Monday, November 18, 2013

The Prince Who Was Changed into a Snake: A Beauty and the Beast Tale from Cyprus

Time for another Beauty and the Beast tale, this time "The Prince Who Was Changed into a Snake" from Cyprus. There are papers and discussions in various places about the different forms the Beast takes in Beauty and the Beast tales. After working on Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World, I can readily say that one of the most common beast forms is of a snake, although the form is rare in the ATU 425C: Beauty and the Beaset tales where the form tends to be more ambiguous.

But there are many, many snake tales in the Animal Bridegroom group. Beyond the obvious phallic symbolism, it's not surprising that snakes are so common to these tales. After all, they are some of the most feared creatures on the planet. My brother-in-law has one of the strongest phobias of them I've ever witnessed but I don't know many people who care for them all that much even when they are not scared of them.

"The Prince Who Was Changed into a Snake" is a rare ATU 425C with a snake beast. It also has some interesting variations to the usual story, so I will share the final paragraphs of the tale.

“Put the ring on thy tongue and thou wilt find thyself on the bed in thy chamber.”

The girl lay down on the mattress, and put the ring on her tongue, and she was in her own chamber. Her servants, in passing, heard her breathing, and went and told her sisters, “Our mistress is in her chamber.”

The sisters hastened in and found her asleep, and they awoke her, and she got up. Then the maiden praised God when she found that she had come home to her father. When her father saw her, he began to ask her how it had happened, and what had become of the Snake. And she began to tell him what the Snake had said to her when she was eating bread, how he had sat on her knees and said, “Wilt thou take me for thy husband?” and how she had said, “I am afraid of thee!”

Then her father answered and said to her, “My daughter, tell him that thou wilt take him, and we shall see.”

Then the maiden resolved that she would say that. But her sisters advised her not to go back, so that he might die. The girl replied, “How could I leave my Beast to die, who have received such help from him?”

She remained with her father for as many days as she had leave, and then she rose, saluted her sisters and her father, laid down on her bed, put the ring in her mouth, and went back to the Snake. When the Snake saw her, he said, “Hast thou come, my Rose?”

When the coffee came for her to drink, the Snake lay down in her lap, and when he said, “Wilt thou take me for thy husband?” the girl replied, “I will take thee!”

His skin fell off, and he became a Prince, and the earth opened, and the whole world was seen within. Then the maiden began to ask him what manner of man he was, and how he had become a Snake. Then the Prince told her that he had loved an orphan, and she had laid him under a curse to become a Snake and never cast his skin until he should find a woman who would consent to marry him. Then he wrote a letter to tell his father-in-law and her sisters that she was going to be married. So her father came with her two sisters. But, as they dismounted in the porch, he turned them into two pillars. When their father and their sister saw it, they wept. But the Prince bade them not to weep, for, as they had deserved, so it had befallen them.

Then they were married, and he made his father-in-law his Vizier. And we will leave them well, and return and find them better—God be praised!

The tale was published in 1896 and collected in the 19th century by Lucy Mary Jane Garnett.

1 comment:

  1. It reminds me of the middle eastern tales with the father given the title of vizier.