Story Time: The Language of Animals

Story Time: The Language of Animals

collected by Brothers Grimm

Once upon a time, there once lived a king whose wisdom was so great that the whole land depended on his judgements. Nothing remained long unknown to him. It appeared as if intelligence of the most carefully concealed event was carried to him through the air. It was the custom of this king each day at noon when dinner had been removed and no one else was present for a trustworthy servant to bring in a large bowl which was always covered up. Neither the servant nor anyone else knew what it contained, for the king never took off the cover to eat of the contents until he was quite alone. This had continued for a long time, but there came a day when the curiosity of the servant was too strong to overcome.

After removing the dish from the king's table, the supposedly trustworthy servant took it to his own room. After carefully locking the door, he lifted up the cover on the bowl and saw, to his surprise, a white snake lying at full length in the dish. The moment he caught sight of it, he was overcome with the desire to taste of it, and so he cut off a little piece and ate of it.

Immediately, he heard outside his window the strange whisperings of soft voices. He went and listened. He found there outside his window two sparrows who were talking to each other, relating all that they had seen in the woods and fields. The little piece of snake which he had so enjoyed had given him the power to understand the language of animals!

Unfortunately, on that same day, the queen had lost one of her beautiful rings. Because the trustworthy servant had the most access to the rooms in which she had left it, she believed him to have stolen it. The king sent for the servant and, with harsh and angry words, told him that he should be brought to justice and punished for a deed which until that moment he had not known of. It was of no use for him to protest his innocence, for the king refused to listen. In his sorrow and distress of mind, he went out into the court behind the castle and tried to think of some means by which he might remedy the situation.

Before him, two ducks swam side by side on the smooth surface of the lake. They groomed their shining feathers with their smooth bills while they held a very confidential conversation. The servant stood still to listen and heard them talking of where they had been waddling and of the good food they had found.

"Ah, yes," said one to the other, "but some of it lies very heavy on my stomach. I think it must be that ring which lay under the queen's window. In my hurry to eat, I dare say I swallowed it."

The servant heard this and was quick to seize the duck by the neck. He then took the duck into the castle kitchen and said to the cook, "Kill this duck for dinner, will you? It is quite fat."

"Yes, I see it is," replied the cook, taking the duck in hand. "I shall not have the trouble of fattening this one or waiting until it is ready." Then the cook put an end to the poor duck's life and, on opening it to prepare for roasting, found the queen's ring in its stomach.

The servant was overjoyed when he saw the ring and was able to easily prove his innocence to the king. The king was thus very anxious to make amends for having unjustly accused him. The king not only gave the servant his friendship but also promised him whatever high position in the court he wished. The servant thus accepted an office in which he could have a horse and money to travel, for he had a great desire to see the world and visit the different places of which he had heard. All his requests were granted, and he very speedily set out on his travels.

At the end of a few days, he came to a pond in which he saw three fish which had been caught by the rushes along the bank and were gasping for want of water. Although people say that fish are dumb, the servant understood the complaining tones well enough to know that, without help, the fish would quickly perish. He sympathized from his heart with their suffering. So, he alighted from his horse, and, rescuing the little fish from the rushes, placed them again in the water. They wriggled about with joy, and one of them stretched out his head and cried, "We will always think of thee, and thou wilt be rewarded for having saved us."

We will always think of thee, and thou wilt be rewarded for having saved us.

The servant rode away. However, soon after, a voice spoke from beneath his feet, and he understood the words of the ant-king mourning over the danger to his community. "These human beings ride by on awkward animals without the least thought. Here's a stupid horse coming along!" he said. "No doubt, with his heavy hooves, he will tread down our people mercilessly!"

But the rider turned his horse aside, and the ant-king cried out, "I will often think of thee, and thou shalt be rewarded!"

I will often think of thee, and thou shalt be rewarded.

The servant thus continued on until he reached a wood. There he saw two ravens, a father and a mother, and heard them say as they stood by their nest, "Go along with you! We cannot feed you anymore! You are fat enough and must now provide for yourselves!" And then the old birds threw the young ones out of the nest.

The poor little birds lay on the ground, fluttering and beating little wings, and crying, "Oh, we poor, helpless children! We have to provide for ourselves, and we cannot even fly! There is nothing left for us but to die of hunger!"

And so the servant dismounted, killed his horse with his dagger, and left it there for the young ravens to feed on. They hopped upon it and began to feast themselves, crying out, "We will always think of thee, and thou shalt be rewarded!"

We will always think of thee, and thou shalt be rewarded.

Because he had killed the horse, the servant was thus obligated to continue his journey on foot. He walked a long distance until at last he came to a large town. There was a great noise in the streets from crowds of people as a man on horseback rode through, proclaiming that the daughter of a different king was seeking a spouse. However, any man who became candidate for her hand must first perform completely a very difficult task. If the candidate undertook this task but did not complete it, his life would be forfeit.

The former servant at first had no desire to become a suitor to this princess and undertake such a risky endeavor. But then, he saw the princess and how beautiful she was and, quite dazzled, promised to perform any task she wished.

He was admitted by the king as her suitor and thus sailed very soon after on a voyage to enable him to accomplish the undertaking she required. One day, as he was seated on deck, he saw a gold ring fall before him as if thrown by a hand. He took great care of it and, on his return, gave it to the king. At once, the king ordered him to throw the ring back into the sea and dive after it, adding, "Every time you come up without it, you shall be thrust back into the waves until they overwhelm you."

Everyone pitied the former servant who was required to perform such a difficult task. He went back to the sea and, while standing mournfully on the shore, he saw three fish swimming about, and they were none other than those whose lives he had saved in the reeds! One of them held a mussel in its mouth and swam to shore to lay it on the strand at the young man's feet. The former servant took up the mussel and opened it, and there lay the gold ring! Full of joy, he carried it to the king, expecting to be granted the reward promised to him.

But the proud princess said, disdainfully, that she understood her suitor was not so well-born as herself, and therefore he must have another difficult task to perform before she could consent to marry him. So she went out herself into the garden and scattered ten sacks full of grain on the grass. Then, she called her lover and showed him what she had done, saying, "These grains must all be separated from the grass before the sun rises tomorrow morning. Not the smallest grain must be overlooked."

She left him after these words, and the poor young man seated himself in the garden and thought that for him to perform such a task as this would be impossible. So, he sat still in sorrowful expectation that the break of day would be the hour of his death. But when the first sunbeam fell in the garden, he saw with surprise the ten sacks of grain standing quite full near each other, not the smallest grain left  behind in the grass. The ant-king had arrived during the night with thousands from his ant kingdom, and the grateful creatures had with great industry picked up every tiny grain and filled the sacks.

At sunrise, the princess came herself into the garden and saw with wonder that the young man had in every way performed the impossible task. But she could not even now conquer the pride of her heart, and therefore said, "It is true he has accomplished two difficult tasks, but I require one more. He shall be my husband when he brings me an apple from the Tree of Life."

The young man who was formerly a servant knew not where this wonderful tree grew, but he was determined to make an effort to find it. So, he set out to walk as far as his legs could carry him, but he had very little hope of success. He had traveled day after day through three kingdoms without success when, one evening, he wandered into a wood. Feeling very tired, he laid himself down under a tree to rest. Soon, in the branches, he heard a chattering of birds in a nest, and a golden apple fell down into his hand. Immediately, three young ravens flew down to him, perched themselves on his knee, and said, "We are the three young ravens which you saved from being starved to death with hunger. As soon as we were grown large and strong enough to fly, we took out flight to distant countries, and heard that you were in search of a golden apple. So we have travelled over the sea, even to the end of the world, where the Tree of Life grows and have brought away an apple for you."

Full of joy, the young man forgot his fatigue. He returned quickly and placed before the beautiful princess that golden apple. Now her pride dissolved, and they ate of the apple together. They were soon after married, and lived in uninterrupted happiness to a good old age.

Spell to Return Kindness

by Jessica Pape-Green

You will need: a gold-colored ring (It doesn't actually to be real gold), a handful of grain, a gold-colored apple charm (Again, doesn't have to be real gold, but does have to be small.), a small pouch.

When I was helpless, you rescued me.
I will always think of thee, and thou will be rewarded.

On reciting this line, place the ring inside the pouch.

When I was defenseless, you kept me safe.
I will always think of thee, and thou will be rewarded.

On reciting this line, place the handful of grain inside the pouch.

When I was starving, you kept me fed.
I will always think of thee, and thou will be rewarded.

On reciting this line, place the apple charm inside the pouch.

From this point, you may charge the pouch with energy, use a closing line like "so mote it be" (if that's your thing), involve deities, put a sigil on the pouch, or whatever else is essential or unique to your practice.

Finish up by tying the pouch tightly and present it to the person intended to be charmed at the soonest opportunity. It may act as a luck charm, if that's how you intend to repay them, or a charmed reminder that a witch is indebted to them. It is absolutely essential that you have the consent of the recipient for this kind of spell; it defeats the whole purpose if you are charming someone against their will. That is absolutely no way to repay a debt.

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