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Serpent Prince.AN ITALIAN FAIRY TALE
Edmund Dulacís Fairy-Book, by Edmund Dulac.
Start of Story
Once, a very long time ago, before aeroplanes emulated eagles and motor
cars ran along swifter than the foxes, there lived on the outskirts of a
great forest an old couple who were poor and childless and lonely.
Matteo was the name of this worthy pair, and the old man was called Cola
and his wife was known as Sapatella. Now Matteo was a forester, and,
because his duties kept him roaming from early morn until late in the
evening through the deep dark glades of the forest, his wife, who had to
stay at home and mind the cottage and prepare the meals, and never go
out, not even to see the pictures on Saturday evenings, was very lonely
indeed and wished more than ever that she had a son, so that he could
go to the pictures and tell her all about them when he came home.
But wishes do not make horses or sons, nor even daughters, and so this
poor old woman had to live a very lonely life indeed, which gave her a
great deal of time to think and to envy
The old woman who lived in a shoe,
Who had so many children she didn't know what to do,
who lived about the same time in another part of the country.
One evening, when the days were growing short and the nights were
correspondingly long and chilly, Matteo was on his way back to the
cottage, when he remembered that Sapatella had asked him to bring home
some faggots with him to cook with and to keep them warm, because, of
course, when you are a forester and live in a forest, you cannot expect
to have coal to burn in your grates, like those who live in towns and
There was plenty of brushwood, and heaps of twigs and fallen boughs
lying about, and, as he had his axe with him, which all good foresters
carry to clear a path for themselves through the dense undergrowths, it
was not long before Matteo had collected a great bundle of faggots which
was just as much as he could carry on his back.
But Matteo carried home with him on his back more than a mere bundle of
dry boughs and twigs, although he did not know it. Neither did
Sapatella, not until the next morning after Matteo had gone off to his
work, when she went to the wood pile to get some sticks to put under her
pot to boil the nice rabbit which Matteo had shot for her the day
before. She picked up a bundle and was about to place it on the fire
when a tiny serpent, oh, ever so tiny! slithered and wriggled its way
out of the twigs and coiled itself up on the rug.
Being a forester's wife, Sapatella was not the least bit frightened of
serpents or mice or beetles or other dreadful beasts; besides, it was
such a tiny serpent, all yellow as can be; and, when the firelight
danced on it, it shone bright and gleaming like gold.
'Ah me, said the good woman with a sigh, 'even the serpents have their
young ones, but I have no one.'
Then the serpent uncoiled and stretched itself out towards her and
spoke. All kinds of animals spoke in those days, as you will notice if
you read the story through, though not so frequently but that the good
woman was surprised and startled to hear it.
'You may have me for your child if you will,' it said.
_'Keep me warm and feed me well,
And fortune will upon you dwell.'_
Sapatella was, as I have already said, considerably startled to hear a
baby serpent talk like that; but she was a kind-hearted woman and very,
very lonely, and she quickly made up her mind to adopt the little
serpent and bring it up as her own.
When Grannmia saw her strange lover, she alone remained calm and
The forester, her husband, who was also kind-hearted, agreed to let her
have her own way in the matter, and so the little serpent found a home
and care and affection.
_They kept him warm and fed him well,
And fortune did upon them dwell._
From that time on, peace and contentment and prosperity brightened the
little cottage. Everything went smoothly and comfortably, though whether
the little serpent had really anything to do with it or not, I cannot
Serpents grow up very quickly, and, what with the warmth and the good
food and the affection, the little serpent soon grew to be a big one,
oh, monstrous big! so that when he lay in front of the fire he took up
the whole of the rug, and Sapatella had to scold him in order to make
room so that she could attend to her cooking.
One day when she had nearly tripped over his tail and fallen with a pot
of boiling water in her hands, Sapatella said to it: 'You are grown too
big to be lying about before the fire all day. You must get up and do
'Very well, mother,' said the serpent--it always called her mother, and
Cola it called father, just as a son would. 'Find me a wife and I will
get married and settle down.'
Sapatella did not very well know how to set about finding a wife for a
serpent, even an adopted one; but she agreed to speak to Matteo her
husband about the matter when he came home that night.