The Man and the Snake
Narrated by Abdu Rahim Balla
In the olden days, wild animals and domestic animals were like human beings. They had a language by which they could communicate. There was a leader who governed them and they called him their secretary. It was the fox who was the secretary. And this fox lived secluded from the animals in his own place. Whenever they had quarrels they would go to the fox. He gave judgement.
One day a man was travelling alone. In those days human beings would talk with the animals. While he was walking along he met with a snake.
The snake was a helpless creature being unable to walk, but the man was able to do so, so the snake asked the man, “You can go where you like, but I am crippled and cannot walk, so please carry me.”
The man agreed and walked on, carrying the snake.
So after they had walked for a long time, the man said, “Now I am tired. We have made a long journey, so please get off now. I will leave you here.”
So they quarrelled.
The snake said, “No, I won’t get off.”
And when the man said, “Get off me,” the snake said, “No, I will bite you,” and he threatened him.
He turned his head towards the man’s face, and putting out his tongue, threatened to bite him and poison him. The man was so afraid he kept him on his head and went on.
Now the man had an idea.
“Why don’t I go to the judges?”
So they went to wild animals, such as the elephant, the bear and other big animals, the lion, leopard.
But when they reached each wild animal, the snake threatened them all, one by one, “I’ll bite you,” and they were afraid of him.
So the man couldn’t get justice. He was puzzled and he tried to find means of getting a good judge. Finally he went to the fox, not knowing he was the chief. He still carried the snake round his neck.
“I brought him here coiled on my neck, and when I wanted him to get off me, he wouldn’t agree.”
“Well, this is very simple. I will give my verdict. Both of you sit down.”
After they sat down the fox said, “To give the judgement I must ask questions and the man must speak, and speak more. How can he, since you are coiled round his neck? So get off his neck and I will go on.”
So the snake got off his neck and sat down next to him.
Just then the fox said to the man, “Kill him with your stick.”
So the man killed the snake with his stick, repeatedly hitting him on his head. The man was happy when the snake died.
Then he said to the fox, “I owe you very much. You have saved my life. I must show you my gratitude. I shall bring a lamb or a sheep. Please don’t go away. I shall find you here.”
So the fox was very happy about his gift, and said he would wait. So the man, being wicked, instead of keeping his promise, he came back with a dog hidden in his shamma.Traditional Ethiopian wear. A thin, white cotton wrap worn by both men and women. When he approached him he set the dog on the fox. The dog, being a rival of the fox, jumped and cut the throat of the fox and killed him. So the man was not honest but broke his promise.
As he died, the fox says, “How wicked is man,” and the foxes remembered his words.
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