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While a woman sleeps in the garden, a snake crawls under her skirts and makes its way ‘into her body’ where it comes to rest in her womb. The woman falls pregnant, and when the baby (Biancabella) is born, she has a tiny snake coiled around her neck. The snake quickly slithers away into the garden.

When Biancabella is 10, she discovers the snake in the garden. The snake reveals itself to be her own sister, and gifts her with great beauty. With her new beauty, she is quickly married off to a king.

The king’s evil step-mother hatches a plan to be rid of Biancabella, and when the king is away at war, she pays a group of men to take the new queen into the forest and kill her. The men are unable to go through with the murder, so instead they cut off Biancabellas hands and tear out her eyes, which they give to the step-mother as proof of the queen’s demise. The step-mother then places her own hideously ugly and deformed daughter in Biancabella’s bed, and when the king returns home, she tells him that his precious Biancabella miscarried a child, and has become hideous with grief.

Meanwhile, Biancabella decides to kill herself – but as soon as she attempts to do so, her sister appears in human form and magically heals Biancabella’s horrible wounds. They return to the kingdom where the false queen now reigns: the evil plot is revealed, and the step-mother and her two daughters are burned alive in a furnace.

-(Giambattista Basile – Il Pentamerone (Entertainment For The Young) 1634)



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