AN OMANI FOLK TALE: Long ago, before your Grandfather's grandfather there was a good girl whose mother had died whose father had remarried. A farm and a house and its land was left to this girl by her mother who had passed away (may Allah have mercy on her), and the father lived there with his daughter, his new wife, and her two daughters from a previous marriage. When the father passed away, the only thing that kept the stepmother from casting the girl out was the house and the land. If she had sent the girl away, she could no longer have kept the farm and the house for herself and her two daughters. So the good girl stayed on until she became a young woman, but nothing protected her from the wickedness of her two stepsisters, and the cruelty of her stepmother, not even the kindness of the villagers who owned the farms that lay close by. One such example of her stepmother's cruelty was that fateful day that everything changed. It was to be a cold and windy day, so the stepmother sent the girl out to collect firewood and told her not to dare returning home until she had collected enough. Seeing her out in the cold in clothes barely fit for a begger, the other girls of the village endeavored to help her finish her task before the storm rolled properly in, as everybody liked her and disliked her stepmother and that dreadful woman's spoiled daughters. She returned to her step mother, laden with a bundle of firewood enough for a week on her head. But her stepmother was not at all pleased that the girl had not suffered enough, as she wanted the girl to get ill and die so that she could have all the girl's lands to herself, so she sent the girl out again, with an impossible task in the rain and wind. She said to the girl: "Don't come back until you find a stick that is not too soft, and not too hard, that is neither dry, nor too wet." The girl, good as she was, obeyed, and none of the villagers saw her go out again into the mountain, warm as they were in their houses. Chilled with cold she sat down to cry, because she could not find such a stick, and she missed her father and the days before so. Suddenly, a fright came upon her, for she spied a great long snake, and she jumped up to scream. Her scream was drowned out by the wind, but the snake spoke in a voice loud and clear. "Do not cry, my Dear. Take me back to your house, and I will appear by magic, as the stick you were sent to find." Scared even more by the snake's ability to talk, she inquired, "Why should you help me?" The snake said to her, "I fear you will die here, as I fear I should have died here in a snake's body, for only one who is truly good can hear me speak, and for many years and to many have I spoken. None but you have heard my voice. But for my help, I ask you to help me in return." Of course the girl agreed, for such was only right and fair. "What would you ask of me?" she asked the talking snake. "I am not really a snake," the snake said. "I was a man but magic turned me into a snake. Only if I could find a girl with a pure heart who could hear me speak and who agrees to marry me, can I return back to my true form." The girl could see no other choice for herself and she felt the snake was good and did not lie, so she took him in her arms, and carried him down from the mountains. As she neared her house the snakes body was transformed into that of the perfect piece of wood, and when she handed it to her stepmother, the wicked woman was confused. It indeed was neither too hard nor too soft, not too wet, nor too dry. She tried to think up another excuse to send the girl out again when the snake suddenly took his snake form. The evil stepmother threw the snake from her arms and the good girl rushed to catch him. "Why would you bring this monster into my house?!" the stepmother demanded of the girl. "I am going to marry him tonight," the girl told her stepmother. The stepmother was confused but delighted, for indeed her stepdaughter would die tonight if she wed a snake so she called for someone to marry the girl to the snake. So the girl married the snake and took him to her room. "Lock your door," whispered the snake in her ear. "Pretend to scream everytime I touch you," he told her. As soon as the door to the room was locked the snake transformed into a handsome young man, and when he touched the girl, it was to put necklaces and bracelets of gold on her arms, and around her neck. As he had bid, everytime he did so, she pretended to scream in agony, all night until the morning, as he covered her in ornaments of gold. The stepmother and her daughters waited outside the door, ready to bury the girl in the morning, and have the girl's lands to themselves. But to their amazement, the girl emerged decked in a dowry of gold fit for a queen, cradling the snake in her arms. "Gifts from my new husband," she informed them. In a fit of greed, the stepmother, and her two daughters rushed out of the house and into the mountains, to find snakes of their own to wed. The good girl tried to stop them, but the greedy women locked themselves in their bedrooms with their snake husbands. They screamed in agony as they held their snakes to bite them, as they believed had been done to their stepsister/stepdaughter. Alas, sadly, one could say, I suppose, their snakes were not princes in disguise, and they died. The good girl was upset and she said to her husband, who remained now always in the form of a man, "You knew that would happen!" He nodded. "I knew they had a great greed in their breasts that would never let you leave this place with me, neither would they let us live here in peace so I let them destroy themselves, can you forgive me, for I want us to be free and happy?" The girl forgave her husband, and they lived happily and simply on that farm and its lands in the mountain, with enough gold for all their grandchildren's grandchildren's grandchildren and their brides. THE END.