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SNAKE - SNAKES
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Online Links are in blue and underlined. Cllick on them to get more information.
Get permission to retell any stories not in the pubic domain.
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1) Short and funny
2) The Moon and the Great Snake
3) Stories about Snakes: Grimm's Fairy Tales
4) Snake stories and facts
5) Rabbit Plays Tug-of-War (Creek/Muscogee Tribe) retold by S.E. Schlosser
6) Urban Legends and Folklore: A Snake in the Store
7) Urban Legends and Folklore: Snake Swallows Man!
8) Bear Lake Monster
9) Brazilian Myths and Fantastic Creatures
10) Animal Self-Medication in Folklore
11) Superstitions and Folklore of the South
12) Snakes in Southern Myths and Folklore
13) Madam White Snake (synopsis of legend)
14) American Folklore: Pennsylvania: Hoop Snakes (this is an exceptional site!)**
15) Modern Myths About Snakes
16) The Idyll of the White Snake (Lady White Snake) from China
17) A White Snake Bookshelf from Aaron Shepard (fabulous website!)**
18) The Boy Saved by the Snake: a tale from the Afghanistan War
19) Balinese Folklore
At the beginning of time, only Antaboga the world snake existed. Antaboga meditated and created the world turtle Bedwang. Two snakes lie on top of the world turtle, as does the Black Stone, which forms the lid of the underworld. The underworld is ruled by the goddess Setesuyara and the god Batara Kala, who created light and the earth. Above the earth lies a series of skies. Semara, god of love, lives in the floating sky, and above the sky lies the dark blue sky (space), home to the sun and moon. Next is the perfumed sky, which is full of beautiful flowers and is inhabited by Tjak, a bird with a human face; the serpent Taksaka; and a group of snakes collectively known as the Awan, who appear as falling stars. The ancestors live in a flame-filled heaven above the perfumed heaven, and finally beyond that is the abode of the gods.
20) The Snakeman
21) Snake Mythology in Massachusetts
22) Snake Facts and Fiction
23) Snake information with lots of hyperlinks
24) Native Myths, Legends and Lore: Mythology of North, South and Central America http://nativemyths.blogspot.com/2008/01/battle-with-snakes-iroquois.html
25) The First Snakes by Richard Dieterle
26) The Glaukidai; A Myth of the Blue Men (who lived in caves beneath the wavees): Apollonius Sophistes
27) The Gorgon: A Story of Medusa
SOS - SEARCHING OUT STORIES AND INFORMATION ABOUT SNAKES
Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians
(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)
Books and Products links are in blue and underlined. Cllick on them to get more information.
Get permission to retell any stories not in the pubic domain.
Always credit your sources.
Posts are entered chronologically. Posts prior to 2005 do not contain names or dates.
1) I can confirm several bits of lore that I heard or know from my neck of Appalachia. Copperheads do have a dry musty cucumber smell to them. I have smelled them in a box and in the woods in the hills of Kentucky when I killed them with a hoe. A Holiness preacher I met when was going to school at Oneida, Kentucky had several snakes he kept for the purpose of "takin' up the serpent." They were very tame and could be handled easily. I never saw them get irritated and I suspect they were kept fat and happy so they would not be aggressive. The wood box they were kept in always smelled of cucumber. A black snake will keep all other snakes away, not just poisonous ones. They usually get pretty big and aren't afraid of a copperhead or rattler. Keep a cat to keep away the rats - rats draw snakes to the barn or smokehouse. If you know where a snake is holed up - take a piece of bicycle innertube and tie one end round a garden hose, the other fix to the end of your muffler. Put the hose into the snake's hidey hole and start up the car. It'll leave out fast and won't go back to that place. I don't know if it is true, but I have heard snakes won't cross either lime or salt (not sure which) cause it irritates their skin. When we would kill a rattlesnake, we would carry the rattle with us. When we saw a rattler we would rattle the rattle and it was supposed to calm the live one down, make 'em think we was kin or some such. During dog days, snakes is meaner than other times cause they are workin' on sheddin' their skin. They are blind and cross and will strike at anything. We never went swimming during dog days because we were told cottonmouths were blind and would strike more often. Cottonmouths are mean snakes, anyway. Some folks thought black snakes would sneak into the barn and suck milk from a milk cow when they couldn't hunt rats. This would turn the cow's milk and make it unfit to drink. For that reason, some folks never let cats into the barn, so as to keep a good supply of rats. My Daddy told me last night it wasn't salt a snake wouldn't cross. It was a rope. Lay a rope out and a snake cannot cross it. Each time it tries, the rope rolls back and the snake will give up. Uhhmm, don't bet your life on it. This was his suggestion.
2) I wonder if the belief that snakes don't die til after dark was a cautionary device to keep kids from messing with a killed snake.
Could be, since it is still possible they could bite from a scientific point of view. I remember about 10 years ago we were tearing down an old building and our dog started barking at a pile of dry leaves. We went closer and heard what sounded like a rattler, dry rattling sounds coming out of the pile of leaves. My husband took a long stick and pulled away the leaves and there was a black snake, making that noise. I asked a naturalist about it and he said it's not an uncommon defense tactic for a black snake to mimic a rattler. I'd never seen or heard it since, but it was very convincing.
3) The Tender-Hearted Woman & the Snake (Tale type number 155 Ungrateful Serpent Returned to Captivity)
SOME BOOKS on that type:
Senor Coyote Acts as Judge, West, Coyote Wisdom
Senor Coyote and the Tricked Trickster, Edmonds, Trickster Tales Senor
Coyote Acts as Judge, West, Mexican-American Folklore
Don Coyote (picture book), Leigh Peck
Ungrateful Tiger, Zong In-Sob, Folktales from Korea
Son of Adam and the Crocodile, Egypt (University of Chicago)
Farmer and Viper, Aesop
The Man Who Knew How to Cure a Snakebite, Cambodia, Clarkson & Cross
The Trouble with Helping Out, Surinam Abrahams, Afro-American
Old Favors are Soon Forgotten, Russia, Avanase'ev (Pantheon)
The Boy and the Rattlesnake, Apache, Caduto and Bruchac
The Great Flood, China, Eberhard (University of Chicago)
Man, Snake and Fox, Greece, Megas
Brother Wolf Still in Trouble, Harris, Nights with Uncle Remus
Good is Repaid with Evil, Parades, Folktales of Mexico
The Ingrates, Italy, Thompson, 100 Favorite Folktales
The Ingrates, Crane, Italian Popular Tales
Inside Again, Jacobs, European Folk and Fairy Tales
Man, Serpent and Fox, Crane, Italian Popular Tales
The Tiger, the Brahman and the Jackal, India, Cole, Best-Loved
Ungrateful Animals (12 variants), Arewa, Northen East Africa
The Ungrateful Serpent, Clouston, Popular Tales
The Ungrateful Snake, the Fox and the Man, Dawkins, More Greek Folktales
Who is Blessed with the Realm, Riches and Honor?, Noy, Folktales of Israel
Sharon Creeden lists additional resources in her Fair is Fair: World Folktales of Justice.
4) I'm not sure that I would trust this bit of lore but I've heard old-timers from around here say that a rattlesnake won't strike at a constantly moving object. It's the change from stopping to motion that sets them off. One of the old wranglers said that he used to have an old Basque sheepherder companion who swore that by moving and wiggling his foot constantly, the rattlesnakes would never strike him.
I bought a couple of boxes in South Africa that are made of Soapstone. They are rectangular in shape being higher than wide and there is a frog or toad sitting on one side of the top. When you pull the frog back the lid slides open and a cobra pops out.........Someone told me that there is a story behind this box, she use to know it but forgot it..........so does anyone here know of this story?
Here are two possible suggestions, I think either would work for you.
Aardema, Verna. Who's in Rabbit's House? (Picture Puffins). Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
A retelling of a Masai folktale in which someone moved into rabbit's house and won't come out. Rabbit is offered help from frog, but rabbit thinks frog is too little to evict the long one who eats trees and trample elephants. The rabbit asks the jackal, the leopard, the elephant and the rhinoceros, but every one of their plans involves destroying the house. Finally, frog convinces rabbit to let him try. Frog rolls up a leaf into a horn and loudly asks who's in Rabbit's house and gets the same response as the others. Frog tells the intruder he is a spitting cobra and he will slither under the door and spit in the long one's eye s. The door opens and out comes a most surprising intruder. The illustrations by the Dillons are among the most fanciful and colorful. The rhythmic singsong of the text makes this an excellent book for a read aloud.
Who's in Rabbit's House? (Picture Puffins) by Verna Aardema. (1992 - Ages 4-8)
Review by a reader:
We found this by chance at the library and it is now one of our favorite books. During the three weeks we had the book we read it over 20 times and looked through it often. And we've checked it out a few times since then, too. Hmm, maybe we should buy it!
My boys have acted out the story repeatedly and I hear them quietly reciting the story to themselves.
The pictures are fantastic - bright, beautiful, so full of life. The text is superb and has a wonderful moral as well.
You will love this book and so will your kids.
The Snake and the Frog
6) The Serpent Lover (a tale from India)
A young woman, let's call her Kamakshi, was married to a husband who was no good. He went after a concubine. She was patient—she thought that the man would mend his ways and return to her tomorrow, if not today. But he got more and more deeply infatuated with his harlot and took to staying with her night and day. His wife thought, “This is God's will, it's His game,” and held her tongue. Two or three years passed.
One day, an old woman who lived next door talked to her. “What is this, my dear? How can you take it, when your husband never talks to you and lies in the pigsty of a harlot's house? We must do something about it. I'll give you some love medicine. Mix it with his food and serve it to him. Then your man will be your slave. He'll live at your feet, do whatever you wish. Just watch.”
The despairing young wife thought, “Why not?”
She brought home the old woman's potion and mixed it with sweet porridge. But, to her horror, the porridge turned blood-red. She said to herself, “This stuff, whatever it is, instead of making him love me, may make my husband crazy. It may even kill him. Let him be happy with anyone he wants. If he is alive, by God's grace, he'll come back to me some day.” And she poured the blood-red porridge into a snake hole behind her house.
It so happened that there was a snake in that hole, and it drank up the sweet porridge. The love potion acted on it and the snake fell
madly in love with her. That night, it took the shape of her husband and knocked on her door. Her husband, as usual, was out. She was startled by the knock. Who could it be? Should she let the person in? When she peeped through the chink in the door, there was a man outside who looked exactly like her husband. When she talked to him, he talked exactly like her husband. He had the same voice and manner. She took him in without asking too many questions and he made her very happy that night. He came to her night after night,
and in a few days she was pregnant.
When the snake came to know of it, he wanted to tell her the truth. He said, “Kamakshi, who do you think I am? Your husband? No, I'm the king of snakes. I fell in love with you and came to you in his shape.”
Then he shed her husband's form and became a five-headed serpent. She was terrified and shut her eyes. He changed back into her
husband's form again.
“You know now I'm the king of snakes. I live in that snake hole behind your house. I drank your porridge, and I don't know what you put in it, but I fell in love with you. I couldn't help coming to see you and making love to you. You're pregnant now, but there's no need to panic about it. I'll see to it that everything goes well. Your husband will come back to you and live happily with you. I'll also arrange for that harlot of his to come and be your servant,” he said, and went back to his hole in the ground as a snake.
The place buzzed with the news of the woman's pregnancy, and the errant husband heard about it too. He flew into a rage. “How could she do this to me?” he screamed. He went straight to his father-in-law and protested, “Father-in-law, I haven't slept in the same bed with your daughter for three years now. She has taken a lover, the whore. How else did she get pregnant?”
The father-in-law summoned his daughter and asked her, “Your husband is saying these slanderous things. What do you say?”
She replied, “He has never been good to me. But I've done nothing wrong.”
Her father wasn't convinced.
That night she talked to the king of snakes, who said, “Ha, that's very good. Don't you worry about it. Tomorrow the king's court will be in session. Go there bravely, and say, ‘The child in my womb is my husband's, no one else's.’ If they don't believe you, say then, ‘I'll prove it to you by taking the test of truth. In the Siva temple, there is a king cobra. I'll hold it in my hand and prove to you the truth of what I say. If I'm false, I'll die.’ ”
Next day, the raja's court assembled. The raja said to the husband, who was there with his complaint, “Tell us what your suspicions are. The elders can clear the doubts.”
The husband got up and said, “Elders, I have not slept in the same bed with my wife for three years now. How did she get pregnant?
You tell me what you think.”
She rose and expressed utter surprise. “O Elders, if my husband is not with me in this, where can I go for witnesses? He comes to me
every night. That's how I got pregnant. If you don't believe me, I'll go handle the cobra in Siva's temple. If I've done any wrong, may
it bite me and kill me.”
The elders agreed to the chastity test.
The whole court adjourned to the Siva temple. There was an awesome five-headed snake coiled round the Siva-linga. Kamakshi concentrated all her mind and senses, and prayed aloud so that everyone could hear, “O Lord, the child in my womb is my husband's. All other men are like brothers to me. If what I say is false, may you sting me to death.”
Then she put out her hand and took the cobra, who was none other than her lover, the king of snakes. He hung around her neck like a garland, opened his hoods, and swayed gently. The onlookers were awestruck. They said, “ Che, che, there has never been such a chaste wife. There never will be another better than her,” and saluted Kamakshi. They were ready to worship her as a paragon of wives, a pativrata. The husband was bewildered and felt like a fool.
Nine months passed. She gave birth to a divine-looking son. He glowed and was beautiful. Her husband forgot all his doubts when he saw his son. He took to playing with the child every day for a long time after dinner. The concubine became anxious about his coming later and later each day, and so asked a maid to investigate the matter. The maid reported, “He has a lovely son. Your man plays with him a lot after dinner. That's why he comes late.”
The concubine too wanted to see the child. Through a discreet maid she sent a message to Kamakshi that she would love to see the child of the man they both loved. Would she kindly send him with her maid for a short time?Kamakshi, coached by her serpent king, said she would send the child on one condition.
“I've put a lot of jewelry on my son. I'll weigh him when I send him to you, and I'll weigh him again when he is returned. If anything is missing, that concubine will have to become my servant and haul pitchers of water to my house.”
The confident concubine agreed and said, “Who wants her jewelry? She can weigh him all she wants.” Before Kamakshi sent the child, she took him to the king and weighed the child with all his ornaments in the king's presence. The concubine was very taken with the child, took him home, played with him for half an hour, and sent him back carefully without tampering with any of his ornaments.
On his return, Kamakshi and her maids weighed the child again in front of the king. The king of snakes had done his bit meanwhile.
Several ornaments were missing and the weight came up short. The king at once summoned the astonished concubine and ordered her to haul water to Kamakshi's house.
Her husband gave up the concubine's company, favored his wife in all things, and was supremely happy with her. In the happiness of regaining her husband, Kamakshi forgot the king of snakes. She was wholly absorbed in her husband and son now.
One night, the king of snakes came to see how Kamakshi was doing. He saw her lying next to her husband and child, fast asleep, contentment written on her face. He couldn't bear this change. In a fit of jealous rage, he twisted himself into Kamakshi's loose tresses, which hung down from the edge of the cot, and hanged himself with them. In the morning, on waking, she felt that her hair was heavy. Wondering what was wrong with it, she shook it, and the dead snake fell to the floor. She was grief-stricken.
Her husband asked, “Why do you weep over the carcass of a snake? How did a snake get into our bedroom anyway?”
She replied, “This is no ordinary snake. I had made offerings to him so that I might get my lost husband back. It's because of him
you're with me now. He's like a father to my son. As you know, a snake is like a brahmin, twice-born. Therefore, we should have
proper funeral rites done for this good snake, and our son should do it.”
The husband agreed, and the son performed all the proper funeral rites, as a son should for a father. Kamakshi felt she had repaid her debt and lived happily with her husband and her son.
Note: [AT 433C, The Serpent Husband and the Jealous Girl (IO). See also AKR's comments in Ramanujan 1991b.]
7) A Brother, a Sister, and a Snake (a tale from India)
A raja had a son and a daughter. His queen died before her time and the raja married another woman. The second woman didn't like her stepchildren. She even wanted to kill them. So she put a baby snake in a spouted cup (gindi) studded with pearls, filled it with water, and gave it to the girl to drink. The innocent girl drank it all up. The baby snake entered her stomach and grew inside her as she herself grew up. When her belly began to swell noticeably, the queen got the ear of the king, accused the young girl of being pregnant, slandered the children, and had them cast into the jungle.
While the young boy and girl were wandering in the forest, eating leaves and fruit, a kindly ogre's eye fell on them. He took them home and settled them there. He turned over the management of his entire household to them. Years passed.
He had buffaloes in his yard. One day the sister milked a buffalo, put the milk pot on the hot stove, and went to sleep. When the milk boiled over and the whole house was filled with the sweet smell of scalded milk, the snake in her stomach was enticed by it. It came out, went straight to the boiling milk, drank it and died. Now that the snake had come out, the sister slept even better. The brother saw the snake and cut it to pieces, threw it in the next room, and locked the door. He forbade his sister to open the door of that room.
One day, when her brother was not around, she got inquisitive and opened the door. To her astonishment, she saw a big green jasmine bush in full blossom. She gathered the flowers and made a lovely garland. When her brother came home, she affectionately tried to put it around his neck. When the brother saw the flowers he knew at once what had happened. He begged her not to put the garland round his neck. But she wouldn't listen; she was stubborn. Then, seeing no way out, he gave her three pebbles and said to her, “If you must throw that garland around my neck, take these three pebbles first. If something terrible happens to me, throw those pebbles on me.”
She said, “All right, I'll do as you say, but I must put this garland round your neck. I made it for you,” and put the garland around his neck. At once, he turned into a snake, and began to slither away. She was shocked at the result of her action, and followed it everywhere, till it glided into a snake hole in the forest floor. She sat there waiting for him to come out.
Her father, the raja, came there on one of his hunting trips. He saw this beautiful girl, didn't recognize her, fell in love with her, and asked her to go home with him. She told him of her brother's plight. The king at once called his snake charmer, who played his flute, enticed the snake out of the hole, and caught it. They all went to the king's palace, with the snake in a basket. In the palace, she remembered what her brother had said about the three pebbles and threw them on the snake. The snake vanished, and in its stead stood her brother.
The king now insisted that she marry him. She and her brother knew by now that he was their own father. She said that they should decide on their marriage in the open court. Then she asked for a pearl-studded spouted cup (gindi), and got one.
In the assembled court, the young woman placed the pearl-studded gindi in front of her and began her story. As she began, “Once there was a king…,” and went on, the gindi listened and nodded. She told it everything, all about her stepmother who gave her the baby snake to swallow, how they were banished to the forest, how her brother had changed into a snake, and all the rest. The gindi nodded at every pause. It didn't take long for the king to see that the young man and woman were his own lost children. He threw out his wicked queen and lived happily with his children.
8) Snake and Morse Code - tall tale
Take a look at this page, there are some credits at the beginning of the story. If may be the one you seek.
"This delightful tongue-in-cheek story appeared in the Illinois Central Magazine for February, 1944. It was reprinted in Dots & Dashes (publication of the Morse Telegraph Club, Inc.) Vol. 15, No. l Jan-Feb-March 1987, by permission of Ms. Virginia Anzelmo, of the Illinois Central Gulf News.]"
Here's a story about a rattlesnake who learns Morse Code: Leander, the Telegraphing Rattlesnake. I found it in A Treasury of Southern Folklore, edited by Botkin. [Same story as above]
9) I am writing this because I am having a bad snake problem as write this. I live in the city and last night we found 6 snake beds in an open area of my backyard. I am scared to death of snakes so writing this may help me to over come some of my fear with a funny story to share.
A few years a go my mother and I found a small lake on a farm near my home at that time. We fished most of the day until we ran out of worms but the fish were still biting. We went to a nearby barn to dig more worms. An old black man had been watching us all day catching fish. So as I was so excited by the sight of worms I was finding under old cow piles (poop) the old man walked up and said "Mame what are you doing?" I replied digging worms and look how big they are.........he replied"NO MAME those are baby cooper heads". Say no more the day of fishing was over.
Added later: We moved piles of old wood yesterday and no snakes just a skin left behind. I had 2 guys there to over see the removal just incase something crawled out........nothing until they left to go home and I was little more brave at that point until I moved the last piece of wood and there it was........another snake. Needless to say there are no mothballs left in town. My large yard will now be white from all the mothballs spread around to deter them from coming back. And no I didn't kill that snake it got a way.......but I like to think I let it go.
10) The Fairy Tale of the month for February was The White Snake, one of the lesser known Grimm tales. I hope you enjoy my reflections.
Charles K. 3/2/11
Created 2005; last update 3/2/11
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