The Orange Fairy Book
The Magic Mirror
A long, long while ago, before ever the White Men were seen in Senna, there
lived a man called Gopani-Kufa.
One day, as he was out hunting, he came upon a strange sight. An enormous
python had caught an antelope and coiled itself around it; the antelope, striking
out in despair with its horns, had pinned the python's neck to a tree, and so
deeply had its horns sunk in the soft wood that neither creature could get away.
'Help!' cried the antelope, 'for I was doing no harm, yet I have been caught, and
would have been eaten, had I not defended myself.'
'Help me,' said the python, 'for I am Insato, King of all the Reptiles, and will
reward you well!'
Gopani-Kufa considered for a moment, then stabbing the antelope with his
assegai, he set the python free.
'I thank you,' said the python; 'come back here with the new moon, when I shall
have eaten the antelope, and I will reward you as I promised.'
'Yes,' said the dying antelope, 'he will reward you, and lo! your reward shall be
your own undoing!'
Gopani-Kufa went back to his kraal, and with the new moon he returned again to
the spot where he had saved the python.
Insato was lying upon the ground, still sleepy from the effects of his huge meal,
and when he saw the man he thanked him again, and said: 'Come with me now
to Pita, which is my own country, and I will give you what you will of all my
Gopani-Kufa at first was afraid, thinking of what the antelope had said, but finally
he consented and followed Insato into the forest.
For several days they travelled, and at last they came to a hole leading deep into
the earth. It was not very wide, but large enough to admit a man. 'Hold on to my
tail,' said Insato, 'and I will go down first, drawing you after me.' The man did so,
and Insato entered.
Down, down, down they went for days, all the while getting deeper and deeper
into the earth, until at last the darkness ended and they dropped into a beautiful
country; around them grew short green grass, on which browsed herds of cattle
and sheep and goats. In the distance Gopani-Kufa saw a great collection of
houses all square, built of stone and very tall, and their roofs were shining with
gold and burnished iron.