Friday, November 5, 2010

Women who Become Snakes

Grimm’s Saga No. 224: Maiden of the Meadows

A boy from Auerbach near the Mountain Road tended his father’s cows on the narrow valley floor, from which one can see the ruins of the old castle. Suddenly he felt a soft hand stroking his cheek from behind. He turned around swiftly and saw a beautiful maiden standing before him. From head to toe she was dressed in white. She was just about to open her mouth to speak and address him. But the lad was terrified as if it were the devil himself and hastily retreated back to the village. But because his father had only one meadow, he had to tend the cows in the same field, whether he liked it or not. A long time passed and the youth had almost forgotten the apparition. But one warm summer’s day something rustled in the leaves and he saw a little snake creeping along. It carried a blue flower in its mouth and suddenly began to speak: “Listen, good youth. You can redeem me if you take this flower that I carry. It is the key to my little chamber high above in the castle. There you will find money and enormous riches.”

But the shepherd boy was frightened when he heard the snake speak and ran back home. And on one of the last days of autumn, he once more tended his cows in the meadow. A third time the apparition appeared, now in the form he had seen first, a white maiden. She brushed his cheek again with her hand and entreated him to redeem her; she would convey the means and the way to do this. But all her pleading was for naught because fear overcame the lad. He crossed and blessed himself and wanted nothing to do with the ghost. The maiden let out a deep sigh and said “Oh, that I placed my trust in you! Now I must sit and wait until a cherry tree grows in the meadow, from its wood a cradle shall be made. Only the babe that is first rocked in that cradle will be able to redeem me.” She then vanished and it is said that the youth never grew to become a man; how he died, I do not know.

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