日本語

三枚の蛇の葉

ENGLISH

The three snake-leaves


昔、一人の貧しい男がいて、もう一人息子を養えなくなりました。それで息子は「おとうさん、生活がとても苦しいから僕はお父さんの重荷でしょう。僕は家を出て、自分で生計をたてられるかやってみたいのです。」と言いました。それで父親は息子を祝福し、とても悲しみながら別れを告げました。このころ大帝国の王様が戦争中だったので、その若者はその王の軍に入り戦いに行きました。敵の前に来たとき、戦闘がおこり、戦いが白熱し、激しい銃撃があったので、若者の周りは倒れた味方でいっぱいでした。上官も死んでしまったとき、残った兵たちは逃げようとしましたが、若者は前に出て、その兵たちに勇ましく語りかけ、「われわれは祖国が荒らされるのを許してはならない。」と言いました。それで他の兵隊たちは若者についてきて、敵を押し続け、打ち破りました。王様は、勝利したのは専らその若者のおかげだと聞き、若者を他の人たちより上に昇級させ、たくさんの財宝を与え、王国の第1人者としました。

その王様には、とても美しいけれどまたとても風変わりなところもある娘がいました。娘が先に死んだら一緒に生き埋めにされてよいと約束しない人は誰も夫にしないという誓いをたてていたのです。「もし私を本当に愛してるなら、あとの人生は何の役にたつの?私だって同じよ。夫が先に死んだら一緒にお墓に入るわ。」と言うのでした。これまでのところ、この奇妙な誓いにおそれをなして、求婚者たちはみんな遠ざかっていました。しかし、その若者は娘の美しさにとても惹かれたので、何も気にせず、父親である王様に娘をもらいたいと求めました。「お前は何を約束しなければならないか知っているのか?」と王様は言いました。「もし妻より長生きすれば、私は一緒に埋められなければいけない。けれども、私はとても深く愛しているので、その危険を気にかけません。」と若者は答えました。それで王様は許可し、結婚式が盛大に行われました。

二人は暫くの間幸せでお互いに満足していました。ところが、若いお妃が重病になり、救える医者がいないということがおこりました。そして若いお妃が死んだとき、若い王様は約束せざるを得なかったことを思い出し、墓に生きたまま入らなければならないことを思って震え上がりました。しかし、逃げ道はありません。王様はすべての門に門衛をおいていたのです。運命を避けることはできませんでした。死体が埋められる予定の日がくると、若い王様は、死体と一緒に王家のひつぎ保護室の中に連れていかれ、ドアが閉められ、かんぬきがかけられました。

棺の近くに、4本のろうそくと4つのパンと4本のワインがのっているテーブルがありました。そしてこの食料が終わりになったら飢え死にしなくてはならないのです。若い王様は今や、悲しさでいっぱいになりながらそこに座り、毎日少しのパンを食べ、ワインを一口だけ飲んでいましたが、それでも死ぬ日が日増しに近づいてくるのがわかりました。こんな風にして、前をみていると、部屋の隅から一匹の蛇が這ってきて死体に近づくのが見えました。その蛇が死体にかみつくためにきたのだと思ったので、刀を抜き、「私が生きてる限りは妻にさわらせないぞ。」と言って、その蛇を3つに切り裂きました。暫くして別の蛇が穴から這い出てきましたが、もう一匹が死んでちぎれているのを見ると、戻っていきました。しかし、すぐにまた口に3枚の葉っぱをくわえて戻って来ました。それから3つの蛇のかけらをとって、ぴったり合うように並べておき、それぞれの傷口に1枚ずつ葉っぱをおきました。途端に切られた部分がつながって、その蛇は動き、再び命を吹きかえしました。それから、二匹とも一緒に急いでいなくなりました。その葉っぱは地面に置いたままになっていました。それで、これを一部始終見ていた不幸な男は、蛇を再び生き返らせた葉っぱの不思議な力は同じように人間にも役にたたないものか知りたいと思いました。

それで葉っぱを拾い、一枚を死んだ妻の口の上に、あとの2枚を両目の上におきました。すると途端に、血が通い、妻の青ざめた顔が色づきました。それから息を吸うと目を開き、「まあ、ここはどこ?」と言いました。「僕が一緒にいるよ。」と若い王様は答え、どういうことがあったか、またどうやって生き返らせたかを妻に話して聞かせました。それからワインとパンを与え、妻がすっかり元気を取り戻すと、立ち上がらせました。二人はドアのところに行ってたたき、大声で叫んだので衛兵が聞きつけ王様に報告しました。王様はみずからやってきて、ドアを開けると、そこには元気で健康な二人がいたのでした。さあ、これで悲しいことはみんな終わった、と三人一緒に喜び合いました。若い王様は、しかしながら、3枚の蛇の葉っぱをとっていき、家来に渡して、「保存に注意し、常に持ち歩くようにせよ。いつなんどき使うことになるか知れないゆえ。」と言いました。

しかし、妻には変化が起こっていました。再び命を取り戻したあと、夫への愛が心から消えてしまったかのようでした。しばらくして、若い王様は海を渡って船旅で年とった父に会いに行こうとしました。船に乗っていたとき、妻は、夫が示し、自分を死の淵から救うことになった偉大な愛と忠誠を忘れ、不実にも船長に思いをよせました。そして或るとき、夫が眠っていたときに、妻は船長を呼び入れ、自分は眠っている人の頭をつかみ、船長は足をつかんで、二人で海に投げ込みました。そして、この浅ましい行為をすませると、「さあ、家に戻って、彼は途中で死んだと言いましょう。父にあなたのことをほめそやしていうわ。だから父はあなたと結婚させ、あなたを王位継承者にするでしょう。」と言いました。しかし、二人がやったことを一部始終見ていた忠実な家来は、見つからないようにして、船から小さなボートをはなし、それに乗ると、主人を探しにでかけ、裏切り者たちをそのまま行かせました。それから、死体を釣り上げ、常に携帯していた3枚の蛇の葉っぱを両目と口に置いたおかげで、運良く若い王様をよみがえらせることができました。

二人は小さなボートを昼も夜も全力で漕ぎ、小さなボートはとても速く進んだので、他の人たちより前に年とった王様のところに着きました。王様は二人だけで帰ってきたので、驚き、どうしたのかと尋ねました。娘の悪さを聞くと、王様は「娘がそんなに悪いことをしたとは信じられない。が、真実はまもなく白日のもとになるだろう。」と言い、二人に秘密の部屋にはいり、みんなから隠れているよう命じました。それからまもなく大船が帰ってきて、罪深い女は当惑した顔で父親のまえに現れました。「どうして一人で戻ったのだ?お前の夫はどこだ?」と王様は言いました。「ああ、お父様、私はとても悲しく戻りました。航海中に夫は突然病気になり死んだのです。親切な船長さんが助けてくれなかったら、私も病気になっていたと思います。船長さんは夫が死んだときそこにいたので、全部話してくれますわ。」と娘は答えました。王様は「私が死人をよみがえらせよう。」と言って部屋を開け、二人に出てくるよう命じました。娘は夫を見ると、仰天して膝をつくと許しを乞いました。

「情けは無用だ。お前の夫は、お前と一緒に死ぬ覚悟をした上にお前を生き返らせた。それなのに、お前は夫が眠っているうちに殺したのだ。お前にふさわしい報酬をうけるがよい。」と王様は言いました。そのあと、娘は共犯者と一緒に穴を開けられた船に乗せられ、海におくりだされました。そしてまもなく船は海の波間に沈みました。
There was once on a time a poor man, who could no longer support his only son. Then said the son, "Dear father, things go so badly with us that I am a burden to you. I would rather go away and see how I can earn my bread." So the father gave him his blessing, and with great sorrow took leave of him. At this time the King of a mighty empire was at war, and the youth took service with him, and with him went out to fight. And when he came before the enemy, there was a battle, and great danger, and it rained shot until his comrades fell on all sides, and when the leader also was killed, those left were about to take flight, but the youth stepped forth, spoke boldly to them, and cried, "We will not let our fatherland be ruined!" Then the others followed him, and he pressed on and conquered the enemy. When the King heard that he owed the victory to him alone, he raised him above all the others, gave him great treasures, and made him the first in the kingdom.
The King had a daughter who was very beautiful, but she was also very strange. She had made a vow to take no one as her lord and husband who did not promise to let himself be buried alive with her if she died first. "If he loves me with all his heart," said she, "of what use will life be to him afterwards?" On her side she would do the same, and if he died first, would go down to the grave with him. This strange oath had up to this time frightened away all wooers, but the youth became so charmed with her beauty that he cared for nothing, but asked her father for her. "But dost thou know what thou must promise?" said the King. "I must be buried with her," he replied, "if I outlive her, but my love is so great that I do not mind the danger." Then the King consented, and the wedding was solemnized with great splendour.

They lived now for a while happy and contented with each other, and then it befell that the young Queen was attacked by a severe illness, and no physician could save her. And as she lay there dead, the young King remembered what he had been obliged to promise, and was horrified at having to lie down alive in the grave, but there was no escape. The King had placed sentries at all the gates, and it was not possible to avoid his fate. When the day came when the corpse was to be buried, he was taken down into the royal vault with it and then the door was shut and bolted.

Near the coffin stood a table on which were four candles, four loaves of bread, and four bottles of wine, and when this provision came to an end, he would have to die of hunger. And now he sat there full of pain and grief, ate every day only a little piece of bread, drank only a mouthful of wine, and nevertheless saw death daily drawing nearer. Whilst he thus gazed before him, he saw a snake creep out of a corner of the vault and approach the dead body. And as he thought it came to gnaw at it, he drew his sword and said, "As long as I live, thou shalt not touch her," and hewed the snake in three pieces. After a time a second snake crept out of the hole, and when it saw the other lying dead and cut in pieces, it went back, but soon came again with three green leaves in its mouth. Then it took the three pieces of the snake, laid them together, as they ought to go, and placed one of the leaves on each wound. Immediately the severed parts joined themselves together, the snake moved, and became alive again, and both of them hastened away together. The leaves were left lying on the ground, and a desire came into the mind of the unhappy man who had been watching all this, to know if the wondrous power of the leaves which had brought the snake to life again, could not likewise be of service to a human being. So he picked up the leaves and laid one of them on the mouth of his dead wife, and the two others on her eyes. And hardly had he done this than the blood stirred in her veins, rose into her pale face, and coloured it again. Then she drew breath, opened her eyes, and said, "Ah, God, where am I?" - "Thou art with me, dear wife," he answered, and told her how everything had happened, and how he had brought her back again to life. Then he gave her some wine and bread, and when she had regained her strength, he raised her up and they went to the door and knocked, and called so loudly that the sentries heard it, and told the King. The King came down himself and opened the door, and there he found both strong and well, and rejoiced with them that now all sorrow was over. The young King, however, took the three snake-leaves with him, gave them to a servant and said, "Keep them for me carefully, and carry them constantly about thee; who knows in what trouble they may yet be of service to us!"

A change had, however, taken place in his wife; after she had been restored to life, it seemed as if all love for her husband had gone out of her heart. After some time, when he wanted to make a voyage over the sea, to visit his old father, and they had gone on board a ship, she forgot the great love and fidelity which he had shown her, and which had been the means of rescuing her from death, and conceived a wicked inclination for the skipper. And once when the young King lay there asleep, she called in the skipper and seized the sleeper by the head, and the skipper took him by the feet, and thus they threw him down into the sea. When the shameful deed was done, she said, "Now let us return home, and say that he died on the way. I will extol and praise thee so to my father that he will marry me to thee, and make thee the heir to his crown." But the faithful servant who had seen all that they did, unseen by them, unfastened a little boat from the ship, got into it, sailed after his master, and let the traitors go on their way. He fished up the dead body, and by the help of the three snake-leaves which he carried about with him, and laid on the eyes and mouth, he fortunately brought the young King back to life.

They both rowed with all their strength day and night, and their little boat flew so swiftly that they reached the old King before the others did. He was astonished when he saw them come alone, and asked what had happened to them. When he learnt the wickedness of his daughter he said, "I cannot believe that she has behaved so ill, but the truth will soon come to light," and bade both go into a secret chamber and keep themselves hidden from every one. Soon afterwards the great ship came sailing in, and the godless woman appeared before her father with a troubled countenance. He said, "Why dost thou come back alone? Where is thy husband?" - "Ah, dear father," she replied, "I come home again in great grief; during the voyage, my husband became suddenly ill and died, and if the good skipper had not given me his help, it would have gone ill with me. He was present at his death, and can tell you all." The King said, "I will make the dead alive again," and opened the chamber, and bade the two come out. When the woman saw her husband, she was thunderstruck, and fell on her knees and begged for mercy. The King said, "There is no mercy. He was ready to die with thee and restored thee to life again, but thou hast murdered him in his sleep, and shalt receive the reward that thou deservest." Then she was placed with her accomplice in a ship which had been pierced with holes, and sent out to sea, where they soon sank amid the waves.




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