The three snake-leaves


As três folhas da serpente

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.
Houve uma vez um pobre homem que não podia mais sustentar seu filho único. Este,
então, disse ao pai:
- Meu querido pai, vives tão miseravelmente e eu sou um peso para ti; quero, portanto, ir-me embora e tratar de ganhar o pão de cada dia.
O pai deu-lhe a benção, despedindo-se dele com grande tristeza.
Naquele tempo, o rei de importante reino estava na guerra; o jovem entrou ao seu serviço, acompanhando-o ao campo de luta. Quando chegaram à frente do inimigo, travou-se uma grande batalha; o perigo era assustador; o feijão azul (balas) caía de todos os lados e os companheiros eram terrivelmente dizimados. Tendo caído também o comandante, os outros tentaram fugir, mas o jovem postou-se à frente deles e incentivou-os, exclamando:
- Não deixaremos perecer nossa Pátria! Avante!
Os outros, então, seguiram-no; ele irrompeu contra o inimigo e derrotou-o. Quando o rei veio a saber que só a ele devia a vitória, elevou-o a grande dignidade, deu-lhe tesouros ingentes e nomeou-o primeiro-ministro de seu reino.
O rei tinha uma filha belíssima, mas muito esquisita. Ela havia jurado que só aceitaria por esposo e senhor quem lhe prometesse deixar-se enterrar vivo com ela, se acaso ela morresse primeiro.
- Se me amar realmente, - dizia ela - de que lhe servirá depois a vida?
Em compensação, prometia fazer o mesmo: Descer à sepultura junto com o marido se
ele morresse primeiro. Esse estranho juramento havia sempre desencorajado todos os pretendentes, mas o jovem, tão fascinado ficou com a beleza dela, que não deu
importância a tal esquisitice e pediu-a assim mesmo em casamento.
- Sabes, porém, o que deves prometer? - perguntou-lhe o rei.
- Sei, - respondeu o jovem - se eu lhe sobreviver, terei de descer com ela à sepultura; mas o meu amor é tão grande que o risco não me causa receio algum.
Assim, obtido o consentimento do rei, realizaram-se as núpcias com o máximo
esplendor. Durante algum tempo, viveram os jovens alegres e felizes. Entretanto, aconteceu que a rainha ficou gravemente enferma e nenhum médico conseguiu salvá-la.
Diante da falecida esposa, o jovem rei lembrou-se da promessa feita e ficou horrorizado por ter que se enterrar vivo, mas não tinha outra alternativa. O rei dera ordens para que todas as portas fossem vigiadas; assim não lhe era possível fugir ao próprio destino. Portanto, no dia em que o cadáver foi trasladado para a cripta real, o jovem foi obrigado a segui-lo. Uma vez lá dentro, fecharam e aferrolharam-lhe a porta.
Perto do ataúde havia uma mesa e, em cima dela, quatro velas acesas, quatro pães e quatro garrafas de vinho. Quando terminasse essa provisão, ele teria de morrer à míngua. Cheio de angústia e tremendamente acabrunhado, o jovem comia, diariamente, apenas um pedacinho do pão e, do vinho, tomava um golinho apenas. Via, contudo, a morte aproximar-se inevitavelmente. Enquanto se achava assim absorto, olhando para a frente, viu uma serpente sair rastejando do canto da cripta e avizinhar-se do cadáver. Julgando que fosse mordê-la, desembainhou a espada dizendo:
- Enquanto eu viver, ninguém lhe tocará - e cortou o réptil em três pedaços.
Nisso, apareceu uma segunda serpente, que vinha rastejando do canto da cripta mas, quando viu a companheira morta e em pedaços, retirou-se voltando logo com três folhas verdes na boca. Pegou os três pedaços da serpente morta, juntou-os direito e sobre cada um dos talhos colocou uma folha. Os pedaços uniram-se novamente, a serpente moveu-se e readquiriu a vida e, em seguida, fugiu com a companheira.
As folhas ficaram caídas no chão e o infeliz, que assistira àquilo tudo, perguntou a si próprio se o poder mágico que continham, tendo ressuscitado a serpente, não poderia aplicar-se também a um ser humano? Recolheu então as folhas, colocou uma sobre a boca e as outras duas sobre os olhos da esposa falecida. Mal acabou de colocá-las, o sangue voltou a circular nas veias, afluindo-lhe ao rosto, dando-lhe natural colorido. Ela respirou, abriu os olhos e perguntou:
- Oh, Deus meu, onde estou?
- Estás comigo, minha querida mulher - respondeu o jovem.
Em seguida, contou-lhe todo o sucedido e a maneira pela qual havia ressuscitado. Depois, deu-lhe um pedaço de pão e um pouco de vinho; assim que ela se reanimou, levantou-se e ambos foram bater à porta, esmurrando-a e gritando tão alto que os guardas ouviram e correram a avisar o rei. Este, em pessoa, desceu à cripta e abriu a porta, encontrando os dois vivos, sadios e viçosos como nunca; radiantes de alegria, abraçaram-se felizes por terem superado aqueles tormentos.
O jovem rei levou consigo as três folhas e deu-as ao seu criado dizendo:
- Guarda-as com cuidado e traze-as sempre contigo; quem sabe lá as circunstâncias que podem vir e se elas ainda servirão a alguém!
Depois de ressuscitada, porém, a mulher mudara completamente; parecia que de seu coração se tivesse desvanescido todo o amor pelo marido. Este, decorrido algum tempo, quis fazer uma visita ao velho pai; ao embarcarem no navio que os levaria, a rainha esqueceu o grande amor e a dedicação que ele sempre lhe demonstrara, a ponto de tê-la salvo da morte e passou a nutrir uma paixão pecaminosa pelo comandante do navio.
Certo dia, enquanto o rei estava dormindo, chamou o comandante e mandou que pegasse o marido pelos pés, enquanto ela segurava-o pela cabeça e atiraram-no ao mar. Consumado o crime, disse ela:
- Agora voltaremos para casa. Diremos que ele morreu durante a viagem. Eu te exaltarei perante meu pai e tais elogios farei que ele consentirá em nosso casamento. Assim ficarás sendo tu o herdeiro da coroa.
Mas o fiel criado, que tudo presenciara, foi, sem ser visto, destacar um bote salva- vidas e desceu ao mar. Entrou nele e foi vagando à procura de seu amo, deixando os traidores prosseguirem tranqüilamente a viagem. Assim que conseguiu pescar o cadáver, colocou-lhe nos olhos e na boca as três folhas verdes que trazia consigo, as quais lhe restituíram a vida.
Juntos, então, puseram-se a remar dia e noite, com todas as forças e o bote voava por sobre as ondas com tamanha velocidade, que chegaram antes dos outros à presença do rei. Este, vendo-os regressar sozinhos, muito se admirou e perguntou qual o motivo. Ao ter conhecimento da crueldade da filha, exclamou:
- Custa-me crer que tenha agido assim cruelmente, porém, a verdade logo virá à luz.
Mandou que entrassem num quarto secreto e ficassem ocultos de todos. Não tardou muito e chegou o navio. A pérfida rainha apresentou-se ao pai muito aflita. Ele perguntou-lhe então:
- Por que voltas sozinha? Onde está teu marido?
- Ah, meu querido pai - respondeu ela - volto em grande luto; meu marido adoeceu repentinamente durante a viagem e faleceu. Se este bom comandante não me socorresse, não sei o que teria sido de mim. Ele assistiu-lhe a morte e pode contar tudo.
- Eu vou fazer ressuscitar o morto - disse o rei.
Abriu a porta do quarto secreto e fez sair os dois. Ao ver o marido, a rainha recebeu um choque tão grande como se lhe tivesse caído um raio aos pés. Prostrou-se de joelhos implorando perdão, mas o rei gritou-lhe:
- Para ti não pode haver perdão! Ele mostrou-se pronto a morrer contigo; restituiu-te
a vida e tu o assassinaste enquanto dormia. Deves, pois, receber o justo castigo.
Conduziram-na, juntamente com o cúmplice, para um navio que fazia água e os
lançaram ao mar, onde, não tardou muito, foram a pique e se afogaram.

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