Basic Information

Type/Species: Great Serpent
Origin: Serbian Folklore

About King of Snakes (Serbian)

As a shepherd tended his flock, he heard the hiss of a nearby snake. Curious, the shepherd approached the noise, and soon he saw a forest fire with the hissing snake encircled by flames. For a time, the shepherd only watched, wanting to see what a snake might do in such a situation.

Finally, the snake said, "For goodness's sake, save me!" [1]

The shepherd took his staff and reached the crook of it over the flames to the snake, who slithered onto it and clung as he lifted the staff past the flames. [1]

Instead of moving to the ground, the snake crawled from the staff to the shepherd's neck. Fearful for his life, he stood very still, but the serpent reassured him. [1]

"Please take me to my father, the King of Snakes," said the serpent, "and he will reward you for your kindness."

The shepherd replied, "My entire flock is here, close to the fire and with many predators. I need to protect them."

The snake promised him that his sheep would be safe while he visited the king; thus, the shepherd agreed to carry the rescued serpent back to the King of Serpents. [1]

The King of Serpents has a fine palace that is gated and protected from strangers. Serpents cover the gates so that whenever any snake wishes to enter, all that's required is a simple request. [1]

As the shepherd-and-serpent approached, the snake spoke to the gates, and they opened. The snake said, "My father will grant you anything, from silver to gold to jewels, but ask instead for the gift to speak to animals. He will hesitate, but he will grant it to you."

The King of Snakes saw the shepherd enter his palace with his son, and he felt gratitude to the man who spared his son's life. The King asked, "How may I repay my debt to you for saving my son from the fire?"

Taking the snake's advice, the shepherd replied, "Please, grant me the ability to understand the language of animals."

The King replied, "It would not be wise for a human to have such an ability, for if you tell a soul that you have this gift, it will surely kill you."

The shepherd acknowledged the king's warnings, but he asked again for the ability to understand the language of animals. The King offered him many exotic and extravagant gifts, but he refused them all. Only when the shepherd turned to leave empty-handed did the King resign to grant him his request. [1]

The King of Serpents breathed into the shepherd's mouth; thus, he left the palace of the King of Serpents gifted beyond mortal men.

The shepherd returned to his flock, and with his new gift he became a very rich man and married a lovely woman. [1]

Physical Description

The King of Serpents was a large, crested snake. [1]


  1. Mijatovies Serbian Folklore

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.