The Brave and the Rattlesnake

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OK, I'm a little late posting, but here's today's fable. It's one that reflects my Lakota roots. Enjoy. - Haylee V

The Brave and the Rattlesnake

One day, a Lakota brave went up a mountain into the timberlines to gather wood for the fire. While he was busy gathering the wood, he happened upon a rattlesnake, shivering in the cold.

"Brother brave," the snake said, pleading, "Please help me. I am freezing up here, and if I stay much longer, I shall surely die."

"I cannot, Brother Snake. For you are a trickster, and might bite me on the way down."

"I won't!" he pleaded. "Please! You CAN'T let me die up here."

The brave continued to deny the snake's requests, but his resistance was failing. He couldn't stand to see any of the Great Spirit's creatures suffering, even a snake. Finally, he gave in.

Picking up the snake gently, he placed the nearly frozen reptile in his wood basket and covered him with a blanket.

"Promise me, though that you won't harm me."

"I promise, young brave."

Slowly, they made their descent down the mountain. Just as they were on the outskirts of the village, the brave felt a sharp pain in his thigh.

"But you PROMISED!" the brave cried in agony, as the venom coursed through his body. The brave knew that soon, he would breathe his last.

"Such is my nature, young brave. You KNEW what I was when you picked me up. Only a fool WILLINGLY subjects himself to imminent danger."


This story was told to me during the Yap Ye Iswa festival (Day of the Catawba) in Rock Hill, SC, in 2006. That rendition used either a Water Moccasin or Copperhead (depending on the elder telling the story), as both of those vipers are quite prevalent in the Upper Piedmont region of the Carolinas. This version is from the Lakota, as I attended a Pow Wow in the summer of 2008 of the First Tribes. The origins of this story date to antiquity, and it has been passed on by word of mouth ever since. Aesop also had a (modified) version of it in his fables, although the story itself predates even him.

* Edit *

11-June-2017: I have found this fable, albeit in a modified form, in a book titled The AEsop for Children on the Library of Congress's website. Here is the link to that story. Apparently, this is the earliest known record of the tale. -- Haylee V

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