Let me share with you a Turkish fairytale that I heard from the locals at the lake Van. This region used to be Western Armenia but now it is in Eastern Turkey or, actually, in Kurdistan. The story is absolutely shocking to me since it breaks all my paradigm of the principles of the fairytales, the principles of story-telling for kids. The story yields a strange, corrupted lesson far from the morale I used to listen in any of the Czech fairytales when I was a kid.
Have in mind that by reading or listening to old stories, legends and fairytales of any nation you learn how the nation thinks, you get closer to the cultural roots and stereotypes hiding deeper in subconscious. This is not a made up story similar to the one of the “Lochness-like” monster living in the Van lake, created to entertain tourists very recently. This is an old story of Shakhmara, the snake queen. It seems to be a quite popular story, since the symbol of Shakhmara is common in many souvenir shops in the area.
“A small, little bit silly, poor boy plays with his friends around a deep well in the garden. The other kids make fun of him and his naivety and tell him that there is a great golden treasure deep in the well and trick him to climb down to get it.
The boy descents down to the very bottom of the well. It’s narrow, wet, dark, slippery, not only he does not see any treasure, he can’t get back up to the surface. He is desperate and in panic. Suddenly he accidentally pushes a brick in the well wall and a secret hidden door opens. A passage to a shining and hissing room reveals in front of him.
He enters a chamber full of snakes and golden treasure and luxury. At the end of the chamber there he sees Shakhmara, the snake queen, a half woman, half snake being. The queen commands her snake servants to bring the boy in. She feeds him and takes care of him very nicely, they become friends.
One day, the boy feels that he misses his parents a lot and asks the queen if he could go to see them. The snake queen agrees but under one condition, he must not tell anyone about what he has seen in the well. He promises not to tell anyone and she set him free. The snakes help the boy to reach the Earth surface, he meets his parents again and everyone is happy.
After some time, the Turkish Sultan gets seriously sick and his doctor tells him that only drinking blood of a snake queen can cure him. However, nobody knows where to find the snake queen. The boy, now already a young man, forgets about his promise and mentions that the snake queen lives in the well in his parents garden. The Sultan sends soldiers there, they find the snake queen and kill her. Then the Sultan drinks her blood and thanks to this he really recovers to full health. As a grateful reward the Sultan designates the boy to become a great Vezir.”
I have never seen such bizarre story in any fairytale. The boy betrayed the snake queen that saved his life and gave him trust and freedom and as a reward to his bad deeds he’s got promoted to become a Vezir. All cruelty and decadence just for the long life of the mighty Sultan. If nothing else, it’s interesting.