The Green Serpent French folktale

There was once on a time a queen who gave birth to little twin girls. She at once sent out invitations to twelve fairies in the neighbouring countries to come to the feast for it was a great advantage to have fairies as guests.

When the twelve fairies were all gathered in the great hall where the feast was to be held, they took their seats at the table - a very big table it was. And just then entered the wicked fairy Magotine!

The queen had not sent this fairy an invitation. But now she found a beautiful soft seat for her, and all the other fairies moved up and made room for Magotine to seat herself, saying, "Hurry up, sister, and make your wish for the little princesses, and then come and sit down."

Magotine said rudely that she might as well eat standing. "If you had wished to see me here," she retorted, "you would have sent me an invitation, as you did to my sisters here."

All her sister fairies begged her to seat herself with them, and she did so, although she growled furiously between her teeth: "Madam, I came simply to see if you had thought of me, and find that you had forgotten me altogether."

And with this she gave a tap with her wand on the table, and hissed viciously. The other fairies quitted the table. But while they were leaving the table Magotine made her way to the room where the little princesses were sound asleep. The other fairies followed her. Magotine stopped beside the cot, and, taking out her wand quickly, she touched one of the little princesses, saying at the same time, "I wish that you become the most ugly person that it would be possible to find."

Then she turned to the other little princess; but, before she could do anything further, the other fairies took a great pan full of vitriol and threw it at the wicked Magotine. But before it reached her, she disappeared.

The queen then went over to the cot and took out the little princess that Magotine had wished to be so ugly; and the child became uglier and uglier while she watched.

The good fairies discussed how they could lighten this great sorrow, so they turned to the queen and said, "Madam, it is not possible to undo the evil that Magotine has put on your child, but we will wish something that will help to balance that evil." And then they told the queen that one day her daughter would be extremely happy. With this the fairies left, carrying the beautiful presents the queen had given them.

The queen called her ugly daughter Oletlie and the charming, beautiful daughter Diana. When Oletlie was twelve years old, she went to her parents and begged them to let her to go and shut herself up in a castle far away. They still had Diana, she said.

After a long while her parents gave in, and Oletlie went away to a castle where the sea came right up to the window on one side, a forest on the other side. Her parents saw to it that she did not lack servants and supplies there.

The little princess played musical instruments and had a sweet voice. Two years went by fast, but then she began to feel homesick and wished to see her parents again; so she started on the journey home at once, and arrived just as her twin sister was going to be wed.

Now as soon as they saw Oletlie, they told her she was not to come to the marriage feast, nor to the ball afterwards. Oletlie said she had come to see her father and mother, but that she would leave again, just as they wished.

The king and queen were sorry that they had been so unkind, and asked Oletlie to remain two or three days; but Oletlie had been so offended that she refused. She turned away, took her faithful nurse with her back to the other castle, and never spoke a single word on the way.

One day, when Oletlie was walking in a very shaded valley in the forest, she saw on a tree a big green serpent who lifted his head and said to her, "Oletlie, you are not the only unhappy person. Look at my horrible form. I was born more beautiful than you."

The princess was so terrified to hear a serpent talk that she fled away and remained in her room for days. But in the end she got tired of being shut up in her room all day alone, so one evening she came down and went to the edge of the sea, wailing all the time. Then suddenly she saw coming towards her over the waves a little barque of a thousand different colours and designs on its sides.

The princess got very curious to see what was inside the barque, and made her way aboard. Then, all of a sudden, the barque turned and went out to sea. The princess ran up and caught hold of the oars, thinking to get back to her castle; but it was no use: she could do nothing at all. On and on went the barque.

"Magotine is doing me a bad turn again," she thought, "just after I was looking forward to a little pleasure in seeing my parents some days ago!"

She looked around, and there came a flashing green serpent swimming towards her in the sunlit waves. He came up to the side of the barque and said, "If you are willing to get help from a green serpent, then tell me, for I can save your life."

The princess cried, "Never show yourself to me again!"

The green serpent sighed deeply. Then he dived to the bottom of the sea.

The princess said to herself. "That he should save my life. And why should he speak like a human being?"

Suddenly a voice replied to her thoughts, and it said, "Listen, Oletlie, it is not my fault that I am a green serpent. But I am less ugly than you anyway. But I would comfort you if you would let me!"

The voice sounded sweet, although it was hissing. "I am hurt and weep over how ugly I look. I have so little to live for."

While she was complaining the little barque ran into a rock in sea. When all else had sunk, only two little pieces of wood remained. The princess caught hold of them and kept herself afloat. Then her feet touched a rock and she scrambled up on to it.

But who was coming towards her now? It was the green serpent! As if he knew that she was afraid, he moved away a little, and said, "What advantages can be had through me! But I seem only to frighten you."

And with this he threw himself back into the sea, and Oletlie remained alone on the rock. It was getting dark, she had no food to eat, and did not know where to sleep. She crept higher and higher up the rock and looked out over the sea until it was dark. After a long time she fell asleep. While she was sleeping she dreamt that she heard melodious music, and a voice singing to her. When the song was ended, she woke up and opened her eyes very carefully, for she was full of fear - and saw she was lyking on a good bed in a nice chamber. She did not know how she had got there, but got up and went out on to the wide balcony outside her chamber and saw gardens everywhere around. Outside the gardens was a green forest. Beyond the forest was a calm sea.

"Where am I?" wondered Oletlie. Then she stopped, for she heard noices from the room she had left. She went back there and found a deputy of the owner of the place. "It will be a pleasure to serve you, madam," the deputy said. "Everything you want we shall bring you, if we can, so as to make you happy."

Servants began to dance and sing and play on castanets and tambourines. When they had finished, the deputy repeated, "We are here to serve you, princess, and get you what we can."

He went on to ask her if she would now like her bath in a little grotto. The princess walked to the place he pointed to, and there she saw two bathing places. They told her that one was for her and the other for the owner of the place.

"But where is he?" asked Oletlie.

"Madam," they said, "right now he is at the war, but you shall see him when he comes back."

The princess asked if he was married, and said he was not. Oletlie then undressed and got into the bath, and when she was ready to come out of her bath, she got a dress of enjoyable colours.

The princess was astounded. As days went by, servants came to her and told her about what was happening in the world around.

One night she could not sleep, and lay awake, thinking. At last she said, "There is something missing."

"Ah, princess," said a voice, "is it not possible to stay in this palace forever, with someone you love, without ever wishing to leave it?"

"Who is speaking to me now?" she asked. "It is the owner of the palace, and he loves you, madam."

"Me?" replied the princess. "I who look so ugly?"


The princess did not speak again that night.

One night in winter Oletlie was asleep. On waking up, she felt that someone sat near her bed in the pitch dark. The princess put out her hand to feel, but somebody took her hand and kissed it, and in so doing let teardrops fall on it. She understood that it must be the owner of the place, although she had never seen him.

He said, "That wicked Magotine who changed you so cruelly, did the same to me. I must remain in this shape for seven years. Five have already gone by. You could lessen the sufferings of the remaining two years by marrying me."

Oletlie thought that this invisible sire was very sweet, and in the end she made up her mind to marry him without seeing how he looked like, since that was what he desired.

Then the voice said, "The consequences will be bad for us both if your curiosity should overcome you."

The princess promised to keep her word to him. But after a while she had a deep desire to see her father and mother again; also her sister and her husband. The deputyknew the road well, and led her to the castle of Oletlie's father and mother; and she felt happy.

Her mother and sister questioned Oletlie about her husband, and Oletlie remembered what her husband had told her. She told them that he did not like seeing people.

Her mother said, "Your husband is a huge monster, I suspect."

"What a terrible mistake!" screamed her sister Diana.

The princess became so confused and upset that when she was back in their own castle, she wanted to see her husband. She brought a little lamp to their bedrom, hid it and lit it when her husband slept. She saw he was the green serpent and screamed.

Now the wicked fairy Magotine appeared at once and with one wave of her wand, took away the castle, fountains and gardens. "Ah!" sighed the serpent for his wife's broken promise.

Magotine screamed furiously, "Now then, green serpent," said she, "you are to go right to my sister Proserpine, and serve her."

The green serpent went at once with great sighs, while Oletlie cried.

Magotine said to her, "I will send you to the bottom of the sea so that you won't be too happy." So saying, she took the princess to the top of the highest mountain and tied a millstone about her neck, telling her that she was to go down and bring up enough Discretion Water to fill up her great big glass, and showed the glass to the princess. The princess thought it was impossible to carry all that water.

"If you don't," said Magotine, "the green serpent will suffer more."

The threat made the ugly-looking girl walk about and look and call for Prosperine one of the good fairies, until one day the good fairy suddenly stood there by her side. She took the ugly-looking girl to the top of the mountain, gave her a little carriage drawn by two white mice and told them to go down the mountain. Then she gave the little mice a vessel to fill up with the Discretion Water for Magotine, and gave Oletlie a little pair of iron shoes to put on. She advised her not to remain on the mountain and not to stay by the fountain, but to go into a little wood and stay there for three years, for then Magotine would think that she was either toiling to get the water or that she had perished.

Oletlie thanked and kissed the good fairy for her great favours. "But, still I am grieving for not having my green serpent."

"He will come to you after you have been three years in the wood in the mountain," said the fairy, "and when you return from there you can give the water to Magotine."

Oletlie said she would not forget anything the good fairy had told her. So, when she got into her carriage, the mice took her to get the water, and afterwards they went to the wood that the fairy had told them about. It was a lovely place, and all the animals there could speak.

Three years passed, until one day Oletlie with tear-wet eyes told the animals that she was sorry to leave them. She did not forget the vessel full of Discretion Water or the little shoes of iron that the good fairy had given her. And just when Magotine thought her dead, there she was with the vessel full of water in her hand.

Magotine cried out in surprise. Where had she come from?

"Madam," said Oletlie, "I passed three years to get this water for you."

Magotine roared with laughter when she thought of the awful job this poor girl-queen must have had to get it; but then she noticed something: "What is it that I see?" she cried to Oletlie, who had changed greatly. "How did you become so nice?"

Oletlie told her that she had washed herself in the Discretion Water. That was how she had become beautiful. Magotine, on hearing this, threw the water on the ground. She snarled, "Go down to the bottomless pit and ask Proserpine to give you the Essence of Long Life for me, for I am always afraid of falling ill and of dying. When you have done this, you will be free. But don't upset anyone or drink the tiniest drop of that essence.

Oletlie began to cry, and Magotine was delighted to see it. "Go on, get away!" said she."

Oletlie walked for a long time without finding the right path, but suddenly she saw the good fairy, Prosperine, who said to her: "I know how things went and what you must do. Here is a branch of a tree: touch the earth and repeat this verse distinctly."

The queen gratefully kissed the good and generous fairy, and at the same time repeated after her:

if devoured I am to be,
He's a monster - he!"
And at once a little boy came up to them. He said, "I liked that song a lot." Then a a path opened up, the boy took Oletlie with him to somewhere deep underneath the surface of a mountain. She halfway expected to see her husband in the form of a serpent down there, but no, he had a handsome figure. The queen said:

"Even in hell I'll love him,
For a long time to come."
Her husband - for he it was - kissed her much. Then the boy took her to Proserpine. Oletlie asked her for the Essence of Long Life. The boy handed it to her, telling her not to forget what her curiosity had cost her, and to take every care this time. He led them to the fairy Magotine, and hid for a while so that Magotine should not see him.

This time the fairy Magotine at last welcomed the couple with some feeling of generosity. She gave them back the lovely palace with all the good things that they had before. So they went home, and soon found great joy in being with each other.