Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources by A. H. Wratislaw
The White Snake
LIX. The White Snake
ONCE upon a time snakes multiplied so prodigiously in the district of Osojani (Ossiach), that every place swarmed with them. The peasants in that district were in evil case. The snakes crept into the parlours, the churches, the dairies, and the beds. People had not even quiet at table, for the hungry snakes made their way into the dish. But the greatest terror was caused by a frightfully large white snake, which was several times seen attacking the cattle at Ososcica (Görlitz Alpe). The peasants did not know how to help themselves; they instituted processions, and went on pilgrimages, that God might please to remove that terrible scourge from them. But neither did that help them.
When the poor people were in the greatest distress, and knew not how to act to rid themselves of this plague, one day an unknown man came into the district, who promised to put an end to every one of the snakes, provided they could assure him that they had seen no great white snake. 'We have not seen one at all,' was the reply of some of the number that had collected round the stranger.
Then he caused a great pile to be constructed round a tall fir, and when he had climbed to the top of the fir, he ordered them to set the whole pile on fire on all sides, and afterwards to run quickly aside.
When the flame had risen on all sides against the tall fir, the unknown man took a bone pipe out of his pocket, and began to blow it so powerfully that everybody's ears tingled. Quickly up rushed and crowded from all quarters a vast number of snakes, lizards, and salamanders to the pile, and, driven by some strange force, all sprang into the fire and perished there. But all at once a mightier and shriller hiss was heard from Ososcica, so that all present were seized with fear and dread. The man on the fir, at hearing it, trembled with terror: 'Woe is me! there is no help for me!' so said he. 'I have heard a white snake hiss; why did you thus mislead me? But be so compassionate as not to forget every year to give alms to the poor on my behalf.'
Scarcely had the poor man uttered these words, when a terrible snake wound its way up with a great noise, like a furious torrent, over the sharp rocks, and plunged into the lake, so that the foam flew up. It soon swam to the other side of the lake, and, all exasperated, rushed to the burning pile, reared itself up against the fir, and pushed the poor man into the fire. The snake itself struggled and hissed terribly in the fire, but the strong fire soon overpowered it.
Thus perished, along with the whole lizard race, the monstrous snake which had done so much harm to the cattle. The peasants were again able without fear to carry on their occupations, and the shepherds at Ososcica to pasture their cattle without anxiety. The grateful people have not up to the present time forgotten the promise of their ancestors, and every year on that selfsame day distribute gifts of corn to the poor.
The text came from:
Wratislaw, A. H. Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Company, 1890.