The king has been locked in the burial vault with his dead wife. He tries to stretch out his days. He eats his provisions slowly. Every day, a bite of bread, a sip of wine. We serpents hear him crying out in grief and pain as death draws near.

Then we devise a plan. My sister creeps out of a corner of the vault and approaches the king’s dead wife. The king draws his sword and hews the snake into three pieces. I wait for a little while, and then I slide out of the hole with three green leaves in my mouth. The king watches in wonder as I take the three pieces of my sister, lay them together, and place one of the leaves on each wound.

All at once the severed parts join themselves together, and my sister moves and becomes alive again. We hasten back to our hole, leaving the leaves for the king. We hope that he will see that he can use them to revive his wife.

The Healing Serpent in The Three Snake-Leaves, Grimms. Illustration by H.J. Ford.