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The Woodcutter and the Snake

The Woodcutter and the Snake

From Persian Folk Tales

Folk tales are usually short stories that contain wisdom and exhortations.  In traditional Middle Eastern societies these stories have been handed down from one generation to another.  Many of them have been recorded in old books that go back centuries.  The following story is one such folk tale with some imaginative additions.

The Woodcutter and the Snake 

Karim set off into the forest for his usual daily work of collecting firewood.  He was a kind and generous man who also enjoyed the wisdom of old age.  After an afternoon of hard work he sat down for his lunch when he saw a snake coming towards him.  The snake crawled beside him.  The old man could have easily ended the snake’s life, but seeing no harm in that particular snake he opted to share his food with him instead.  He had heard that bread and salt are a favourite of snakes.  Having both in his supplies he parted with a loaf of bread with salt sprinkled on it.

     After having shared a meal the snake went into the forest and the woodcutter went about his business.  A short while later the snake returned with three gold coins.  “You have done me a favour without wanting anything in return or caring about who I am.  These three gold coins are my gift to you for your kindness,” said the snake.

     The snake and the woodcutter became friends and from then onwards the woodcutter would always come into the forest share a loaf of bread and salt with the snake and collect three gold coins.  The snake’s gratuitous gifts had a favourable impact on the woodcutter’s life.  The woodcutter now had become wealthier and enjoyed more of life’s luxuries.

     Time passed and the woodcutter decided to make a pilgrimage.  Not forgetting his friend, he told his son, “Everyday I have been going into the forest to collect firewood.  While there I met a snake with whom I share my lunch.  In return he gives me three gold coins.  These coins have contributed to our present situation and the change in our life.  You must also do the same everyday for I do not want to disappoint my friend with what he likes and I want our present situation to continue.”

     The woodcutter gave specific instructions to his son to go into the forest for collecting firewood, then at lunchtime give a loaf of bread and salt to his friend the snake and collect the three gold coins the snake gives him.  The son agreed and the woodcutter left on his trip.

     The next day the woodcutter’s son left for the forest.  After collecting some wood for some time he sat down to eat his lunch.  The snake as usual came and crawled up next to the woodcutter’s son.  The son gave him a loaf of bread with salt and the snake went into the forest to bring him the three gold coins.  At that moment the woodcutter’s son thought to himself, “My father is a fool.  Why should I waste my time everyday and collect wood then give this snake a piece of his bread and collect only three gold coins?  I will simply follow the snake into the forest and kill him.  Then I will collect all his gold coins.  I and my father would no longer need to cut wood for a living and we could just use the gold coins to establish a profitable business for ourselves.

     The son followed the snake to his lair and with an axe high above his head prepared to cut the snake’s head when he comes out, oblivious to the fact that the snake had noticed him.  The snake had suspected that the woodcutter’s son had sinister intentions when he followed him to his lair.  Instead of going into the lair he had hidden on the side.  From the side of his lair he called out to the woodcutter’s son, “Why would you do such a thing?”

     The son missed no opportunity to strike at the snake.  Being prepared for the attack the snake jumped to the side and the woodcutter’s son managed to only cut a piece of his tale.  The snake knowing that his life was in danger jumped at the woodcutter’s son and bit his leg.  Since the snake was of the poisonous kind, the son died almost immediately from the bite.

     On his return the woodcutter realized what had happened.  The woodcutter, while aggrieved over his son’s death, nevertheless went about his daily work of collecting wood in the forest.  When it came time for lunch the snake approached him with a pot of gold coins.  He put it in front of the woodcutter and said, “This is when we go our separate ways for whenever I look at you I am reminded of my cut tale and whenever you see me you are reminded of your lost son.”

Copyright © 2010 Fatima Zahra Charitable Association. All rights reserved.


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Copyright © Fatima Zahra Charitable Association. All rights reserved.