This story is adapted from Andre Heuer.
Once there was a snake with a rather bad attitude. The small village near where the snake lived was very fearful of this snake. You see, this snake slithered through the grass, silently, seeking its victims, and without warning would strike and devour its prey. It was known to eat hens, dogs, and even big animals like cows. However, what was most upsetting to the villagers was that the snake was even eating their children.
The villagers wanted to be respectful towards all creatures but this snake had simply gone too far. They knew that something had to be done and they came together to get something done. The villagers gathered at the edge of the field, and with drumming and shouting, and sticks and stones, and with their minds made up started their search to find the snake and to kill it.
A holy man came upon this loud and angry crowd and asked, “What is this about?”
The villagers told him of the snake’s evilness and how the snake was even eating their children. The holy man asked, “If I make this snake stop, and it no longer eats your children, and hunts your farm animals, will you spare the snake’s life?”
The villagers argued among themselves. Some wanted vengeance and others were willing to let the holy man try. However, most of the villagers did not believe that the holy man would succeed and keep the snake from biting. However, reluctantly, they agreed to give the snake one chance.
The holy man entered the field and commanded the snake to come to him. And the power of the holy man caused the snake to crawl to the path and to the feet of the holy man.
“What issss it?” the snake hissed.
The holy man’s words were simple: “Enough! There is no need for this. There is plenty of food without eating the villager’s children or their animals.”
Now it was not so much what the holy man said but it was how he said it. There was a kindness and an authority in the holy man’s voice. The snake knew the holy man’s words to be true. The snake did not hiss a word but nodded in agreement and slithered away.
It was not long before the villagers discovered that the snake would not harm them. They were grateful that the snake no longer would bite. However, some of the villagers in their anger and hurt from what the snake had done and some in their meanness began to beat the snake with sticks and stones. Day after day the snake received more and more abuse until it could take no more and it hid underneath a large rock.
The snake hid underneath that rock, determined not to break its word to the holy man. However, the snake was very confused, and said to itself, “Why is this happening to me? I listened and followed the holy man’s words.” The snake was so fearful of leaving its hiding place it was soon dying from the villagers’ beatings and the lack of food.
One day, the weakened snake heard the footsteps of the holy man and with every bit of strength crawled out to meet him on the path. The holy man, seeing how terribly beaten and sickly the snake looked, asked, “What has happened to you?”
The snake with great effort told the story of the beatings and torment that it received from the villagers and how for days it had hidden underneath a rock to protect itself.
The holy man stood silently shaking his head. His voice was low as he said, “Oh, foolish snake, I told you not to bite but I did not say anything about hissing.”
And with this the snake understood and slithered away hissing.