Haitian Folk Tales: The Snake and the Pauper

Jacques Fleury
Spare Change News

It was a beautiful sunny day in the forest of Carfou, a small town in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. The birds were chirping and the trees were swaying in a sing-song sort of way.

Di Dim, a local farmer, strolled down the winding dirt road, occasionally stumbling onto the thick bulky tree roots. With his machete in hand, he swung and chopped the low-hanging branches in a whimsical way while whistling.

He had been a farmer all his life. He was part of five generations of farmers who had been slaves under the sovereignty and oppression of the French; that is, until the revolutionary war that rendered Haiti the first free Black nation in the world. He recently lost his farm because a white businessman robbed him of his land. In Haiti, the legal system is designed to protect the rich and, being a poor uneducated man, he was left with very little to no options to get his land back. Since then, he wandered the forest and lived off the land by chopping fruits hanging from the trees with his machete and hunting random animals with his rifle.

He soon came upon a dark cave and from inside the cave heard a hissing sound that sounded like “Pssssst. Psssssst. Psssssst…” He looked around then bent down to look further into the cave and at that point, a white snake slithered out and said, “Hi there. My name is Sister Snake. ” Wow! A talking snake! His eyes lit up with excitement as he responded, “I am Brother Di Dim.”

Sister snake looked him up and down and said, “I already know who you are, Brother Di Dim. I heard through these woods that you are a man of magic and so I have a proposition for you. Care to hear it?”

Brother Di Dim said, “Yeah…Yeah…” while bobbing his head up and down.

“I heard that you just lost your land and you are now a very poor man. I have always wanted to be a beautiful princess. If you use your magic to turn me into a beautiful princess I promise that I will marry you and you will become the Prince of Haiti and be a very wealthy man.”

Brother Di Dim stroked his chin deep in thought. “Hmm,” He uttered while looking down at Sister Snake. “Well
I have always wanted to know what it would feel like to be a rich man…” Then suddenly he said, “Ok! I will do it!” And Sister Snake said, “Good! Then we have a deal!” Then Brother Di Dim said to Sister Snake, “Ok, listen. While you go to bed tonight, I will work my magic and when you wake up tomorrow morning, you will be a beautiful princess.”

Brother Di Dim went on his way and at midnight under the moonlight he made his magic. The next morning Sister Snake awoke and leaped with joy because she was now a beautiful princess. Her crown and shoes were made of diamonds and her dress was made of gold.

Brother Di Dim then came by to see Princess Snake and said, “I have honored my promise and made you a princess. Now will you marry me and make me the Prince of Haiti?” Princess Snake looked down at him and said, “Marry you? I can’t marry you! You have bad teeth! When you have good teeth, I’ll marry you.”

Brother Di Dim went on his way and at midnight under the moon light he made his magic. The next morning, he woke up with good teeth and went to see Princess Snake and said, “I have honored my promise and gave myself good teeth. Now will you marry me and make me the Prince of Haiti?” Princess Snake looked down at him and said, “Marry you? I can’t marry you! You have kinky black hair. When you have long blond beautiful hair, I will marry you.”

So Brother Di Dim went on his way and at midnight under the moon light he made his magic. The next morning he had long blond beautiful hair and went to see Princess Snake and said, “I have honored my promise and gave myself long blond beautiful hair. Now will you marry me and make me the Prince of Haiti?” Princess snake looked down at him and said, “Marry you? I can’t marry you! You have ugly brown eyes. When you have beautiful blue eyes, I will marry you.”

So Brother Di Dim went on his way and at midnight under the moonlight he made his magic. The next morning he woke up with beautiful blue eyes and went to see Princess Snake and said, “I have honored my promise and gave myself beautiful blue eyes. Now will you marry me and make me the Prince of Haiti?” Princess Snake looked down at him and said, “Marry you? I can’t marry you! You have dirty black skin. When you have pearly white skin, I’ll marry you.”

So Brother Di Dim went on his way and at midnight under the moon light he made his magic. The next morning he woke up with pearly white skin and went to see Princess Snake and said, “I have honored my promise and gave myself pearly white skin. Now will you marry me and make me the Prince of Haiti?” Princess snake looked down at him and said, “Marry you? I can’t marry you! You are a poor man. A prince must be a rich man. When you’re a rich man, then I’ll marry you.”

But Brother Di Dim was told by the magic king that while he would be able to do all sorts of magic, the only magic he would not a able to do was make himself rich. Soon after he found out through the woods that Princess snake had married the rich white man who took away Brother Di Dim’s land.

Brother Di Dim became furious and decided to expose Princess Snake’s secret. On the day she was to marry, he turned her back into a white snake and all the villagers gasped in utter shock! Sister Snake said to the crowd, “It was that dirty nigger Brother Di Dim that did this to me. If he did this to me, imagine what he could do to you! He is a dangerous man and must be put to death!” She then slid away back into her dark cave in the forest.

Once the King of Haiti heard this, he thought that Brother Di Dim sounded like a powerful man who could bring him and his country many riches. He sought him out and made him a Prince, and he was soon married to a beautiful princess. Brother Di Dim is finally happy, now that he has become the Prince of Haiti.

Jacques Fleury’s book: “Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir” about life in Haiti & America was featured in the Boston Globe. Contact him at: haitianfirefly@gmail.com and visit his website at: www.thehaitianfireflyproductions.com.

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