从前有个穷人，穷得连自己的儿子都养不活。 儿子便对他说："好爸爸，我们现在的日子过得太糟了，而我又是你的一个负担。我现在想离开家，看能不能挣到饭吃。"父亲祝福了他，然后悲痛欲绝地送他出了家门。 这时候，一个强大帝国的国王正和人打仗，于是他便参加了国王的部队，上前线去打仗。 他到达前线时正好赶上激烈的战斗，而且情况非常危急，他的战友们纷纷倒在敌人的弹雨中。 当指挥官也牺牲时，剩下的人打算逃跑，可是这位年轻人站出来大着胆子对他们叫道："我们决不能让自己的祖国灭亡！"于是其他人跟在他的后面，在他的带领下打败了敌人。 当国王得知这场胜利全靠他一个人时，就把他提升到最高的位置，给了他许多财富，使他一下子成了全国最显赫的人物。
国王有一个女儿，虽长得非常美丽，脾气却非常古怪，她只答应嫁给一个保证在她死后愿意被活埋在她身边的人。 "如果这个人真心实意地爱我，"她说，"我死了之后他活着还有什么用？"反过来，她也是一样。 如果她丈夫先死，她愿意和他一起被埋进坟墓。 她这古怪的誓言吓得人一直不敢向她求婚，可是这位年轻人被公主的美貌迷住了，不顾一切地请求国王把女儿嫁给他。 "你知道你要作出什么样的承诺吗？"国王问。 "要是我活得比她长，就得为她做陪葬，"他回答，"可是我非常爱她，根本不在乎这种危险。"国王于是便答应了，他们举行了盛大的婚礼。
这对年轻人幸福美满地生活了一段时间，妻子便突然得了重病，医生们没有一个能治好她。 她死了之后，年轻的丈夫想起了自己的诺言，知道自己得活生生地被关在坟墓里，不由得惊恐万状，可也没有什么别的办法。 国王在王宫的各个大门口都派了岗哨，所以他根本不可能逃避这厄运。 安葬尸体的那一天，他也被带进了王室的陵墓，然后墓门就被关上了，而且还上了插销。
棺材旁有张桌子，上面放着四支蜡烛、四条面包和四瓶酒。 等这些东西消耗完后，他就会饿死。 他万分痛苦、万分伤心地坐在那里，每天只吃一丁点面包，只喝一口酒 ，可死神还是一天天地在向他逼近。 正当他出神地坐在那里时，他看到一条蛇从墓穴的角落里钻了出来，向死尸爬去。 他以为蛇是去咬她的肉，便拔出宝剑说："只要我还活着，你就休想碰她一下。"说完就把蛇砍成了三段。 过了一会儿，又一条蛇从洞里爬了出来。 当它看到第一条蛇被砍成了三段，已经死了，它便爬了回去。 可不一会儿它又爬了出来，嘴里衔着三片绿色的叶子。 然后，它把死蛇的三段拼在一起，在每一处伤口上盖上一片叶子。 顷刻之间，那条断蛇的的几个部分又长在了一起。 蛇动了几下便活了过来，然后和第二条蛇一起逃走了，而那三片叶子却留在了地上。 这位目睹了这一切的不幸青年突然产生了一个想法：不知道这些把死蛇重新救活的叶子的魔力能不能把人也救活。 于是，他捡起叶子，在他亡妻的嘴上放了一片，又把另外两片放在她的眼睛上。 他刚把叶子放好，血液便开始在她的血管里流动，慢慢涌上了她苍白的脸颊，使它重新变得绯红。 接着，她吸了口气，睁开眼睛，说："啊，上帝，我这是在哪里呀？""你和我在一起，亲爱的妻子，"他回答，然后把所发生的一切，以及他救活她的经过告诉了她。 他给她喝了点酒，又给她吃了点面包。 等她重新恢复精力后，他扶她站起来走到墓门口，又是敲门又是叫喊。 卫兵们听到后便去报告国王。 国王亲自来打开墓门，发现他俩健康而富有活力，不禁为悲伤的事情终于结束而欣喜万分。 年轻人把那三片蛇叶带了出来，把它们交给一个侍从，说："给我小心保管好，要时刻带在身边。天知道我们还会遇到什么麻烦呢？说不定我们还用得着它们呢！"
可他的妻子发生了变化，她死而复生之后好像完全失去了对丈夫的爱。 过了一段时间，年轻人想过海去看看他的老父亲。 他们上船之后，她就忘记了她丈夫对她所表现出的深深的爱和忠诚，也忘记了他对她的救命之恩，可恶地迷上了船长。 一天，当年轻人睡着时，她叫来船长，自己抱住丈夫的头，船长抓住他的脚，两个人一起把他扔进了大海。 干完了这可耻的勾当之后，她说："我们现在回去，就说他死在路上了。我会在我父亲的面前大大地夸奖你，赞扬你，使他同意把我嫁给你，并且让你做王位的继承人。"可是那位忠心耿耿的侍从在暗中目睹了一切。 他从大船上解下一只小船，坐上去寻找他的主人，不再管那两个坏家伙驶向哪里。 他从水里捞起年轻人的尸体，把身上带着的三片蛇叶分别放在他的眼睛和嘴巴上，幸运地救活了他。
他俩日夜奋力地划船，小船行驶如飞，结果他们比其他人先回到老国王的王宫。 老国王看到他俩独自回来自然感到很惊讶，便问发生了什么事。 他听说自己女儿的可恶行径后说："我不相信她会干出这样卑鄙的事情，但是很快就会真相大白的。"他命令他俩躲进一间密室，不要让任何人看见。 不久，大船驶了回来，那个不知羞耻的女人满脸愁容地来见父亲。 老国王问："你怎么独自回来了？你丈夫呢？""唉，亲爱的父亲，"她回答，"我的心都要碎了。我丈夫在途中突然得病死了，要不是这位好心的船长帮助我，我就惨喽！我丈夫死的时候他也在场，他可以把一切告诉你。"国王说："我要让死去的人复活！"说着就打开了密室，叫那主仆二人出来。 那女人一看见自己的丈夫，就像被雷打了一样跪了下去，请求饶恕。 国王说："绝不能饶恕！他愿意和你一起去死，而且把你救活，可你却趁他睡着时害死他，你是罪有应得。"接着，她和她的帮凶被放在一条凿了洞的船上。 船被推到海上，很快就在汹涌的浪涛中沉没了。
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.