One day when I was hunting, I came upon a strange sight. A python had wrapped himself around an antelope, and the antelope had stabbed the python in the neck and had pinned him to a tree. The antelope couldn’t get his horn out of the tree. They were both stuck.

Each of the unfortunate creatures pleaded for his life. The python won me over because he promised me a great reward. I killed the antelope, and in his death throes, he said: “The python will reward you but your reward will be your undoing!”

The python led me down a hole in the earth. It was just big enough for my body to fit through. He told me to hold onto his tail, and we traveled down, down, for days. We went deeper and deeper into the earth until we dropped into a beautiful country. The serpent changed into a king, and from the king I received my reward. “Ask for anything,” he said.

I asked for his magic mirror–the mirror called Sipao. I built a kingdom with that mirror, but the antelope was right. In the end, it undid me. It undid all my people.

Gopani-Kufa the King in The Magic Mirror, Orange Fairy Book. Illustration by H.J. Ford.

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