Old Russian Folktale – In a certain land there was a King who had a dream and as he slept, he saw a fox hanging by the tail of the roof of the palace. When he awoke he remembered his dream and couldn’t get it out of his mind. At last he called his counselors asking if they could interpret the meaning of his dream. His advisers could not help him.
And as his recollection of the dream continued to bother him, he commanded that there be a great convocation in the city and that everyone in the Kingdom should attend. His hope was that someone wise enough would be able to help him with an answer.
The people began to assemble, one of those who came was a poor farmer named Ivan. On the way to the city he came to a rocky place where the trail narrowed. Lying in the center of the trail he saw a snake. Ivan passe, and as he did, the snake spoke to him, saying “Good day, where are you going?”
Ivan told him about the King’s dream and his command. But what is the use of it all, Ivan asked? How can I tell the King what his dream of the fox meant? There will be a reward for the man who gives the King the right answer, the snake said. Promise you will share the reward with me and I will tell you what the dream means. Ivan was galad and said certainly I will share it with you. Half will be yours and half shall be mine and in addition, I will be everlastingly grateful.
Then there is your answer said the snake. “The dream of the fox hanging from the palace roof means that there is cunning, deceit, and treachery in the kingdom”. The farmer thanked him and he went to the city. When it was his turn, he interpreted the dream as the snake had advised him. So pleased was the King, with the answer that he gave, that he gifted Ivan with money and valuable presents.
But when Ivan was ready to leave, he thought why should I give the snake anything? He returned to his village a different way so he wouldn’t run into the snake. Later, the King had another dream, he saw a sword hanging from the roof. He sent for Ivan to interpret his dream because Ivan was so wise.
Ivan was now afraid, for he knew he had no special talent for dream interpreting. He called for the snake… “Snake, come out for a moment, I must talk to you!” He kept calling and finally the snake came out of his hole. “What troubles you, what do you want of me?” the snake asked him? “The King had another dream about a sword hanging from the palace roof. What shall I tell him”? Ivan said.
“Tell the King the dream means enemies are plotting against him within the kingdom as well as outside the kingdom and he must prepare to defend the country” said the snake. Ivan thanked the snake and the snape said, for interpreting the dream will you give me half? Certainly said Ivan. Again the King was impressed and gave him more riches.
But on his way home, Ivan became angry at the thought of having to share his riches with the snake. He came to the place where the snake was waiting and the snake said: “Now give me the half which is mine.” “I’ll give you nothing but trouble” said Ivan and swung his sword at the snake who then went back to his hole.
Time had passed and the bloody war came as predicted, and the King’s army was victorious. Then the Kind had his third and last dream. This time he saw a sheep hanging from the roof. Again Ivan was sent for. And this time Ivan was worries and afraid, for “how can I go now to the snake for help? I have deceived it and wounded it with my weapon last time. But he had no choice, so he went down the same path and when he came to the rocky place, he called the snake until it came out.
i van told his problem and the snake answered, as before. “If you promise to give me half of your reward, I will give you the answer.” I will do it said Ivan. Then here is the answer to the Kings last dream. “The sheep hanging from the roof means that everywhere now, there is peace in the land, and that people are contented.” Ivan went on his way to the Kingdom and gave the King the snakes answer. He gave ivan more riches than before.
This time Ivan went the same route, and the snake was waiting. H gave half of his riches to the snake and said “You have been so patient with me, even through I have given you nothing. Here is half of what I received and when I get home I will give you the other half of what I promised from the previous dreams. Forgive me the way I acted and mistreated you.”
The snake listened and replied: “Do not feel too badly about what happened, it was not your fault. The first time if you remember the King’s dream of the fox, the land was full of deceit, hypocrisy and treachery. You too were a deceiver, for you went home by another road to avoid me. But you were simply one among many, and deceit was in the air.
The second time, if you remember, was the war, fights and assassinations. Cruelty was everywhere. You were only one of the many and your brutality in cutting off my tale was a brutality shared by everyone.
But now that peace hangs over us all, like everyone else, you are generous and just, and you share your gifts with me. Go, and may the peace remain in you, I have no need for your wealth, said the snake.
And the snake went away and disappeared into his hole.