The Tale of Delgadina
An old Chilean folktale about a kind-hearted girl whose good deed to a snake she befriends is rewarded years later when she finds herself in danger. (duration 16 minutes) An episode from Journey with Story. Best for ages 7 and up as it might be a little scary for younger listeners.
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The Tale of Delgadina – Episode 143
Have you ever heard that saying one good turn deserves another? What does it mean? Yes, it means if someone does something kind to help you, then you should do something kind in turn for that person, or maybe just for the next person who needs your kindness. I wonder, can you think of a time when you did a kind deed to help someone out?
Hello everyone, I ‘m Kathleen Pelley. Welcome to Journey with Story. Today’s episode is an old folktale from Chile about a little girl who is very kind to a snake she finds in the forest near her home and then one day many years later when she is in need, the snake does something very kind for her.
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Let’s take a journey with DELGADINA.
There once was a little girl, called Delgadina, who found a tiny red snake in the forest near her home. So enchanted was she with her little snake, that she made a beautiful painted box for him and spent all day long playing with him.
At night she slipped the box beneath her bed. And in the morning, she saw that the snake had grown three times as big. “This must be a magic snake,” her mother told her. “ You must take very good care of it.”
Day by day, Delgadina tended to her snake, and day by day, it grew bigger and bigger, until soon, he filled the whole room. Even although the snake was now so enormous, Delgadina was not the least bit afraid of him, and never did the snake do her any harm.
But day by day the snake continued to grow bigger and bigger, until one day, Delgadina’s mother said, “My dearest girl, your snake is too big to stay with us any longer. He must go and live in the forest.”
And so the snake slithered out of the house and off into the forest. Delgadina followed him and watched as he slid into the mouth of a cave. Every day, Delgadina went to visit him and fed him all sorts of tasty morsels. And so the snake continued to grow bigger and bigger, until one day, Delgadina’s mother said, “ We are just too poor to feed this snake, any longer. I am afraid he will not leave us unless you send him away, but surely he will be happier anyway, to live among his own kind – with the other snakes and water creatures.”
Delgadina’s eyes filled with tears, and yet, she knew her mother spoke the truth, and so she called out, “ Come my little red snake, come!”
At once the snake slithered his way to the mouth of the cave, and to her amazement, he spoke in a gentle human voice. “Delgadina, what do you want,” he asked.
“My mother says we are too poor to feed you and you must go and live in the ocean. But I shall miss you dear snake.”
“Do not be sad,” said the snake. Your mother is right, It is time for me to go. But before I do, let me give you a gift. Take your hands and rub them on my eyes three times.
Delgadina did as the snake had asked.
“Now, Delgadina, whenever you wash your hands and shake your fingers dry, golden coins will fall from your hands.”
“Thank you, dear snake,” said Delgadina and sadly she watched him slither away toward the ocean.
Many years passed. Because of the snake’s gift, Delgadina and her mother became wealthy and wanted for nothing. And they were as generous as they were rich, sharing their good fortune with all who were in need. And so it was that the snake’s gift blessed all those who lived near and around that forest by Delgadina’s home.
Not far from there, lived a king who was looking for a queen. He had heard all about this beautiful girl who could shake golden coins from her fingers and whose heart was kind and good. “This young woman would make an excellent queen,” he said to himself. And he wondered how he could set up a meeting with her.
Now in this kingdom, there lived an old woman who was wicked and jealous, and hated both the snake and Delgadina. When she heard that the king was interested in meeting Delgadina, she went to him and said, “I know Delgadina’s mother well. If you give me a golden coach with four white horses and a dress of diamond and pearls, I will bring Delgadina to you.”
And at once the king eagerly agreed, for he did not know this woman had an evil heart.
Now of course, the old woman had no intention of giving the coach and the dress to Delgadina. Instead she gave everything to her own daughter, planning that she should become the queen and not Delgadina.
So she dressed her daughter in the beautiful dress of diamonds and pearls. Then she sat in the golden carriage, hid under a cloak, the color of night, and drove off to Delgadina’s house.
When Delgadina’s mother saw the shining carriage with the four horses coming up the path, she assumed it had come from the king’s palace, and she ran outside to give her welcome. The old woman shouted from the carriage, “The king wants to marry your daughter.”
Delgadina’s mother was overjoyed, and Delgadina happily agreed to this wedding, for she had heard that the king was kind and good and generous. And so she made herself ready and climbed into the carriage, but as her mother was about to step in behind her, the old woman slammed the door in her face and screeched,” Not now! We will come back for you, later!”
And so, poor Delgadina, had to wave her mother farewell, as the carriage sped off. But in a little while, Delgadina realized they were not headed toward the king’s palace, but in the opposite direction, up a winding road to the edge of the cliffs that overlooked the sea. And in the dark shadows of the coach, she could not notice a scraggly girl covered in a black cloak sitting opposite her.
Delgadina banged on the door of the carriage, asking the old woman to stop. But the wicked woman paid her no heed, and instead goaded the horses to gallop faster and faster until they reached the very top of the cliffs.
There the old woman stopped the carriage, unlocked the door, dragged Delgadina out, and carried her to the edge of the cliff, where she shoved her into the sea. Then she hurried back to the carriage and set off for the palace, planning to bring her own daughter for the king to marry.
Everyone in the kingdom was making ready for a royal wedding. Bright banners flapped from the rooftops, people sang and danced in the streets, as the chapel bells rang out. The servants had prepared a lavish feast and a long crimson rug had been spread out from the palace all the way down to the road.
Out of the carriage stepped the wicked woman’s daughter, and up to the palace she marched.
But when the king caught sight of his bride, he gasped in astonishment, for he had heard much about her beauty, and this girl in front of him was no beauty. “Still,” he said to himself, “if she is as kind as I have heard, then I will marry her, for true beauty is within and not without. Yet, I must know the truth, if she can shake gold from her fingers, then I will know for certain that she is the real Delgadina.”
And so he said to her, “My dear girl, after your long journey, I am sure you will want to wash your hands before the ceremony.”
But the wicked woman knew what the king was trying to do, and she said, “No, no, there is no need. We washed our hands in the clearest of streams just at the edge of the forest.”
And so the king, not wanting to cause offence, went ahead with the wedding. The next day, he watched the girl wash her hands, and when no gold coins fell from her fingers when she shook them dry, he silently rejoiced, for now he knew for certain this was not Delgadina and he could get rid of her.
But the girl raged at him and shouted, “Now look what has happened – I married you and all my magic has disappeared. It is your fault!”
The king was speechless and did not know how to make this girl go away, and so they remained married.
In the meantime, the real Delgadina was still alive. She had been washed ashore on an island where an old shepherd had found her and given her shelter. Day after day the shepherd tended to her for she was very ill and had lost her sight. Little by little she grew a little stronger, but still she could not see, nor could she make gold fall from her fingers. She was heartbroken, too sad, even to tell the shepherd her story and what had happened to her.
Every morning she went down to the shore and turned to feel the breeze on her skin, and she sang a sad song to her mother,
“I wish I could go home again
my mother I would see.
For she is very far away,
Somewhere across the sea.”
Now one day, Delgadina heard a sound from the waves – a voice calling her name, Delgadina. She knew that voice, for she had heard it before. It was her beloved snake. She stretched out her hand to stroke his face, saying, “How happy I am to hear your voice, my friend.” And she told him all that had happened to her.
The red snake said, “Do not be sad, I can make things right again. Take your hands and rub them on my eyes three times. Now press your hands on your own eyes.”
Delgadina did as the snake told her, and when she lifted her hands from her eyes, she could see again.
Then the snake said, “Now wash your hands and shake the shepherd a pile of gold to last him his whole life.”
Gladly Delgadina did so. Then she thanked the shepherd and bid him farewell. She climbed on to the back of the snake and he carried her across the sea back to her mother.
When mother and daughter were united, there was great rejoicing, and it did not take long for the happy news to spread far and wide. Soon even the king heard the news and at once he determined he must now prove to everyone that his bride was not Delgadina. For he could not bear to be married to her any longer.
He announced that he was going to hold a special feast and he invited everyone in Chile. He ordered his cooks to fry the greasiest of foods, and arranged with his servants not to supply any towels. So, anyone who washed their hands would have to shake them dry. And the one who shook gold from her fingers would be his Delgadina.
And so it was that everyone in the land arrived at the feast, including Delgadina and her mother. All the guests enjoyed eating the food, but it was so greasy that they had to wash their hands after and then shook their fingers dry. Of course, when Delgadina did so, gold coins poured to the ground.
The king let out a hoop of delight. The wicked woman and her daughter fumed with rage. And the soldiers were too busy eating to notice.
The old woman and her daughter fled, but they took with them the golden carriage, as much treasure as they could carry, and the diamond dress. The king did not care, for he was so glad to be rid of them.
Then the king stamped his feet three times on the ground. He stamped so hard that the earth shook all the way down to the ocean where the red snake slept.
Waking, the snake peered up and saw the wicked women’s carriage charging down the road, He buried a hole beneath the earth until he was directly under the carriage and then he wriggled and poked and turned and twisted until…he was able to rear up and blow with all his might…Up, up, up, into the air the carriage was thrown – spinning and whirling until with one loud pop -it vanished, never to be seen again.
And that evening Delgadina and the king were married. From that day forward, whenever they had a problem, they would stamp three times on the earth and call for the snake. Delgadina would place a small crown on his head and the snake would advise them. Delgadina and the king and the snake ruled the kingdom with wisdom, kindness and wealth, and so everyone lived in great peace and contentment.
I wonder what you think the story souvenir is from this story? Yes, of course, it must have something to do with being kind – maybe no act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted? That was what a very famous writer called Aesop said when he wrote a fable about kindness called, Lion and Mouse. You can find it on our podcast on one of our earlier episodes. Take a listen and remember – no matter what – it is always a good idea to – BE KIND.
Cheerio then, join me next time for Journey with Story.