Native American Legends
Origin of the black snakes
A Passamaquoddy Legend
Far away, very far in the north, there dwelt by the border of a
great lake a man and his wife. They had no children, and the woman
was very beautiful and passionate.
The lake was frozen over during the greater part of the year. One
day when the woman cut away the ice, she saw in the water a bright
pair of large eyes looking steadily at her. They charmed her so
that she could not move. Then she distinguished a handsome face;
it was that of a fine slender young man. He came cut of the water.
His eyes seemed brighter and more fascinating than ever; he glittered
from head to foot; on his breast was a large shining silvery plate.
The woman learned that this was At-o-sis, the Serpent, but she
returned his embraces and held conversation with him, and was so
charmed with her lover that she not only met him more than once
every day, but even went forth to see him in the night.
Her husband, noticing these frequent absences, asked her why she
went forth so frequently. She replied, "To get the fresh air."
The weather grew warmer; the ice left the lake; grass and leaves
were growing. Then the woman waited till her husband slept, and
stole out from the man whom she kissed no more, to the lover whom
she fondled and kissed more than ever.
At last the husband's suspicions being fairly aroused, he resolved
to watch her. To do this he said that he would be absent for three
days. But he returned at the end of the first day, and found that
she was absent. As she came in he observed something like silvery
scales on the logs. He asked what they were. She replied, Brooches.
He was still dissatisfied, and said that he would be gone for one
day. He went to the top of a hill not far distant, whence he watched
her. She went to the shore, and sat there. By and by there rose
up out of the lake, at a distance, what seemed to be a brightly
shining piece of ice. It came to the strand and rose from the water.
It was a very tall and very handsome man, dressed in silver. His
wife clasped the bright stranger in her arms, kissing him again
The husband was awed by this strange event. He went home, and tried
to persuade his wife to leave the place and to return to her people.
This she refused to do. He departed; he left her forever. But her
father and mother came to find her. They found her there; they dwelt
with her. Every day she brought to them furs and meat. They asked
her whence she got them. "I have another husband," she replied;
"one who suits me. The one I had was bad, and did not use me well.
This one brings all the animals to me." Then she sent them away
with many presents, telling them not to return until the ice had
formed; that was in the autumn.
When they returned she had become white. She was with young, and
soon gave birth to her offspring. It consisted of many serpents.
The parents went home. As they departed she said to them, "When
you come again you may see me, but you will not know me."
Years after some hunters, roaming that way, remembered the tale,
and looked for the wigwam. It was there, but no one was in it. But
all the woods about the place were full of great black snakes, which
would rise up like a human being and look one in the face, then
glide away without doing any harm.
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