The Three Snake Leaves

I can honestly say that this week I feel like the world has gone a little bit crazy. The ease of lock down measures seem crazy – having to self isolate if I travel, but not until after the 8th June, I can have up to six people with me in my garden, but they can’t go in my house… and don’t get me started on the “go back to work if you can, but work from home because we would prefer that”. The guidance is shaky and leaving people in a state of confusion, going from “Stay Home” to “Stay Alert”…like I can see COVID ambling around in public areas, and I should just avoid it like an awkward relative at a wedding.

This story therefore felt quite apt, considering it seems to be a tale of playing with people’s lives and the premise of a miracle cure. It was documented in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm, but there are no clear indicators of where the story originated, but do keep in mind, this was the time when people were scared of grave robbers; along with multiple plagues running rife through Europe, so the basis of the story could have stemmed from these fears.

Once upon a time, there was a poor boy who decided to leave his family home as they were on the verge of destitution. He joined the military and worked his through the ranks and when a great war took place, which he achieve victory for the kingdom. The King, saw this and named the now young man, the second most powerful person in the kingdom.

The young man was invited to the palace to receive valour decorations, and attend a celebration in his honor. While there, he meets the King’s daughter, and falls madly in love with her. The young man speaks with the King, telling him that he wants to marry the Princess. The King agrees, but says that the young man should speak with the Princess first to ensure that he can comply with her wishes. The young man is a little confused, but goes to speak to the Princess. She proclaims to him, that she will only marry a man who will be willing to be buried with her if she dies first. The young man weighs this up, and considering his profession, feels it is quite likely that he will die first, so agrees to her conditions.

The couple marry straight away, and they live a blissful life for a few years. Then the Princess falls ill and dies. True to his word the young man enters the tomb with his dead wife. He is sat there waiting starvation, when he notices a snake heading towards the body of his wife. Taking his sword, he cuts the snake into three pieces. No sooner is the snake sliced up, but another snake appears holding three leaves in its mouth appears. The second snake places the leaves over the chopped up snake, and it magically heals; with that both slither away. The young man, sits in amazement for a moment, and then swiftly scoops up the leaves and places over his dead wife’s eyes and mother. She amazingly comes back to life. (We have all seen or at least read “Pet Sematary” though… we know where this is going).

The couple are let out of the tomb, and the whole kingdom rejoiced as they were so happy that the royal couple could continue their life. Unfortunately, the Princess did not come back as she was. She no longer loved the young man, and took a lover who happened to be a skipper.

The young man confided in his manservant about the leaves and asked him to look after them for him, and told him to use them should he ever need to.

The skipper and the Princess hatch a plan to take the young man on a trip to sea and kill him, as the Princess knew should would not be able to get out of the marriage without him being dead (sounds familiar… also loosely where “Over my dead body” comes from).

A few days later, the Princess tells the young man that they are going on a trip, they and a cohort of servants (including the manservant) head off on the boat. The Princess and the skipper, thinking they were on deck only with the young man, stab him and throw him overboard. Unbeknown to them, the young man’s servant was watching.

Releasing one of the “lifeboats” of the boat, the manservant goes and fishes the young man’s lifeless body out of the water. Quickly he placed the three leaves over the young man’s eyes and mouth and he is brought back to life.

The pair hurry back to the palace and tell the King what happened. When his daughter turns up hours later, he reveals that he knows what she did, and that the young man is still alive, and he sentences her and the skipper to death.

The treacherous couple are sent out on a sinking ship to meet their watery grave.

Now… there is a lot in here, and there are also some massive loop holes that I can see.

Firstly – if you are going to kill someone, why would you introduce the element where you could have a witness to the death, let alone many witnesses? Secondly, why didn’t the young man appear to change, even though the Princess did when she was bought back to life? Potentially this one is because he was supposed to be pure of heart and she wasn’t as she had this element of selfishness from wanting whoever married her to be buried alive with her. Lastly, I find it surprising that the King takes the side of the young man rather than his own daughter – that blows “blood is thicker than water” out of the spectrum doesn’t it?

Let’s think about the snakes briefly…snakes are synonymous with the devil, so what appears to be a blessing is actually a curse for the Princess, and it is far worse than her second death, but moreover that her father turns his back on her, taking the word of the young man – it echoes Adam and Eve and the poor men in this being led astray by evil women, with only the most powerful able to cast out the evil. I do find it really interesting how women are either true to gender stereotype in folklore/fairytale and when they aren’t they are put to death.

I would love to credit the artist for the feature picture to this article, but I just don’t know who did it – if this was you – please shout out so I can credit the amazing work that reflects this story so well.

What do you think of the “Three Snake Leaves”? Why not tell me in the comments? Like this post? Why not share it?

Want to see more of my own photography or artwork? Look for WidowCranky on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram or join the WidowCranky Facebook group to see art that inspires me.

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