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The dream diviner and the snake

A folktale from Southern Iraq

Retold by Yoel Perez

 

In a remote village, at the very end of the kingdom there was a man that knew how to read. Big deal today everyone knows reading and writing, but at those days such a man was quite rear. Very few knew the art of reading, so this man got a great respect. People came to him to tell him their problems, to ask his advices and also to divine their dreams. And he did what he could to give them satisfactory solutions.

Now, the king of this land dreamed a dream. In his dream he saw rain falls down from heaven. But it was not a usual rain; it was rain of swords! Sword after sword fell from above till the whole earth was covered by vibrating swords.

The king jumped up from his couch. He called all his sages and advisers to explain him the meaning of this dream. No answer satisfied him. Then, an old adviser said to him: "I heard that in a remote village at the very end of the kingdom there is a man who is famous as a dream diviner."

"Hurry, I want to see him in my court!"

So some days later a messenger from the king came to invite this villager to come to the palace.

Now, our hero did not know what to do. How could he deal with dreams of kings? He is a simple man. But what can he do? He must obey the king order. So he hit the road on his way to the king court.

On the second day he was very tired. He sat down not far from some ruins of an old village, when all of a sudden a huge snake came out of the ruins!

The man wanted to run away, but the snake opened his mouth and said: "Do not be afraid! I will not hurt you. You are going to the king to solve his dream?"

"Yes, how do you know?"

"I know!"

"And what did the king dream?"

"He dreamed that a rain of swords came from heaven!"

"And what is the meaning of this dream?"

"Well, the meaning of the dream is that a period of war and murder will come soon to this land. People will fight one another. People will kill each other. This is the meaning of the dream, Go to the king and tell him this. He will reward you by a nice present gold, jewels. Give me half of it."

"Well, if what you say is true, I'll gladly give you half. You saved my life!"

So he went to the king and the king said: "A week ago I dreamed a dream. I dreamed"

"Your majesty, do not continue. You dreamed about rain!"

"Yes."

"Rain of swords!"

"Yes, yes. How do you know?!"

"I know. I am a dream diviner!"

"And what is the meaning of this dream?"

"The meaning of the dream is that a period of war and murder will come soon to this land. People will fight one another. People will kill other people. This is the meaning of your dream!"

The king was content. He gave him a small treasure of gold and jewels and sent him to his way.

Now the villager he walk on the road and he thinks to himself: "This snake it creeps on his belly, eats dust what it would do with all this gold? It would be stupidity to give him a share!"

So when he arrived to the ruins, he did not think twice. He raised a big rock and bum! On the snake head. But the snake was fast and at last moment it succeeded to slip away to his hole.

And the man came back to his village. He was a rich man now. Everyone paid him respect.

Some years passed and once more the king had a dream. He dreamed about rain. But it was not a usual rain. In his dream he saw rain of fox tails falls down from heaven! Tail after tail fell from above till the whole earth was covered by thick layer of fox furs!

Immediately he gave an order to call the dream diviner.

It is my end thought the villager what shall I do? I almost killed the only creature that could help me!

But he had no choice. He must obey the king order. So he hit the road on his way to the king court.

When he passed near the ruins, he looked around. He saw the snake.

"Oh my friend, please help me. I must solve the king dream!"

"Help you? After what you tried to do to me?"

"No, no. It was misunderstanding. You see, I raised a stone to sit on it and it fell down from my hands and you run away. Believe me!"

To make a long story short he convinced him.

The snake said to him: "The king saw in his dream a rain of fox tails fall from heaven. The meaning of the dream is that a period of lies and cheating will come soon to this land. People will cheat, will deceive one another, they will lie. They will give promises but they will rat them! They will be cunning like foxes. This is the meaning of the dream, Go to the king and tell him this. He will reward you by a nice present gold, jewels. Give me half of it."

"Half? I'll give you everything! I promise you. You saved my life!"

So he went to the king and gave him the answer of the snake, and the king was content. He gave him a big treasure of gold and jewels and sent him to his way.

Now the villager he walks on the road and he thinks to himself: "This snake it creeps on his belly, eats dust what it would do with all this gold? It would be stupidity to give it a share! I'll come back to my village using another road, and I'll make my self as if I completely forgot.

And the man came back to his village. He was a now a very rich man. The headman of the village gave him his daughter as a wife. Everyone paid him respect.

But you know in stories like in life, there is always the third time. Once more the king had a dream. And what he dreamed you surly know! He dreamed about rain. But it was not a usual rain. In his dream he saw rain of shepherd sticks falls down from heaven! Stick after stick fell from above till the whole earth was covered by thick layer of shepherd sticks!

Immediately he gave an order to call the dream diviner.

This time no one is going to help me. It is my end thought the villager what shall I do?

But he had no choice. He must obey the king commandment. So he hit the road on his way to the king court.

When he passed near the ruins, he looked around. He saw the snake gets a tan.

"Oh my friend, please help me. I must solve the king dream!"

"Help you? After what you did to me? Go away before I'll beat you and kill you with my poison!"

"No, no. I am so sorry. You are right. I treated you badly I know, but please have mercy, save me! I have wife and children, please!"

Well, I don't know what else he told him, but at last the snake gave him the answer. This man he had a flattery tongue. He knew how to convince it I thing that he was a storyteller

The snake said to him: "The king saw in his dream a rain of shepherd sticks fall from heaven. The meaning of the dream is that a period truth and justice will come soon to this land. People will tell only the truth, will love each other, they will live in harmony. They will keep their promises. It will be a period of great peace. No more Al-Qaeda! No more Hamas and Hizballah! This is the meaning of the dream, Go to the king and tell him this. He will be very happy to hear the news. Sure enough he will reward you by a nice present gold, jewels, pearls. Give me half of it."

"Half? I'll give you everything! I promise you. You saved my life!"

So he went to the king and gave him the answer of the snake. And this time the king was so happy to hear the good news. He gave him a big treasure of gold and jewels and sent him to his way.

Now the villager he walks on the road and he thinks to himself: "This snake it creeps on his belly, eats dust what it will do with all this gold? It would be stupidity to give him a share! But no I cannot do him such a thing. I must keep my promise. This snake is my best friend!

So he came to the ruins to meet the snake. He heaped on the ground a big pile of treasures said: "All this is yours my friend! When I am back at my village, I'll send you more. I am so grateful. Take it, don't hesitate."

The snake looked at the pile of treasures. There was a long moment of silence. Then he opened his mouth and said: "The first time I helped you, and you tried to kill me it was not you. It was the period. It was a period of war and murders and you also became a murderer. The second time you promised me, you gave me your word and you did not keep your promise it was not you. It was the period. It was a period of lies and cheating. People behaved like foxes you also became a fox. And now you bring me all these treasures once again, it is not you. It is the period. It is a period of truth and justice and you behave as a truthful person! I have no need of people that are only a mirror of the period and have nothing of their own. The real treasure you cannot give it to me because you don't have it! Take your gold and go away from here, back to your village!"

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This story was published about 25 years ago in an Israeli newspaper The author wrote that it was collected in Southern Iraq, in the area of the Chaldean-Assyrian population. He intended to publish a whole book of folktales from this area, but as much as I know, he never did so. I know another version of this story from the Caucasus. I'll be glad to hear more details from readers who know this story.

I bring it here in the way I use to tell this story in my performances.