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358 THE ADDER.
be included our ogre, and also the German unke, which means a ‘frog’ or ‘toad, but originally a “snake'—especially the little house-snake which plays a large part in Teutonic folklore, and was supposed to bring good luck." This euphemistic variantis, however, the only exception I can find to the baleful branches into which the root ah has grown through the world; one of its of fearful fruits being the accompanying figure, copied from one of the ornamental bosses of - Wells Cathedral. Fig. 25.-ANGUIsh. The Adder demonhas been universal. Herodotus relates that from a monster, halfwoman, half-serpent, sprang the Scythians, and the fable has often been remembered in the history of the Turks. The “Zohák' of Fird usi is the Iranian form of Ahi. The name is the Arabicised form of the ‘Azhi Daháka' of the Avesta, the ‘baneful serpent' vanquished by Thraétaono (Traitana of the Vedas), and this Iranian name again (Dásaka) is Ahi. The name reappears in the Median Astyages.” Zohák is represented as having two serpents growing out of his shoulders, which the late Professor Wilson supposed might have been suggested by a phrase in the Kankato na (ye ansyá ye angyáh) which he translates, “Those who move with their shoulders, those who move with their bodies,' which, however, may mean ‘those produced on the
shoulders, biting with them, and “might furnish those who seek for analogies between Iranian and Indian legends with a parallel in the story of Zohák.’ The legend alluded to is a favourite one in Persia, where it is used to point a moral, as in the instruction of the learned Saib to the Prince, his pupil. Saib related to the boy the story of King Zohák, to whom a magician came, and, breathing on him, caused two serpents to come forth from the region of his breast, and told him they would bring him great glory and pleasure, provided he would feed these serpents with the poorest of his subjects. This Zohák did; and he had great pleasure and wealth until his subjects revolted and shut the King up in a cavern where he became himself a prey to the two serpents. The young Prince to whom this legend was related was filled with horror, and begged Saib to tell him a pleasanter one. The teacher then related that a young Sultan placed his confidence in an artful courtier who filled his mind with false notions of greatness and happiness, and introduced into his heart Pride and Voluptuousness. To those two passions the young Sultan sacrificed the interests of his kingdom, until his subjects banished him ; but his Pride and Voluptuousness remained in him, and, unable to gratify them in his exile, he died of rage and despair. The prince-pupil said, ‘I like this story better than the other.” “And yet,' said Saib, “it is the same.’ It is curious that this old Persian fable should have survived in the witch-lore of America, and at last supplied Nathaniel Hawthorne with the theme of one of his beautiful allegorical romances, that, namely, of the man with a snake in his bosom which ever threatened to throttle him if he did not feed it. It came to the American fabulist through many a mythical skin, so to say. One of the most beautiful it has worn is a story which is
360 A TEUTOAV/C LAOATOOAV.
still told by mothers to their children in some districts of Germany. It relates that a little boy and girl went into the fields to gather strawberries. After they had gathered they met an aged woman, who asked for some of the fruit. The little girl emptied her basket into the old woman's lap; but the boy clutched his, and said he wanted his berries for himself. When they had passed on the old woman called them back, and presented to each a little box. The girl opened hers, and found in it two white caterpillars which speedily became butterflies, then grew to be angels with golden wings, and bore her away to Paradise. The boy opened his box, and from it issued two tiny black worms; these swiftly swelled to huge serpents, which, twining all about the boy's limbs, drew him away into the dark forest ; where this Teutonic Laokoon still remains to illustrate in his helplessness the mighty power of little faults to grow into bad habits and bind the whole man.
The Serpent's gem—The Basilisk's eye—Basiliscus mitratus—Housesnakes in Russia and Germany—King-snakes—Heraldic dragon-Henry III.-Melusina—The Laidley Worm—Victorious dragons —Pendragon—Merlin and Vortigern—Medicinal dragons.
A DRAGOON once presented himself before Frederick the Great and offered the king a small pebble, which, he said, had been cut from the head of a king-snake, and would no doubt preserve the throne. Frederick probably trusted more to dragoons than dragons, but he kept the little curiosity, little knowing, perhaps, that it would be as prolific of legends as the cock's egg, to which it is popularly traceable, in cockatrices (whose name may have given rise to the cock-fables) or basilisks. It has now taken its place in German folklore that Frederick owed his greatness to a familiar kept near him in the form of a basilisk. But there are few parts of the world where similar legends might not spring up and coil round any famous reputation. An Indian newspaper, the Lawrence Gazette, having mentioned that the ex-king of Oudh is a collector of snakes, adds—‘Perhaps he wishes to become possessed of the precious jewel which some serpents are said to contain, or of that species of snake by whose means, it is said, a person can fly in the air.’ Dr. Dennys, in whose work on Chinese Folklore this is quoted, finds the same notion in 362 THE SERPEMT's GEM.
China. In one story a foreigner repeatedly tries to purchase a butcher's bench, but the butcher refuses to sell it, suspecting there must be some hidden value in the article; for this reason he puts the bench by, and when the foreigner returns a year afterwards, learns from him that lodged in the bench was a snake, kept alive by the blood soaking through it, which held a precious gem in its mouth —quite worthless after the snake was dead. Cursing his stupidity at having put the bench out of use, the butcher cut it open and found the serpent dead, holding in its mouth something like the eye of a dried fish. Here we have two items which may only be accidental, and yet, on the other hand, possibly possess significance. The superior knowledge about the serpent attributed to a “foreigner' may indicate that such stories in China are traditionally alien, imported with the Buddhists; and the comparison of the dead gem to an eye may add a little to the probabilities that this magical jewel, whether in head of toad or serpent, is the reptile's eye as seen by the glamour of human eyes. The eye of the basilisk is at once its wealth-producing, its fascinating, and its paralysing talisman, though all these beliefs have their various sources and their several representations in mythology. That it was seen as a gem was due, as I think, to the jewelled skin of most serpents, which gradually made them symbols of riches; that it was believed able to fascinate may be attributed to the general principles of illusion already considered; but its paralysing power, its evil eye, connects it with a notion, found alike in Egypt and India, that the serpent kills with its eye. Among Sanskrit words for serpent are ‘drig-visha' and ‘drishti-visha'—literally ‘having poison in the eye.” While all serpents were lords and guardians of wealth, certain of them were crested, or had small horns, which