are with me, my dear wife," he answered and told her all that had happened and how he had revived her. Then he gave her some wine and bread and when she had recovered her strength she stood up, and they went to the door and knocked on it and shouted so loudly that the guards heard them and reported it to the king. The king himself came down and opened the door; he found both of them in full health and vigor, and rejoiced with them that now all their troubles were over. But the young king took the three snake-leaves with him, gave them to a servant and said:" Keep them carefully for me, and carry them on you wherever you go; who knows what trouble they may yet help us out of."

  But since being brought back to life his wife had undergone a change: it was as if all her love for husband had been drained out of her heart. Some time later he decided to make a voyage across the sea to visit his old father, and after they had boarded the ship she forgot the great love and grace he had shown her and how he had saved her from death, and conceived a guilty passion for the ship's captain. One day when the young king was lying there asleep, she called the captain and seized her sleeping husband by the head and made the captain take him by the feet, and thus they threw him into the sea. When this shameful deed had been done she said to the captain:" Now let's go home, and we'll say he died at sea. You can leave it to me to keep singing your praises to my father till he marries me to you and makes you heir to his crown." But the faithful servant, who had witnessed the whole thing, secretly lowered a small boat from the ship and set out in it, following his master and letting the traitors sail away. He fished up the drowned man, and by putting the three snake-leaves, which he had with him, on the young king's eyes and mouth, he successfully restored him to life.

  Then they both rowed day and night with might and main, and their boat sped along so quickly that they got home to the old king before the others. He was astonished to see them arriving alone, and asked what had happened to them. When he heard of his daughter's wickedness he said:" I can't believe that she did so evil a thing, but the truth will soon come to light." He told them both to go into a secret room and let no one know of their presence. Soon after this the big ship came sailing in, and the prince's godless wife appeared before her father with a sorrowful air. He said:" Why have you returned alone? Where is your husband?" "Oh, dear father," she replied, "I have come home in great grief: during the voyage my husband suddenly fell sick and died, and if the kind ship's captain had not helped me it would have gone ill with me. But he was present at my husband's death and can tell you all that happened." The king said:" I will bring this dead man back to life." And he opened the door of the room and told the two men to come out. When the woman saw her husband she stood as if thunderstruck, then fell to her knees and begged for mercy. The king said:" There can be no mercy for you: he was ready to die with you, and he gave you your life back again, but you murdered him in his sleep and you shall have your just reward." Then she and her accomplice were put on board a ship full of holes and sent out to sea, where they soon perished in the waves.

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