TABULATION OF FOLKTALES. 53
Title of Story.—The White Snake.
Dramatis PersonSB. — King. — Servant. — White snake. — Sparrows, — Queen. — Ducks. — Cook. — Three fishes. — Ant-king. — Two old and three young ravens. — King's daughter.
Abstract of Story. — (l) A king, famed for his wisdom and knowledge of all secret things, has this si range custom. Every day after dinner, M'hen no one else is present, he requires his trusty servant to bring him a special dish. Not even this servant knows what it contains, for the king never removes cover till he is quite alone. After a time servant is overcome by curiosity; carries dish into his own room, locks door, and removing cover discloses a white snake. Cuts off a piece to taste, and straightway hearing sparrows chatter- ing together, he knc^t^s what they say, for he now understands language of all animals. — (2) This very day queen chances to lose a beautiful ring. Sus- picion falls on trusty servant, who is to be executed as guilty should he fail to find the thief before the morrow. In great tribulation he wanders into courtyard to consider means of escape. He listens to the ducks telling each other how they had fared during morning, and one complains of the dis- comfort he suffers from having in his haste swallowed a ring which lay out- side queen's window. Servant at once seizes that fine fat duck and gives her to cook to roast. He cuts off her head and finds queen's ring inside her. — (3) To make amends for wrong done to innocent servant, king promises to grant any favour, even to foremost place at court. Servant only asks a horse and money to enable him to see the world. His request is granted, and having set out he comes to a pond where three fishes are caught in the reeds and gasping for water. He hears their lament that they must untimely perish, dismounts and puts them back in water. Quivering with delight they promise to remember and repay his kindness. — (4) He rides on, and presently hears a voice from the sand at his- feet. It is the ant-king com- plaining because folks with their clumsy beasts tread down his people with- out mercy. He turns his horse aside, whereat the ant-king cries, " We will remember you; one good turn deserves another." — (5) He now enters a wood and sees two old ravens throwing young ones from the nest, saying they must henceforth provide food for themselves. Young ravens lie on the ground bewailing their helplessness and dreading starvation. Youth alights, kills his horse, and gives it them for iood. Young ravens satisfy their hunger and promise to recompense their benefactor. — (6) He travels now on foot, and at length reaches a large city, where there is great commotion because a man rides forth proclaiming that king's daughter wants a husband ; but every suitor must perform a hard task or forfeit his life if he fail. Many have attempted in vain ; but youth is overcome by great beauty of princess, and