Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for beginners. The name of the story is The White Snake. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Snake. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Snake. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Right now I am very busy preparing for my Spanish exam, so the introduction today will be very short. Also, my throat is a bit sore. My throat hurts a bit. I think I might be getting ill. I might be getting a cold. So I don’t want to work my throat too hard. But I hope you’re all doing well.
I see some of you have sent me some emails. I am sorry that I am so slow at answering emails. It is my biggest problem. I just find emails very difficult! But I promise I have seen them and I will answer them.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A secret is something that you don’t want other people to know. Maybe you secretly hate someone, or maybe you secretly like someone. But if other people knew this, it would be very bad. So a secret is like a special idea that other people don’t know. But of course, you can tell other people your secret and hopefully they won’t tell other people your secret. Because if you tell your friend a secret, and then your friend tells two people, and those people each tell two people… well, you understand! That is how rumours start.
Personally, I am quite bad at keeping secrets. So, please don’t tell me any secrets because I will tell them to everyone else!
A servant is someone who works to help someone else. So they work in their home. For example, cleaning, cooking, washing are all things that servants do. Servants were very common in the past. If you have seen the British TV show Downton Abbey, you will know what they are, because that show is about the lives of servants in a British house a few hundred years ago… I think! I don’t really watch that show. I find it a bit boring.
An ant is a small black insect which has six legs. If an ant bites you, it usually hurts. Actually, there are red ants and if they bite you, it hurts a lot! Ants are well-known for working together. They live in big families underground and they always have one queen, and it is the queen who gives birth to new ants, but there is only one queen at any time, and all the other ants are worker ants, and they build the home for the ants.
A raven is a black bird. Ravens are often linked with death in many cultures around the world, and ravens make a sound like this: CAW CAW. I hope that sounds like a raven, at least, because it hurts my throat to do it. You see, I suffer for all of you!
“Weak” is the opposite of “strong”. So when you are not strong, you are weak. You might be weak because you don’t have muscles, or you might be weak because you are sick.
A sword is a long, sharp weapon. If you have seen Game of Thrones, Arya Stark battles with a sword, she fights with a sword. Swords were very common in the past, before people had guns.
“Marry” is when two people join together for life. Traditionally, it is a man and woman, although nowadays there is gay marriage as well. When two people get married, they put rings on each other’s fingers and they are supposed to live together forever. Unfortunately, not all marriages end well…
To complete a challenge means to do something very hard to get a prize. There are lots of game shows on TV where people have to complete difficult challenges to win money. For example, they might have to climb a big wall.
“Impossible” means something is not possible. You can’t do it. There is a famous action film called Mission Impossible, if you know it. I will post a link to the music in the transcript because the music from that film is very famous:
A seed is a little thing that you put into the earth and you pour water on it, and over time the seed grows into a plant. You can also eat seeds. For example, sunflower seeds are quite delicious. You buy seeds in a gardening shop to plant in your garden. In Svalbard, an island in Norway, there is the World Seed Bank. There is a copy of every type of seed in the world, so that if there is a disaster, for example, the Amazon burning down, there will always be at least one seed of each tree there.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
The White Snake
Once there lived a king. He was famous because he was very clever. He knew everything that happened in his country. Nobody knew how he knew everything. It was like the secrets came to him through the air.
However, the King did one very strange thing. Every night after dinner, a servant brought him one more dish. It was covered, however, and even the servant did not know what was in it. Nobody knew, because the King only took off the cover when he was alone.
One day, the servant wanted to know very badly what was under the dish. So after he took the dish away, he went to his room with it. He shut the door and lifted the cover. On the dish there was a white snake, cooked carefully.
“How strange!” he thought. “Why does the King want to eat snake? It is food for poor people.”
But he knew there must be a reason, so he ate the snake. After eating it, he heard a strange noise coming from outside. He opened the window, and saw some birds on a tree. They were talking to each other, and he could understand their language. They were talking about what they had seen in the woods.
‘Hello, little birds,’ he said.
The birds turned to him and said, ‘What do you want?’
He could speak to animals! The snake was magical.
So the servant kept eating the snake in secret. He was never found, but it was hard to keep his secret from everybody else. He often heard animals talking, and thought they were people.
One day, the Queen lost a beautiful golden ring, and got very angry. She said that the servant must have stolen it, ‘because he can go anywhere and he has a secretive look on his face.’ The King brought the servant before him.
‘It is a difficult situation,’ he said. ‘I don’t think you stole the ring, but my wife does, and she always has very strong beliefs. I will give you a chance. If you can find the ring and the person who stole it before tomorrow, I will save you.’
‘But I didn’t do it!’
‘I’m sorry,’ said the King.
The servant walked around the castle, worrying about his problem. How could he find the ring and the person who stole it?
He sat down by the river, where some ducks were playing, and started to cry.
‘Where have you been all day?’ said one of the ducks.
‘Oh, I had a very interesting morning,’ the other said. ‘But I ate something strange. I was so hungry, that I just ate without thinking, and there was a golden ring there, in the food! I ate it right up. My stomach hurts so much now.’
The servant jumped up and said, ‘Thank you!’
‘Sorry?’ said the duck, but the man had already picked her up and was walking away.
‘Where are you taking me?’ said the duck.
‘Don’t worry,’ said the servant. He brought the duck to the kitchen and said to the cook, ‘Here! This is a nice, fat duck, and I think the queen will enjoy her very much.’
‘Hey!’ said the duck. ‘You said, “Don’t worry”!’
But the servant did not listen to the duck. The cook cooked the duck, and the Queen had it for her supper, and inside it she found her beautiful golden ring.
‘You see,’ said the servant, ‘the duck ate it!’
The Queen was very happy that she had her ring back, and she thought the servant was very clever for giving it back in that way.
‘I want to say thank you.’ she said. ‘What can I give you?’
The servant thought for a while, and then asked for a horse and some money for travelling. He had always wanted to travel around the world. So the Queen gave him these, and he headed off on his journey.
One day he rode past a river. Three fish were caught in the grass, and they were dying.
‘Oh, we are going to die!’ said the fish. ‘Oh, it hurts so much!’
The servant had a kind heart, so he got off his horse and put the fish back into the water. They jumped and laughed and said, ‘Thank you so much! We will remember this. If you do good to people, people will do good to you!’
The servant rode on, and after a while he heard a small sound at his feet. He listened, and saw that it was an ant.
‘Oh, these travellers with their big animals! That stupid horse has been walking all over us, and has killed many ants!’
‘I’m sorry!’ said the man. ‘I didn’t see you. I will go down a different road, so that I don’t hurt you.’
The ant replied, ‘You are the first human to listen to us! We will remember this. If you do good to people, people will do good to you!’
Next, the servant rode into a wood, and here he saw two old ravens. They were standing in a tree, and throwing their babies onto the ground.
‘Get out, you weak little things! We can’t keep giving you food. You must find your own food now.’
But the poor young ravens lay on the ground and cried, ‘Oh, we are too weak! We cannot fly, so we cannot find our own food! What can we do?’
So the good young man got off his horse and killed it with his sword. He gave the horse meat to the birds, and they happily ate it up.
‘We will remember this. If you do good to people, people will do good to you!’
The traveller continued on foot, and after walking a long way, he came to a city. There, in a busy street, a man rode on a horse and said, ‘The King’s daughter wants a husband. If you want to marry her, you must complete an impossible challenge. If you do not succeed, you will die!’
Many men had already tried to complete the challenge, and died. Still, when the man saw the King’s daughter he thought she was so beautiful that he forgot the danger. He went to the King and asked to marry his daughter.
So the King took him out to the sea, and threw a golden ring into the water.
‘Go and collect the ring. If you come up without it, we will throw you in again. You can try as many times as you like, but you cannot leave the water until you find the ring.’
‘He can’t do it!’ said the people of the city. ‘No-one can! It’s impossible!’
They looked so sad, as if he had already died. The man stood by the water and thought about what to do. Suddenly, three fishes came swimming towards him. They were the fishes whose lives he had saved. One of them held the ring in its mouth, and put it by the man’s feet. He laughed and picked it up.
‘Here you go!’ he said, giving the ring to the King.
The King could not believe it. The princess couldn’t believe it, either. She did not think this man was good enough to marry her, so she gave him another challenge.
They took him to a garden, where ten bags of seeds had been thrown onto the grass.
‘You must pick up all these seeds before tomorrow morning. If even a single seed is there in the morning, you will die.’
The man sat down in the garden and thought about what to do, but he could not think of a way. It was impossible! He was very tired from his journey, so he lay down and fell asleep on the grass.
When he woke up, he saw that all ten bags were full up, and there were no seeds on the grass. In the night, the ants had come and carefully collected all the seeds.
The King’s daughter came into the garden, and couldn’t believe what she saw. But she was still not sure of him, and said, ‘Although you have completed both these challenges, I have one more. Bring me a golden apple from the Tree of Life.’
‘Impossible!’ said the man. The Tree of Life was magical, and nobody knew where it was.
Still, he left the city and went on a journey. He looked for it for three years, and he went through three countries. One evening, he came to a forest and lay down under a tree to sleep. Then he heard a sound in the tree, and a golden apple fell down into his hand. Then three ravens flew down and sat before him.
‘We are the three ravens who you saved before. When we grew up, we heard about your impossible challenges. So we flew over the sea to the end of the world, where the Tree of Life is, and we brought you the apple.’
The young man was very happy, and went back to the city. He gave the Golden Apple to the King’s beautiful daughter, and this time she said, ‘Amazing! You are a very special man. Let us get married.’
They cut the Apple of Life in two and ate it together, and they both felt a great love for each other. They lived together happily for many, many years.
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