Habërmani : An Armenian sorcerer prince disguises himself as a snake and hides in a pile of firewood that an old man has gathered and taken home. In the evening, he reveals himself to the old man and his wife. The snake tells the old man that he should go to the king and ask for the hand of his daughter for his son.

The old man reluctantly follows the suggestion of Habërmani, but he is not well received by the king. When he tells the king what he wants, the king laughs at him and thinks he is mad, but he agrees—if the old man can build a palace that rivals that of the king. If he fails, however, the king will have his head. The old man goes home, convinced that he is near the end of his days.

Habërmani knows what to do when he hears the message from the king. He tells the old man to go into the forest to a certain well where he will shout down to Mother Earth and tell her what Habërmani needs. On returning home, the old peasant finds, not his old hut, but, rather, a beautiful palace, and thus is sent again to the king to ask for the hand of the princess.

The king sees the palace, but tells the old man that he has to go back and lay out a beautiful garden or lose his head. Again Habërmani tells him to go to the well, call out to Mother Earth, and ask for the garden. When the king sees the beautiful garden, he is really troubled, for now he knows that some forces are afoot that he does not understand.

A third assignment is given, this time to weave a carpet that stretches from one palace to the other. Again Mother Earth helps, but the king assigns one last task, to provide seven invisible minstrels with pipes and drums. This is also quickly accomplished with the help of Habërmani, the well, and Mother Earth. Now the king has no choice, and the old man brings his son to the king.

But the youth appears as a snake, and the king is horrified. Still, he has promised, and he gives his daughter in marriage to Habërmani. When he and the princess are alone, he takes off his snake skin and tells her that he is indeed a handsome prince. She should not reveal this to anyone, lest he lose his human form and spend the rest of his life as a snake. One day the king decides to hold a tournament for the nobles of his kingdom. Habërmani slips away and changes into blue armor to participate in the tournament.

The princess knows immediately that this is her Habërmani, but the ladies of the court say that it could not be, since he would have to slither into the contest as a snake. Finally, the princess tells them that her Habërmani is the finest knight in the tournament, and right away he is struck by a lance and falls from his horse. Now the spell has been broken, and Habërmani tells her that she will have to put on iron sandals and wander the world for seven years; she will pass seven castles, one each year.

Then Habërmani and the palace, the gardens, and everything vanishes, and the princess is left all alone. She resolves to find him, puts on the sandals, and sets out. Habërmani is still wounded and seeks a realm that is ruled by a witch. The witch wants Habërmani to marry her daughter.

He loves his princess so much that he will not consider the witch’s daughter. His wound causes a terrible fever, however, and the young woman brings him pitchers of water to cool him off. His princess wanders to the seven cities; Clay City, Crystal City, Copper City, Iron City, then Steel City, Silver City, and finally to Golden City. Here she meets the witch’s daughter and soon learns that Habërmani is indeed there but is still suffering from a vile fever.

She asks for a drink of water and secretly slips her wedding band into the pitcher. When Habërmani drinks the water, he finds the ring and is immediately cured of his fever. Next he sends for his princess, and they are joined together again, but still need to escape the magic realm. The witch asks the princess to massage her feet and to sleep at the foot of her bed during the night, but Habërmani knows this is a trick and puts a log in the bed where the princess is to sleep.

In the morning the log has been smashed to pieces. Next the witch tries to get the princess lost by sending her into the forest to collect five sacks of feathers. Habërmani helps her, but the witch has yet another trick. The princess is to travel around in the world and collect 12 dresses like none other on earth. Habërmani knows now that it is time to try to escape.

After traveling some distance, the two see a cloud of dust following them; it is the witch’s daughter. Habërmani turns his wife into a windmill and himself into a deaf miller. The witch’s daughter arrives and cannot guess what has happened because the miller only speaks nonsense. They travel on, but soon see the cloud of dust behind them. This time Habërmani turns his wife into a garden and himself into a deaf gardener. Because she was so distraught by her daughter’s failures, the witch sets out in pursuit herself.

Again a large cloud of dust follows the couple, and Habërmani tells his wife to throw her comb on the ground. Instantly a great forest springs up around them, and Habërmani turns his wife into a sapling and himself into a small snake and then wraps himself around his wife to protect her. The witch knows that she might find the pair in the forest, but Habërmani pleads for mercy, and the witch agrees, asking only for a kiss from the snake. Habërmani grants her wish, and she then returns to her realm, and he and his princess go back to their kingdom, resume their human forms, and Habërmani never again has to resort to the use of his snakeskin.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante