The Crow and the Snake: A Ukrainian Folktale

One day a Crow built herself a nest in a tree and laid her eggs. She did not know that a Snake lived in a hole under the very same tree. Her chicks soon hatched, and the Crow left the nest to search for food. She would fly far and bring back whatever she could find for her hungry babies. One day she returned to the nest and was horrified to find one of her chicks gone. She wondered what happened to it and was heartbroken, but there was nothing she could do. She could not stay at her nest all the time or she and her other babies would starve. On the next day another chick was gone. And on the third, another. At the end of the week not one baby was left in the nest.

The Crow sobbed as if her heart would break, for she guessed that some villain had carried off her children and she would never see them again. After a time she decided to lay some more eggs, and when the chicks were hatched she left the nest and flew off in search of food. She came back – and one of the chicks was gone. On the next day another was gone. On the third, a third. And this went on till only one was left.

Hoping to save her last baby, the Crow decided to find the villain who had been taking her children. She perched nearby and hid among the leaves to wait and watch. By and by she saw a Snake crawl out of its nest near the roots of the tree. Before the Crow could do a thing, the Snake slithered up the tree trunk and ate up her last chick.

The Crow thought and thought, but could not make a plan to get rid of the Snake. But a Fox had seen the Snake too and he said to the Crow:

“A Princess will soon come here to bathe in the river, and as she takes off her clothing you will see a gold chain on her neck. Seize it in your beak and carry it off to the Snake’s nest, and then it will all work out for the best.”

The Crow did as the Fox told her. She flew to the riverbank and saw the princess approaching. When the maiden removed her coat, the Crow saw the gleaming golden chain. She swooped down, seized the chain and carried it off. The Princess’s ladies-in-waiting stood in amazement, then ran after the bird. The Crow flitted from tree to tree, allowing the ladies to keep sight of her. Then she dropped the chain into the Snake’s hole, and perched herself beside her nest. She waited to see what would happen.

The ladies ran up to the Snake’s hole. They looked into it and saw something gleaming there. They began digging up the ground in and around the nest, until suddenly they found the Snake. With a great shout the bravest of the ladies killed it and took back the princess’ golden chain.

And so it was that the Crow rid herself of her worst enemy and from then on lived in her nest in peace.