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A Story for children age 4 to 6.

White snake.By The Brothers Grimm.

Start of Story

A long time ago there lived a King whose wisdom was celebrated far and wide. Nothing was unknown to him, and news of the most secret transactions seemed to reach him through the air. Now he had one very odd habit. Every day at dinner, when the courtiers had withdrawn, and he was quite alone, a trusted Servant had to bring in another dish. It was always covered, and even the Servant did not know what it contained, nor any one else, for the King never uncovered it till he was alone. This had gone on for a long time, when one day the Servant who carried the dish was overcome by his curiosity, and took the dish to his own room. When he had carefully locked the door, he took the dish-cover off, and saw a White Snake lying on the dish.

At the sight of it, he could not resist tasting it; so he cut a piece off, and put it into his mouth. Hardly had he tasted it, however, when he heard a wonderful whispering of delicate voices. He went to the window and listened, and he noticed that the whispers came from the sparrows outside. They were chattering away, and telling each other all kinds of things that they had heard in the woods and fields. Eating the Snake had given him the power of understanding the language of birds and animals. Now it happened on this day that the Queen lost her most precious ring, and suspicion fell upon this trusted Servant who went about everywhere. The King sent for him, and threatened that if it was not found by the next day, he would be sent to prison. In vain he protested his innocence; he was not believed.

In his grief and anxiety he went down into the courtyard and wondered how he should get out of his difficulty. A number of Ducks were lying peaceably together by a stream, stroking down their feathers with their bills, while they chattered gaily. The Servant stood still to listen to them. They were telling each other of their morning's walks and experiences. Then one of them said somewhat fretfully: 'I have something lying heavy on my stomach. In my haste I swallowed the Queen's ring this morning.' The Servant quickly seized it by the neck, carried it off into the kitchen, and said to the Cook: 'Here's a fine fat Duck. You had better kill it at once.' 'Yes, indeed,' said the Cook, weighing it in her hand. 'It has spared no pains in stuffing itself; it should have been roasted long ago.' So she killed it, and cut it open, and there, sure enough, was the Queen's ring.

The Servant had now no difficulty in proving his innocence, and the King, to make up for his injustice, gave the Servant leave to ask any favour he liked, and promised him the highest post about the Court which he might desire. The Servant, however, declined everything but a horse, and some money to travel with, as he wanted to wander about for a while, to see the world. His request being granted, he set off on his travels, and one day came to a pond, where he saw three Fishes caught among the reeds, and gasping for breath. Although it is said that fishes are dumb, he understood their complaint at perishing thus miserably. As he had a compassionate heart, he got off his horse and put the three captives back into the water. They wriggled in their joy, stretched up their heads above the water, and cried-- 'We will remember that you saved us, and reward you for it.'


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