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The Jewel in the Serpent’s Crown

About Kathakali Mukherjee

Kathakali Mukherjee, born 1971, was a student of Sanskrit – Epigraphy and ancient Indian history. But her interest in language and literary studies led her learning another couple of European languages as well.
She worked for media libraries in Kolkata; also spent several years as technical translator, process and team manager with German and Indian software companies in Bangalore. Currently staying in Gurugram or Kolkata, she is engaged with reading and writing.
Apart from experimenting with short stories, she works on literary translation of fable and fairy tales as well as historical fictions. She is exploring the treasure trove left by esteemed Bengali and German authors between 18th-19th centuries these days.
She writes poems during her busy days when time does not permit her to sit at the writing desk.
Her blog: https://medium.com/@KathakaliM and https://www.indiblogger.in/kathakalim
Her self-published works:
"You and me" is a collection of poems https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01NCSMHK9/
And her effort of translating a selection of articles from Lokrahasya “Secrets of the Humankind – Satiric Articles by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay,”: https://pothi.com/pothi/book/ebook-kathakali-mukherjee-secrets-humankind

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Prologue :

One stingy farmer had employed a beautiful maid. She was kind and pious. In the cow-shed of that peasant lived a beautiful snake. It wore a small golden crown on its head. At times people living in the village could hear mesmerizing songs at night; none knew that the crowned snake had an amazing voice. It sang even better than the birds.

Part 1

The loyal maid loved the cattle above all. Hence whenever she entered the cow-shed, milked the cows, gave the fodder, or scattered, she did everything with great care. As she worked, the snake, which was as white as a white mouse, crept out from its hole in the wall and gazed at the busy maid with its intelligent eyes. She felt as if the snake wanted something from her, and the compassionate girl habitually poured some warm milk in a small saucer and placed it before the serpent. The queen of the serpents drank it with gratification, turning her head towards the maid once in a while and her tiny crown glittered like a diamond or carbuncle in that quiet dark cow-shed.

The good maid was happy with the white serpent, realizing that her master’s cows began giving more milk ever since she had been offering milk. Moreover, the cows appeared healthier and gave birth to beautiful calves. She had reason to be happy.

One day the farmer entered the cow-shed at a time when the serpent was licking the milk given by the maid. He shouted at the maid. “You good for nothing maid! This is the way you do good and that too good for your master! You should be ashamed of allowing a poisonous worm in the cow-shed. You are feeding it instead! Don’t you know it sucks the udders of the cows at night? Who has ever seen such a dumb act? You must be an ugly witch doing some satanic magic along with this devil’s worm!”

The poor maid understood nothing of the irrationally harsh rebukes she faced. Tears welled up in her eyes. Yet the farmer had nothing to do with her tears. He screamed and cursed her more and more in full rage forgetting all about the loyalty and diligence of the maid, and continued ranting wild. “Get out! I am telling you to get out of my house! And right now! I don’t need serpents as boarder here. I don’t need milk-thieves and witch-maids! You will have to pack right now – pack your stuffs quick! Do not show up again once you go out of the village. I will drag you to the village-head’s office otherwise to lock you up – you understand, witch?”

The rudely rebuked maid came out of the cow-shed crying, went to her room and packed her cloths in a small bundle. Stepping out of the house, she walked across the courtyard. She heard her favorite cow mooing inside the cow-shed – her heart whimpered in pain. The farmer had left the shed in the meantime. She did get a chance to step inside the cow-shed once more – this time to say good-bye silently in tearful eyes. In fact her kind of faithful servants those days loved livestock owned by masters as if they were their own. They took care of the animal more out of love than for the meager wage they earned.

Standing inside the cow-shed, the maid cried her heart out, caressed each of the cows while her favourite one licked her hand once last time; also the crowned snake crept out. The maid bid adieu to it, “Goodbye poor serpent! None will be here to feed you any longer.”

The serpent raised a little to lay its head in her hand, and the jewel in its crown suddenly fell on her hand. Before she could look at what she had in her hand, the snake too slipped out of the cow-shed for the first time ever. That was the sign of its leaving the home where none would care to give it a drop of milk. The maid hid the jewel in her hair and left that home to walk her way without knowing how rich she has been. She did not have an idea how powerful the serpent’s jewel was. In reality, possessing the jewel meant having all kinds of happiness in the world, being loved and honoured by everyone. One who had the jewel was supposed to spend to a joyous life altogether.

Part 2

The banished and grieving maid stepped outside the outside the village – she met a rich sheriff’s son. The sheriff passed away not long ago, and his son being the most beautiful boy of the area was the most eligible bachelor. As soon as he saw her walking on the road, he fell in love with her. He assumed that she had left her job. Greeting her, he asked where she was going leaving the job. The maid told him in detail what had happened. He told her to meet his mother – only she would have to say that he sent her.

The maid met the old widow of the sheriff and did as the sheriff’s son had instructed her. The lady immediately took good confidence in her. She decided to keep her in her mansion only looking at her once.

Servant and maids of the rich farmers in the neighborhood were invited for dinner in their home. When they arrived in the evening, the newcomer had to say the prayer at the table. As she began chanting, the prayer sounded like flowing from the lips of some holy angel. Everyone was moved by her song; she won the heart of everyone present there. At the end of dinner, the devout maid had to recite the prayer once again. The servants left the room after that but the rich sheriff’s son took the poor maid before his mother, holding her hand, said, “Mother, bless us! I would like to take her as my wife, or none. She is the person who attracted me.”

“She intrigued all of us.” – replied the lady, “She is so beautiful, humble and so pious as well as unblemished. I bless both of you in the name of God and accept her as my daughter.” The poor maid became the richest lady of the village; also the most fortunate one while everyone around loved and honored her for her charity.

On the other side regression started for the farmer who had been so annoyed with wasting a few droplets of milk for the sake of the snake. Once he had driven out the most loyal maid out of the house; but the jewel in the snake’s crown which took all his luck away. He had to sell all his cattle, then his fields and finally the house along with the farm. But who purchased all his properties? Everything was sold to the rich sheriff’s son; and his wife took care of her favored cows – now being the owner. She decorated the cow-sheds with green twigs, caressed the cattle, let them lick her hands, milk them and fed them with own hands.

One day she was busy in her cow-shed – the white snake which brought her fortune once, appeared there out of the blue. The delighted young lady caressed the snake and took out the small crown, which she wore in her hair. She said, “So nice of you that you came to me again! Now you will have fresh milk every day, as much as you can drink. You should also wear your crown once again.”

The white serpent took the crown again. It started staying in the cow-shed of the young lady. Peace and happiness reigned there forever by the grace of God.

Notes from author :

*Cinderella is most popular but not the only example of a deprived girls winning fortune by marriage with a prince. In fact many European folktales evolve around this theme. We see many girls beaten by step-mothers or masters (while slavery was a norm in medieval Europe) becoming the most sought-after love of the most eligible bachelor of the region. That way the story expresses common medieval Europe’s idea of a pious girl’s winning fortune by her good deeds, obviously with supernatural help. But the interesting character here is the snake – same like the snake of Manasa the Indian snake-goddess, she stays at home and drinks milk offered by the pious housewife. Also note the rich farmer’s accusing the snake for drinking milk from his cow’s udder. I remember some India folktale also having same reference of snake’s milk drinking habit like this. Hope readers too would remember some and let me know 🙂

One stingy farmer had employed a beautiful maid. She was kind and pious. In the cow-shed of that peasant lived a beautiful snake. It wore a small golden crown on its head. At times people living in the village could hear mesmerizing songs at night; none knew that the crowned snake had an amazing voice. It sang even better than the birds.

The loyal maid loved the cattle above all. Hence whenever she entered the cow-shed, milked the cows, gave the fodder, or scattered, she did everything with great care. As she worked, the snake, which was as white as a white mouse, crept out from its hole in the wall and gazed at the busy maid with its intelligent eyes. She felt as if the snake wanted something from her, and the compassionate girl habitually poured some warm milk in a small saucer and placed it before the serpent. The queen of the serpents drank it with gratification, turning her head towards the maid once in a while and her tiny crown glittered like a diamond or carbuncle in that quiet dark cow-shed.

The good maid was happy with the white serpent, realizing that her master’s cows began giving more milk ever since she had been offering milk. Moreover, the cows appeared healthier and gave birth to beautiful calves. She had reason to be happy.

One day the farmer entered the cow-shed at a time when the serpent was licking the milk given by the maid. He shouted at the maid. “You good for nothing maid! This is the way you do good and that too good for your master! You should be ashamed of allowing a poisonous worm in the cow-shed. You are feeding it instead! Don’t you know it sucks the udders of the cows at night? Who has ever seen such a dumb act? You must be an ugly witch doing some satanic magic along with this devil’s worm!”

The poor maid understood nothing of the irrationally harsh rebukes she faced. Tears welled up in her eyes. Yet the farmer had nothing to do with her tears. He screamed and cursed her more and more in full rage forgetting all about the loyalty and diligence of the maid, and continued ranting wild. “Get out! I am telling you to get out of my house! And right now! I don’t need serpents as boarder here. I don’t need milk-thieves and witch-maids! You will have to pack right now – pack your stuffs quick! Do not show up again once you go out of the village. I will drag you to the village-head’s office otherwise to lock you up – you understand, witch?”

The rudely rebuked maid came out of the cow-shed crying, went to her room and packed her cloths in a small bundle. Stepping out of the house, she walked across the courtyard. She heard her favorite cow mooing inside the cow-shed – her heart whimpered in pain. The farmer had left the shed in the meantime. She did get a chance to step inside the cow-shed once more – this time to say good-bye silently in tearful eyes. In fact her kind of faithful servants those days loved livestock owned by masters as if they were their own. They took care of the animal more out of love than for the meager wage they earned.

Standing inside the cow-shed, the maid cried her heart out, caressed each of the cows while her favourite one licked her hand once last time; also the crowned snake crept out. The maid bid adieu to it, “Goodbye poor serpent! None will be here to feed you any longer.”

The serpent raised a little to lay its head in her hand, and the jewel in its crown suddenly fell on her hand. Before she could look at what she had in her hand, the snake too slipped out of the cow-shed for the first time ever. That was the sign of its leaving the home where none would care to give it a drop of milk. The maid hid the jewel in her hair and left that home to walk her way without knowing how rich she has been. She did not have an idea how powerful the serpent’s jewel was. In reality, possessing the jewel meant having all kinds of happiness in the world, being loved and honoured by everyone. One who had the jewel was supposed to spend to a joyous life altogether.

To Be Continued in Part 2….

The banished and grieving maid stepped outside the outside the village – she met a rich sheriff’s son. The sheriff passed away not long ago, and his son being the most beautiful boy of the area was the most eligible bachelor. As soon as he saw her walking on the road, he fell in love with her. He assumed that she had left her job. Greeting her, he asked where she was going leaving the job. The maid told him in detail what had happened. He told her to meet his mother – only she would have to say that he sent her.

The maid met the old widow of the sheriff and did as the sheriff’s son had instructed her. The lady immediately took good confidence in her. She decided to keep her in her mansion only looking at her once.

Servant and maids of the rich farmers in the neighborhood were invited for dinner in their home. When they arrived in the evening, the newcomer had to say the prayer at the table. As she began chanting, the prayer sounded like flowing from the lips of some holy angel. Everyone was moved by her song; she won the heart of everyone present there. At the end of dinner, the devout maid had to recite the prayer once again. The servants left the room after that but the rich sheriff’s son took the poor maid before his mother, holding her hand, said, “Mother, bless us! I would like to take her as my wife, or none. She is the person who attracted me.”

“She intrigued all of us.” – replied the lady, “She is so beautiful, humble and so pious as well as unblemished. I bless both of you in the name of God and accept her as my daughter.” The poor maid became the richest lady of the village; also the most fortunate one while everyone around loved and honored her for her charity.

On the other side regression started for the farmer who had been so annoyed with wasting a few droplets of milk for the sake of the snake. Once he had driven out the most loyal maid out of the house; but the jewel in the snake’s crown which took all his luck away. He had to sell all his cattle, then his fields and finally the house along with the farm. But who purchased all his properties? Everything was sold to the rich sheriff’s son; and his wife took care of her favored cows – now being the owner. She decorated the cow-sheds with green twigs, caressed the cattle, let them lick her hands, milk them and fed them with own hands.

One day she was busy in her cow-shed – the white snake which brought her fortune once, appeared there out of the blue. The delighted young lady caressed the snake and took out the small crown, which she wore in her hair. She said, “So nice of you that you came to me again! Now you will have fresh milk every day, as much as you can drink. You should also wear your crown once again.”

The white serpent took the crown again. It started staying in the cow-shed of the young lady. Peace and happiness reigned there forever by the grace of God.

Notes from author :

*Cinderella is most popular but not the only example of a deprived girls winning fortune by marriage with a prince. In fact many European folktales evolve around this theme. We see many girls beaten by step-mothers or masters (while slavery was a norm in medieval Europe) becoming the most sought-after love of the most eligible bachelor of the region. That way the story expresses common medieval Europe’s idea of a pious girl’s winning fortune by her good deeds, obviously with supernatural help. But the interesting character here is the snake – same like the snake of Manasa the Indian snake-goddess, she stays at home and drinks milk offered by the pious housewife. Also note the rich farmer’s accusing the snake for drinking milk from his cow’s udder. I remember some India folktale also having same reference of snake’s milk drinking habit like this. Hope readers too would remember some and let me know 🙂

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1 Response Comment

  • Aparna Mondal18/05/2019 at 12:36 PM

    I always love the folktales. You have narrated the story very well .Loved to read it . I would love to read more of your stories!

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