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"Snake's Tale" A southern African folk tale

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*Pulls up a chair and sits down* Yes that's right the story blog is back again, after...6 months or something, anyway on to the story.

SNAKE'S TALE (a Southern African folktale)

Long ago, little Mantis crawled across the dry earth, his throat parched, his eyes bulging. He was not alone; the other animals were thirsty too. Rain had stopped falling. It had been so long since they had seen showers, the youngest creatures did not even know what rain was, and when their parents spoke of rain clouds and storms, the young looked bewildered. Now as the sun set, Moon looked down on the poor animals and felt such pity, she decided she must caution them. And so she called down to little Mantis, who looked up at her call. "Go with your children and all the beasts to another land," Moon called. "But where?" Mantis asked, and the sound of his voice was scratchy, for his throat was parched, as dry as the ground at his feet. "Walk toward me," Moon said. "As I set, I will lead the way. Tell all the others to gather their belongings, and we will depart before dawn. "Mantis quickly ran here and there, spreading the word to the birds and beasts and every single insect he could find. "Pack your things. Gather your husbands, your wives, sisters and brothers and all your children. Moon will lead us out of this land. Moon says that soon this land will be nothing but desert, and if we want to survive, we must depart. The elephants, hearing the news, raised up their trunks, and their loud trumpeting sound shook the land, so that everyone came out of hiding places -- from hives and tree trunks, from beneath the ground, from caves and crevasses. "Where will we go?" they asked.

Story image

Mantis stood up proudly before everyone. "We shall follow Moon," he declared. Everyone was ready, but suddenly Mantis noticed Snake. Now in those days Snake was just like other animals; he too had legs. And he had family, too, but he was not packing or gathering or preparing. "What are you doing, Snake?" Mantis asked. "You have not gathered your family. You have not packed your things. You must hurry! Soon Moon will be leaving, and we must follow." Snake yawned. He was a lazy fellow, and the notion of moving far from his home did not appeal to him. Besides, he was confident soon all would be well. Why bother doing anything? Sooner or later, rain would come to the land again. Surely the drought would end and plants would grow. "I'm too tired to bother with moving," Snake said grumpily.

Snake Moon goddess

"You must go with us," Mantis insisted, and his eyes bugged out even bigger and wider than they usually did. "Please, Snake, don't be foolish. You can't stay here. You'll die of thirst." Snake yawned once more. "I'm staying, Mantis. It's late, and it's dark, and I need my sleep. Please don't make too much noise as you're leaving." Mantis tried to persuade him to change his mind, and so did some of the other creatures of the veldt: the springbok and meerkats, the cheetahs and the lions, the elephants and baboons, the giraffes and the ostriches. But Snake yawned in everyone's face, and then he curled up and fell asleep beneath a rock, and when he awoke, everyone was gone. Now Snake looked around. It was true, the grass was shriveling, and soon it would be gone altogether, and he might not have a nice bed. And the fat little frogs had decided to leave with the others, so now what would he eat, he wondered. Then he thought, "I'll figure it out later." But the days passed, and then the weeks, and still rain did not fall, and all the grass dried up and blew away in the dry dusty winds. By now Snake was starving. He had never felt such sharp pains in his body, and he could not stop his children's cries. And so at long last he decided he must follow the others. He would move in their footsteps. Perhaps they were wise, after all. And so he packed up his family, and together they set off to find a land of water and friendship.

pray mantis

friendship

The drought had gone on for so long by this time, the land was only desert, and as they walked, Snake's feet, and his family's feet, too, sank into the footsteps left behind by the others. The hot sand scratched at their bellies, and every step felt like it might be their last. That evening, as Moon rose over them, Snake looked up. "Oh Moon," he cried, "I am so sorry I did not listen to your wise words. I worshipped the sun, and now it is the sun that will be my destruction. Please help save me and my family!" The Moon, always kind, looked down on poor Snake and his family, and felt such terrible pity for the miserable creatures that she had to do something. She said, "I will make you able to survive this world." At that moment Snake looked down and saw his legs shriveling up; soon they disappeared altogether. Then he saw his body growing thinner and sleeker, shiny, too, and when he lay down upon the desert sand, he discovered he could slide across it without sinking. He turned and saw that his family had also been transformed, and so together they set off across the hot sands and found their way to the other animals. Snake's body stayed this way forever, and he remained shy. He still hides from the others, for he feels shame for not believing in the Moon. But he has never stopped loving the sun, and no one knows if he has really changed his lazy ways.

the sun

*Twirls back into the darkness* Later, people.

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