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Day One
Pentamerone Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five

                                                THE SERPENT
                                                        Day 2, Tale 5
                                        retold in rhyme by Laura J. Bobrow

A country couple did not have a child. They wished they could.
Our time will come, the husband soothed, and went to gather wood.
A little serpent coiled within the branches that he brought.
Just look. The snakes have babies. Why can’t we?  the woman thought.

I see you have no son, the snake spoke up. Perhaps I’ll do.
Don’t be afraid. You’ll find there’s love and fortune here for you.
The woman said, All right! She made a cozy little nest
in a corner of the house and there they fed him on the best.

He reached his full size rapidly. It’s time, the serpent said,
for me to marry.    Fine. We’ll find a snake for you to wed,
his folks agreed.  A snake? Oh no! Whatever’s wrong with you?
I want the king’s own daughter. No one else but she will do.

Go to the king this very day and ask him for her hand,
and tell him it’s a serpent who pays suit, you understand.
The countryman went to the king. A message, sire, he sighed.
My son, a snake, declares he wants your daughter for his bride.

The king first laughed, and then he roared, Your snake son must be told
he’ll have her when he turns the palace gardens into gold.
The snake said, Father, gather all the pits that can be found.
Tomorrow in the gardens strew the pits along the ground.

The countryman did what he asked. The king was soon amazed
to see gold trees and leaves and fruit whichever way he gazed.
All very well, the king exclaimed, but there are further rules.
He must line the palace walls and grounds with many precious jewels.

The snake advised the countryman to gather all the shards
of broken pots and pitchers where they lay in people’s yards.
Then take them to the palace. Place them on each wall you see.
The walls began to glitter. Said the king, How can this be?

I must have further evidence that he’s a worthy heir.
If he turns the palace into gold, I’ll call the marriage fair.
The serpent told his father, I can make the palace shine.
Go gather greens and oil the whole foundation with their wine.

The palace turned to gold. The king said, Well, then, I accede.
He called his daughter to him. Dear Grannonia, I’ve agreed
to have you married to a snake whose prowess is so great
he accomplished tasks impossible to do. So, that’s your fate.

Don’t worry, father, if you wish it then I know it’s right.
The serpent was invited to be wed that very night.
He drove up in a carriage drawn by four great pachyderms.
The courtiers were so frightened that they hid themselves like worms.

The king and queen hid, too. They hovered in a nearby room.
Grannonia stood her ground as, slithering toward her, came her groom.
He kissed her then he dragged her to a den and locked the door.
But once inside he shook his serpent’s skin down to the floor.

There stood a fairy prince, a figure handsome to be seen.
I love you, dear Grannonia, and I want you for my queen.
The king peered through the keyhole and at once came crashing in.
He thrust a poker in the fire and burned the serpent’s skin.

The prince cried out, Alas, my darling wife, my precious love!
And then and there before their eyes he changed into a dove.
He beat against the window in attempting to get free.
His head was badly cut by glass so he could hardly see.

The window broken, off he flew. Grannonia was in tears.
She packed up all her jewels. I’ll find him if it takes me years.
Next day she started on her way still sobbing bitterly.
She met a fox who asked her if she wanted company.

Oh, sister fox, although you’re wild we both have fragile hearts.
I welcome you since I am not familiar with these parts.
They reached a wood where they decided they would spend the night.
They were wakened by sweet birdsong as the dark sky turned to light.

The singing pleased Grannonia, while the fox paid special heed.
She cocked her head and pricked her ears and murmured once, Indeed!
Grannonia said, It’s lovely. Does that music please you too?
You’d be enthralled if you could understand it as I do.

Then, darling fox, I beg you fox. Do tell me what you’ve learned.
I’d really like to know with what the bird talk was concerned.
The fox demurred, but then she told. A prince made a mistake.
He so enraged an ogress he was turned into a snake.

For seven years he was condemned. The time was nearly through
when he fell in love with someone, and they almost married, too,
but her father found the skin he shed and burned it in the fire.
In escaping he so bruised his head he likely will expire.

And is there then no cure for him? Grannonia had grown pale.
She realized the birds had been relating her own tale.
Yes. But only one. The use of blood of birds is how.
It must be blood from these same birds, the ones who spoke just now.

Then sister fox, I beg you, will you kill those birds for me?
You’ll be my friend for all my life if you’ll but climb that tree
and fetch for me the blood from each and every little bird.
We’ll split whatever gold I get. On this you have my word.

The fox agreed. Tonight, when all the birds are fast asleep,
I’ll kill them all and catch their blood in this small flask I keep.
The deed was done. Grannonia, said the fox, you have to know
you also need a fox’s blood. Goodbye. I’d better go.

Now don’t run off like that, dear fox. Come back and walk with me.
You’ll share in half my treasure. Only think how rich you’ll be.
You’re not the only fox around. I’m sure we’ll find one soon.
I would not hurt my friend, the fox, she pleaded in a croon.

The foolish fox believed that what Grannonia said was true.
All right, she said, we’ll share, and I will walk along with you.
But Grannonia held a club which she had hid behind her back.
She let the fox get close and then she gave her such a whack

that the fox fell dead. Grannonia added fox blood to the flask
and hurried to the palace. To the king she said, The task
of healing all the prince’s wounds is something I can do,
but before I try, I must extract a just reward from you.

Once I have cured his wounds and so restored the prince’s life,
I ask that you insist that he accept me as his wife.
I’ll gladly do so, said the king. They hurried to the bed.
Grannonia spread the bloody mix upon the prince’s head.

At once the prince was well. My son, I will not be denied.
I made a vow. Now you must take this young girl for your bride.
Oh, Father, I cannot. I have already pledged my heart.
What if, Grannonia asked, that girl would grant to me her part?

No use. I would still love her if it meant my own demise.
Then here she is! Grannonia said, and threw off her disguise.
Her parents came. And at the marriage feast the following day,
That clever girl outfoxed a fox, the guests were heard to say.

Copyright © 2019 Laura J. Bobrow. All rights reserved.