Patrick and the Snakes - A Story for St. Patrick's Day
A long, long time ago when the world was filled with fairies, unicorns and all kinds of magick, there lived a man named Patrick who loved to play on his wooden flute. Now, Patrick lived in a country called Ireland. Ireland is a beautiful place, with rolling hills and colourful meadows and clear blue lakes. When the fairies flew over the countryside, it looked like the colour of an emerald, which is a beautiful gem. And so Ireland got the name of the Emerald Isle.
Yes, Ireland was pretty and very peaceful, except for one problem. Snakes. There were snakes of all different sizes and shapes that seemed to slither out of nowhere. They slid up the streets of the towns, were found hidden under beds and even got into the crops of potatoes that the Irish farmers grew in their fields. Something had to be done about these snakes, and fast!
One morning when the king was sitting having his breakfast, he decided upon a plan. Whoever could rid the country of the snakes would be given his daughter Maureen's hand in marriage. Now, the princess was a lovely girl. She had long red hair, big green eyes and a sprinkling of freckles upon her fair face. Maureen was loved by all the people because she was so kind and gentle.
That afternoon, the town criers were sent out to all the corners of Ireland to announce the kings plan. By the next morning, the country folk were buzzing with the news and all the single men were making their way to the castle to try and win the princess' hand in marriage.
There were so many different plans. One man took out a bucket of sand and tried to cast a magick spell over it so that all the snakes would turn to sand and could be swept away like dirt. That didn't work because he mixed up all the words to the spell and made it rain instead.
Another tried to catch all the snakes and chop off their heads. But of course, there was no way that he could get them all.
Another tried to burn them out, but all he succeeded in doing was setting fire to a farmer's field and being chased off.
One by one, the men came and went. Not one was successful in getting rid of the snakes.
One afternoon, Patrick was sitting in a meadow playing on his flute when he heard someone join in. He stopped playing and looked around, but saw no-one. Thinking it was his imagination, or perhaps the echoes of his music from the hills across the meadow, he started to play again. And again he heard the music. This time he was a little smarter. He kept playing and slowly got up and looked around him. Imagine his surprise when he saw a little leprechaun sitting on a nearby mushroom playing a flute!
"Top 'o the morn to you, Patrick," said the leprechaun when he noticed Patrick.
Now, Patrick was a very polite man and replied back to the little man. "And to you too sir".
"Oh, no need to call me sir," chuckled the leprechaun. "My name is Seamus O'Gillicuddy." And with those words, he stuck out his little hand for Patrick to shake. "So, what are ye doing out here in the meadow playing that lovely music all by yourself for," asked Seamus.
By now, Patrick was over his surprise at seeing the leprechaun. Every person in Ireland knows of the leprechauns, but few had seen one. Patrick considered himself very lucky for, if you could capture a leprechaun, he had to show you where he kept his gold. "I'm just trying to find a way to help the king get rid of all the snakes, but not having much luck at it," replied Patrick.
"Ahhh. That is a problem, is it not," said Seamus and he went back to playing on his flute.
Patrick stepped closer to the leprechaun and suddenly reached out and grabbed him. "Aha! I've got you now," laughed Patrick.
"Ach," sputtered a shocked Seamus. "Can ye not loosen your grip on me a wee bit. You're choking the life out of me."
Patrick thought a moment before he replied. "Well, I suppose I could, but first you have to show me where your gold is."
"Gold? I have no gold," said Seamus.
"No gold? But I thought all leprechauns had a pot of gold," said a disappointed Patrick.
"No. That's just an old wives tale, but there is something I can do for you," said Seamus slyly.
"Oh? And what might that be," asked Patrick suspiciously.
"I could help you get rid of the snakes."
"You can?" Patrick loosened his grip on Seamus just a wee bit.
"Yes, just put me down and I'll show you."
"You won't run away," asked Patrick.
"No, I won't run away. When a leprechaun gives his word, he sticks to it."
Patrick thought a bit more and reluctantly set Seamus back on the mushroom. "Okay, but you had better keep your word."
Seamus stood up on the mushroom and gave himself a little shake. "Now, where is my flute?" He looked around and spied it in the long grass where it had fallen when Patrick grabbed him. The little leprechaun jumped down from the mushroom, grabbed the flute and handed it to Patrick.
As Patrick took the tiny instrument it seemed to grow in his hands and soon it was the same size as his own flute.
"Play," commanded Seamus.
Patrick took the flute and began to play. The music that came from it was magical. Animals from all over the meadow soon came to hear the music, including the snakes.
"Play a marching song and walk to the edge of the meadow," Seamus said.
Patrick did as the leprechaun said and when he turned around, the young man noticed that Seamus had disappeared. But then Patrick saw that all of the snakes had followed him to the edge of the meadow. "What magick is this," Patrick wondered as he raised the flute to his lips once more and began to play the marching song.
The snakes continued to follow him, more joining in as they went along the dusty road, through the village and down to the seashore. Patrick went up to a sailor and asked the man if he could row him out in his boat a little way. The sailor agreed and Patrick sat in the boat, playing on the flute as the sailor rowed out into the sea. The snakes followed the sound of the music and were soon caught up in the waves and drowned!
When Patrick saw what happened, he went all over Ireland playing on his magical flute and driving the snakes from the land.
After a few days to make sure that the snakes were all gone, Patrick went to the castle and was presented before the king. The king learned of how Patrick had got rid of the snakes and was very happy. The king was a man who always kept his word and he called for a servant to go and fetch the princess Maureen.
When the princess entered the room, Patrick took one look at her, and she looked at him, and it was love at first sight.
After the couple had married they often returned to the meadow where Patrick had met the leprechaun. Although they never saw him, they knew that Seamus was around somewhere for Patrick and Maureen often heard the lovely tinkling melodies that could only come from a magickal flute.
©2008, Sonia C. Jensen