Fairy Tale: Beauty and the Basilisk
You are probably familiar with some classic European fairy tales, perhaps from Disney films or from books you read when you were little. One of the amazing things about fairy tales is how they exist in so many different versions, so that when you read a fairy tale it will seem both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. This Czech fairy tale, for example, will probably remind you of The Beauty and the Beast. Except that this time, the beast is a basilisk.
Story source: The Key of Gold by Josef Baudis (1922).
The Three Roses
ONCE upon a time there was a mother who had three daughters. There was to be a market in the next town, and she said she would go to it. She asked the daughters what she should bring them back. Two of them named a great number of things; she must buy all of them, they said. You know the sort of women, and the sort of things they would want.
Well, when they had asked for more than enough, the mother asked the third daughter: "And you, don't you want anything?"
"No, I don't want anything, but, if you like, you can bring me three roses, please."
If she wanted no more than that, her mother was ready to bring them.
When the mother knew all she wanted, she went off to market. She bought all she could, piled it all on her back, and started for home. But she was overtaken by nightfall, and the poor mother completely lost her way and could go no farther. She wandered through the forest till she was quite worn out, and at last she came to a palace, though she had never before heard of any palace there.
There was a large garden full of roses, so beautiful that no painter alive could paint them, and all the roses were smiling at her. So she remembered her youngest daughter, who had wished for just such roses. She had forgotten it entirely till then. Surely that was because she was so old! Now she thought: "There are plenty of roses here, so I will take these three."
So she went into the garden and took the roses. At once a basilisk came and demanded her daughter in exchange for the roses.
The mother was terrified and wanted to throw the flowers away. But the basilisk said that wouldn't be any use, and he threatened to tear her to pieces. So she had to promise him her daughter. There was no help for it, and so she went home.
She took the three roses to her daughter and said: "Here are the roses, but I had to pay dearly for them. You must go to yonder castle in payment for them, and I don't even know whether you will ever come back."
But Mary seemed as though she didn't mind at all, and she said she would go. So the mother took her to the castle. There was everything she wanted there.
Soon the basilisk appeared and told Mary that she must nurse him in her lap for three hours every day. There was no way out, do it she must, and so the basilisk came and she nursed him for three hours. Then he went out, but he came next day and the day after that. On the third day, he brought a sword and told poor Mary to cut his head off.
She protested that she wasn't used to doing things like that, and do it she could not. But the basilisk said in a rage that, if that was so, he would tear her to pieces.
As there was no choice, she went up to him and cut his head off. And as the basilisk's head rolled on the ground, there came forth from his body a long serpent, hissing horribly. He asked her to cut his head off again. Mary did not hesitate this time, but cut his head off at once.
The serpent (by the way, he held the golden keys of that palace in his mouth) was immediately changed into a beautiful youth, and he said in a pleasant voice: "This castle belongs to me, and, as you have delivered me, there is no help for it: I must marry you."
So there was a great wedding, the castle was full of their attendants, and they all had to play and dance.