Once upon a time, a woodcutter named Roberto lived with his wife Sappatella deep in the forest. The only thing the old woman had ever wished for was a child of her own, but sad to say, years passed and the couple had no children.
One day, as the weather was turning cold and the last leaves fell from the trees, Roberto returned home from the forest with an extra stack of wood for their own hearth. As he lay his wood down by the fire, a golden serpent crawled out from between the twigs. The serpent slithered across the room and coiled himself at Sappatella’s feet. And then the serpent spoke.
Now in those days animals sometimes spoke, but they did not do this all the time, so the poor woman was startled when the serpent said:
“If you will adopt me as your child,”
“Keep me warm and from the wild,”
“I’ll be good and I’ll be well,”
“And good fortune will upon you dwell.”
Sappatella was overjoyed at the thought of a son, so the couple adopted the serpent and raised him as their son. And just as the serpent had promised, good fortune smiled upon the woodcutter and his wife.
Years passed. The serpent grew into an enormous and hearty fellow. One day, just as winter came to the land, the serpent said to his adoptive parents, “I want to marry.”
“We’ll find you a lovely serpent,” said Sappatella, but the serpent hissed. He had other ideas, you see. “I want to marry the king’s daughter,” he said. “Tomorrow you must go to tell the king I wish to marry the princess.”
Roberto, of course, was reluctant, but Sappatella and the serpent begged him. “Father,” said the serpent, “to the king my message tell, and good fortune will upon you dwell.”
The serpent loved to speak in rhymes.
So the next morning Roberto set off for the palace. The nearer he came, the more worried he felt. The king was sure to be insulted and might hang Roberto for such a rude request. Then Roberto remembered all the good fortune he owed to their son, and remembering this, he grew courageous and continued on his way.
When at last he stood before the king, Roberto said, “Oh great king, a serpent who is my adopted son wishes to marry your daughter.”
The king could not believe his ears. Many fellows had asked him for peculiar things, but this was stranger than most. Still, the king had a good sense of humor, and he decided to play along. “Very well, I’ll grant my daughter’s hand in marriage if your serpent son turns my entire royal orchard into gold.”
Roberto thanked the king and hurried home, but when he told the serpent of the king’s wild request, the serpent simply said, “Tomorrow go to the market and gather all the fruit stones you can find. Take these and scatter them in the king’s orchard, and if, father, you do this well, good fortune will upon you dwell.”
So Roberto did just as his adopted son had asked. Naturally he expected nothing to happen, but as he scattered the stones, he was amazed to see every single tree turn to gold, and every leaf upon the ground turned gold as well.
When the king looked out his window and saw his shimmering orchard, he could not believe his eyes. He was delighted, on the one hand, but on the other, he did not want his only daughter to marry a woodcutter’s serpent son. So this time he told Roberto that he must have the serpent turn his entire castle to gold.
When the serpent heard this news, he was exasperated at a king who would not keep his word. Still, he instructed his father to gather special herbs in the forest. These he should sweep into the castle. “If you do this and do it well, good fortune shall upon you dwell,” he said.
So Roberto gathered the herbs, and he swept these the length of the palace, and as he did, the castle turned into the purest, brightest gold imaginable.
Now the king was thrilled that his castle was gold, but he was alarmed by the thought of losing his daughter. He called the lovely girl to his side and told her of his troubles.
Raquel was a beautiful girl, inside and out. “Father, I’ll gladly marry the serpent who wishes to marry me and has given you so many riches,” she said.
Roberto hurried home to give his son the good news.
The serpent was overjoyed. He kissed his parents. “You have done your job so well, good fortune will upon you, always, dwell,” he said as he left the house and rushed to the palace.
When the servants and the king and queen saw the serpent, they ran from his sight; such an enormous and frightening creature terrified them. But sweet Raquel simply greeted him, curtsying low. “My husband-to-be, welcome,” she said softly.
The moment Raquel uttered these words, the serpent’s skin split down the back, and out of the serpent’s skin stepped a handsome prince. You see, years before he had been put under a spell that only the love of a beautiful princess could break.
Raquel and her serpent prince lived happily ever after, and just as the serpent had promised, Roberto and Sappatella lived in good fortune for the rest of their lives, too, suffering never a day of pain or sadness, reaping the rewards of their many years of love and generosity.