King of the Snakes, The: And Other Folk-Lore Stories from Uganda | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in August 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

King of the Snakes, The


THERE is a beautiful village near the Great Lake, called Kalungu. The houses nestle into the banana gardens, and there are sunny little courtyards with lemon and guava trees and pawpaw-trees heavy with fruit. The little boys who herd the goats on the hill-sides have no fear, for everything is peaceful and happy.

                But once upon a time Kalungu was a very sorrowful place, for a big snake called Sesota lived on the hill-side and came down every day to the village and caught people and ate them.

                Every day this happened, until the people ran away to other villages, and Kalungu was left desolate and empty.

                The King heard of this, and he asked in the Council what could be done to kill Sesota, and one chief said one thing and another chief said another, but no one was found brave enough to go to Kalungu and kill the great snake.

                Then a poor peasant man, called Waswa, came to the Council and said: "Sirs, I will kill Sesota"; and they offered him spears and big hunting knives, but he refused them all and said: "Give me a large water-pot and some blue beads and some brass and ivory bracelets and a ring, and I will go and kill Sesota."

                So they gave him all he asked, and he set out on his journey, his little son carrying the water-pot with the other things inside it; and as he walked he played this tune on his reed pipe:

Sesota, Sesota, King of the Snakes, 
     Beautiful presents I bring.
The King of Uganda has sent me to-day
     With bracelets and beads and a ring.

                As he neared Kalungu the old snake on the hillside heard him corning, and because snakes are very fond of music he listened gladly and sang back:

I am Sesota, the King of the Snakes;
     Two bold intruders I see.
But if they bring me the gifts of a King 
     They will be welcomed by me.

                So Waswa and his little son entered the village and sat down in the courtyard of a deserted house, and the child put down the water-pot and then hid in the house, and Waswa played his pipe, all the time the same tune.

                Very soon he heard the great snake rustling down the hill-side and along the village road till it came to the courtyard where Waswa sat; he never stopped playing until the snake went up to the water-pot and looked in to see his presents. Then Waswa sang this song:

Sesota, Sesota, King of the Snakes,
     Enter this water-pot here.
The King of Uganda has sent you a bed
     On which you shall sleep for a year.

                When the great snake heard this song he got into the water-pot and coiled himself round and settled down to sleep, and Waswa played very softly over and over again:

 Sesota, Sesota, Sesota, Sesota, Sesota, Sesota, Sesota.

                When he saw that the great snake was sound asleep he called softly to his son, and the child came very quietly and put the lid on the water-pot and tied it tightly down, and they picked it up and went on their way back to the capital, and Waswa played all the way on his pipe and sang this song:

Sesota, Sesota, King of the Snakes, 
     Sleeps on the bed of a King.
Beat all the drums, play all the harps,
     Dance and make merry and sing.

                And every village they came to the people ran out after them, singing and dancing and beating drums and playing harps because the great snake who had eaten so many people had been caught, and the crowd increased more and more until they arrived in the capital, and the King and his chiefs came out of the Council House, and there was great rejoicing.

                And the King commanded the people to make a bonfire, and they burnt Sesota the great snake.

                Then the King said to Waswa: "I will give you the village of Kalungu, and you shall be chief of that place, you and your children after you, and they shall be called 'Wakalungu.'" And his little boy, who had carried the water-pot, was chief after him, and his grandchildren live in Kalungu to-day, and if you go there you will see them, and perhaps they will tell you about Sesota.


Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: King of the Snakes, The
Tale Author/Editor: Baskerville, Mrs. George (Rosetta)
Book Title: King of the Snakes, The: And Other Folk-Lore Stories from Uganda
Book Author/Editor: Baskerville, Mrs. George (Rosetta)
Publisher: The Macmillan Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1922
Country of Origin: Uganda
Classification: ATU 300: The Dragon-Slayer

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