Monday, 19 September 2011

A Sad Story About A Greedy Child And A Snake

The Snake Charmer - Henri Rousseau

There once was a child whose mother gave her a bowl of milk and bread every afternoon. Each afternoon the mother warned the child not to go too far from the house and to beware of strangers with sweet voices, whose siren song might lure her astray.

The child took the bowl into the deepest part of the garden, where she sat down in the shade of an old oak tree and spooned her bread and milk, before she fell asleep, leaning against the broad tree trunk. Sometimes, she didn't finish her treat and left a little milk in the bowl, but when she woke up, the milk had gone.

This happened so often that the child became curious. She decided to find out who was drinking her milk. On one particular afternoon she came out as usual with her bowl, but this time she left a much bigger drink, put the bowl down and pretended to fall asleep. Keeping very still, she peeked from under  the very end of her lashes and by and by she saw a beautiful white snake slithering towards the bowl, lifting its sleekly elegant head and dipping a delicate tongue into the milk. 

"Ha, caught you, you thief", cried the child, and grabbed the snake's head. "Steal my milk, would you? I'll teach you to rob me, my mother warned me against creatures such as you." The child was about to smash the snake's head with a stone when it spoke.

"If you grant me life, you shall have all the treasures of the earth you desire", the snake sang, "every day I shall return and bring you silver trinkets and golden chains, pearls and bright stones and all the toys my kind can fashion in the halls under the roots of the oak".

The child didn't trust the snake. After all, didn't snakes have a reputation for being false?

"Swear that you will keep your word and I shall let you live", the child said. The snake did.

Every afternoon from then on the child and the snake met at the bottom of the oak tree and exchanged gifts, milk for the snake and ever more precious and wondrous treasures from the halls beneath the roots of the oak for the child. Soon the child had amassed a large hoard, which she kept secret from her mother. Hadn't her mother always warned her against taking gifts from strangers?

And once again the child became curious. If the snake could bring her a gift each time and promised to continue to do so for as long as the child would come to meet it by the oak tree, how much more was there hidden under the roots?

The next time they met she said to the snake:  "This is getting very boring, one little gift every time. Bring me more gifts,  many at a time, or I shall stop being kind to you; I'll probably not even bother to come out and you can go and get your milk elsewhere."

Now the snake had known all along that the child would become greedy. Snakes know these things instinctively. It had a plan all worked out.

"If you want more gifts, why don't you come with me into the halls underneath the roots",  the snake sang,  "then you can see for yourself what there is and you may choose whatever you want to take."

The child hardly hesitated at all. It had got used to the snake, the snake had kept its promise, they had spent many a pleasant afternoon playing and eating bread and milk in the shade of the ancient oak tree. Blinded by the promise of untold riches the child followed the snake where it led.



  1. Friko, enjoyed it. It follows therefore the girl would have faced some misfortune. The end purposely left untold. Great story!


  2. A wonderful tale, a true 'fairy tale'.

    Though I have to insist the poor snake has an undeserved reputation. An ancient symbol of wisdom pre-dating Christianity which needed to turn it evil to discredit the culture it was trying to supplant. A fine honored tradition of conquerors throughout time. You must not only conquer the people but also the belief system.

  3. I believe Ive met that snake. Mmmm-hummmm.

  4. A lovely story. These are my favorite kinds of stories to be told, though I do wish it went on and on and on.
    Given that I agree completely with Ellen Abbot's truer version of the snake, I would end the story by saying the little girl followed the snake out of the land of greed into her interior world of potential wisdom (as symbolized by the snake) and grew into a kind, compassionate and generous woman.

  5. Now there's a tale worthy of one of my nightmares!
    Well done.

  6. you are such a talent.

    a fairy tale, snakes are magicians or angels who can offer wealth.

    interesting take, enjoyed your creative spirits.

  7. Once again greed leads to a complete loss of caution. Well done! Jim

  8. Let me guess... the kid came back with a Playstation IV and snake skin sneakers!

  9. "Snakes know these things instinctively"! Lovely line!

  10. Another fable worthy of the Brothers
    Grimm, Friko. This one really holds
    our interest, even though we sense
    or see the danger approaching. Like
    all good fairy tales, it teaches a
    lesson. The whimsey that you conjure
    up with your incredible string of
    fairy tales is boffo, but your darkness,
    your twist ending, often humorous,
    sometimes tragic, are the pay off.
    Fine job.

  11. yikes...scary indeed the deep that greed will get us into...very nicely spun tale friko...

  12. Such a great fairy tale ... you are so talented!

  13. You had me hooked on every word - please continue!! Though slithery things no matter their personality are my least favorite things on earth. I don't know what it says about me, but if I had been that little girl, one encounter with that creature would have sent me out of those woods forever.

  14. Bonza fairy tale about greed and the trouble people can get into by following the sneaky snakes of this world :-).

  15. Lovely parable story, and the prose style suits the subject admirably. Well done.

  16. Human nature is so obvious to everyone except the child - and the patience of the snake is exactly its own nature! A beautiful tale and illustration, it's nonetheless depressing that humans are so predictable!!

  17. A tale of greed well told.

    Anna :o]

  18. and thus ends the story ... beautifully told with the inevitable ending the reader's choice

    something from your own garden Friko?

  19. Another priceless tale, beautifully crafted.

    And Mr. Charleston, I had to laugh at your portrayal of the modern child's ending!

  20. Superb short fiction,end was left to readers' imagination and I was trying to come with what could have happened...where did the snake take her..
    I also found it poetic...
    Excellent write!

  21. Greed got us down this hole. What will get us out?!

  22. Yes, we are our own worst enemies. Good story, good fable about how wanting to have things only makes us want more. Sort of like sugar: once you taste it, you want more.

  23. So often in Douanier Rousseau there's some wonderfully subversive element - I can't find one here, but then maybe the whole painting is about the original subversion. Or have I missed something?

  24. Wow, this one is scary. Now we know what really happened to Eve. Still I have to admire the wily snake a bit. Is that dangerous? Dianne

  25. Dear Friko, This ffable enticed me into thinking of just what lay below that tree within the ground. I'm wondering if the child did come to a sticky end or if she became the queen of the snakes and ruled supreme or if the snake taught her somehow the destructive power of greed.

    So, you have left us, as all good fable writers do to draw our own conclusion. However, the way you think and write so attracts me that I'm wondering, Friko, what your ending would be.


  26. Oh the inevitability of the human condition in its quest for more, more, more.
    Beautifully told Friko!

  27. Very good story, Friko. It has the feeling of a folk tale, but I like the way you leave the end to the reader's imagination.

  28. Perhaps it was a python .
    It would be rather appropriate if such a greedy little girl were swallowed whole !

  29. Rousseau painted the most beautiful, mysterious things, so evocative. What a cool story you have written to match the image.

    The child has a blacker heart than the snake.

  30. Nicely told tale, classic. The girl should have listened to her mother.

  31. See, this is the type of "fairytale" I like. UnDisneyfied ... a bit dark and teaches a valuable lesson. She got what she deserved! Very enjoyable.

  32. A tale worthy of Aesop or Grimm...

  33. Magpie with a moral ... love it!

  34. I've always liked the King Cobra myself. Life does throw integrity into turmoil...but still, silly girl. ~Mary

  35. Good story, Friko! Of course, my sympathies are entirely with the snake.

  36. Rousseau has such an engaging strangeness to his work. Oh that Sleeping Gypsy! (sorry to be conventional, but it is I recall in the Phila Museum of Art that I haunted as a dreamy adolescent...

    Your tale is truly archetypical and SO well realized. Wonderfully, powerfully simple! "The halls beneath the roots of the oak" powerful!

    As you can see on my link on your hospitable blogroll I am in a strange new world of my own. more of a Princess' tower...Thanks for your support. I think that's called 'friendship.'
    Warmly, with Aloha from Waikiki;

    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >


  37. Friko, I love the way that you've told this tale, and also admire many of the comments from readers who've been entranced a bit.

    Little girls, gardens, afternoons, milk, bread, and ... a wise snake, who loves milk.

    Is the snake a symbol or a snake. It the bread and milk a symbol or bread and milk. What lies under that tree, besides an afternoon dream from which one wishes to wake.

    Or is that snake teaching the child that what comes after childhood will be a bit more complicated.

    Oh Friko, I think I have told you a time or two before how your posts do get my mind activated.

    And yet again, I thank you! xo

  38. As an adult, I find the tale chilling, but can imagine my daughter savoring every bit and peppering the storyteller with questions. I think I shall read this one to her, as well.

    Thank you.

  39. beware of strangers with sweet voices...this child better had listened...nice how you approach the topic of greed with your charming tale friko

  40. A tale of grooming before the final molest.

  41. ah, Deine Fantasie...! Wundervoll!
    Dir einen sehr schönen sonnigen Tag, liebe Friko!

  42. Oh beware of greed, it can cloud your judgement. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale.

  43. I have just seen pictures of the greedy MP, crying all the way through her court hearing. Shame: if only she had read your story.......


  44. I love your stories, Friko! This one led me on so hypnotically and then, when it suddenly ended without any suggestion of what happened to this greedy child in the great halls below that huge old oak, I became greedy, too! I want to know more!

  45. That is the most ominous "the end" I've ever read.

  46. An excellent fable, Friko. No danger for the child for the snake was no stranger to her. How gullible we are.

  47. Grand tale.....I'm on the snake's side....!

  48. you are such a good story teller
    another hit


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.