GOETHE'S FAIRY TALE.
THE GREEN SNAKE AND THE BEAUTIFUL LILY.
with the labours of the day, an old Ferryman lay asleep in his hut,
on the bank of a wide river, in flood from heavy rains. In the middle
of the night he was awakened by a loud cry, — he listened —
it seemed the call of belated travellers wishing to be ferried over.
the door, he was astonished to see two Will-o'-the-Wisps dancing round
his boat, which was still secured to its moorings. With human voices,
they declared they were in a great hurry, and must be taken instantly
across the river. Without losing a moment, the old Ferryman pushed off
and rowed across with his usual skill. During the passage the strangers
whispered together in an unknown language, and several times burst into
loud laughter, whilst they amused themselves with dancing upon the sides
and seats of the boat, and cutting fantastic capers at the bottom.
boat reels,” cried the old man; “if you are so restless,
it may upset. Sit down, you Will-o'-the-Wisps.”
into laughter at this command, ridiculed the boatman, and became more
troublesome than ever. But he bore their annoyance patiently, and they
reached the opposite bank.
is something for your trouble,” said the passengers, shaking
themselves, and a number of glittering gold pieces fell into the boat.
“What are you doing?” cried the old man, “bad luck if
a single piece of gold falls into the water! The river hates gold, and
would swallow both me and my boat. Who can say even what might happen
to you? I pray you take back your gold.”
can take nothing back, which we have once shaken from us,” answered
one of them. “Then,” replied the old boatman, “I must
take it ashore and bury it,” and he stooped and collected the gold
in his cap.
Will-o'-the-Wisps had in the meantime leaped out of the boat, and
seeing this the old man cried, “Pay me my fare.”
man who refuses gold must work for nothing,” answered the
Will-o'-the-Wisps. “But you shall not go,” replied the
Ferryman defiantly, “until you have given me three cauliflowers,
three artichokes, and three large onions.”
Will-o'-the-Wisps were in the act of running off with a laugh, when they
felt themselves in some strange way fixed to the earth; they had never
experienced such a sensation. They then promised to pay the demand
without delay, upon which the Ferryman released them and instantly
pushed off in his boat.
already gone some distance when they called after him, “Old man!
listen, we have forgotten something important”; but he did not
hear them and continued his course. When he had reached a point lower
down, on the same side of the river, he came to some rocks inaccesible
to the water, and proceeded to bury the dangerous gold. Into a deep
cleft between two rocks, he threw the gold, and returned to his dwelling.
This cleft was inhabited by a beautiful green snake, who was awakened
from her sleep by the sound of the falling money. At the very first
appearance of the glittering coins, she devoured them greedily, then
searched about carefully in hopes of finding such other coins as might
have fallen accidentally amongst the briers, or between the fissures
of the rocks.
immediately experienced the most delightful sensations, and perceived
with joy that she had become suddenly shining and transparent. She had
long known that this change was possible, but wondering whether she
would be bright for ever, curiosity drove her to leave her dwelling
and find out, if possible, who had sent the beautiful gold. She found
no one; but she became lost in admiration of herself, and of the brilliant
light which illumined her path through the thick underwood, and shed
its rays over the surrounding green. The leaves of the trees glittered
like emeralds, and the flowers shone with wondrous hues. In vain did
she penetrate the lonely wilderness, but hope dawned when she reached
the plains, and saw, some way off, a light resembling her own. “Have
I at last discovered my fellow?” she exclaimed, and hurried
to the spot. Swamp and morass were no hindrance to her; for though the
dry meadow and the high rock were her dearest habitations, and though
she loved to feed upon juicy roots, and quench her thirst with the dew
and with fresh water from the spring, yet for the sake of her beloved
gold and of her glorious light, she would face any privation.
and exhausted, she finally reached the confines of a wide mo