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Native American Legends

The Little Boy and the Rattlesnake

A Cherokee Legend

The little boy was walking down a path and he came across a rattlesnake. The rattlesnake was getting old. He asked, "Please little boy, can you take me to the top of the mountain? I hope to see the sunset one last time before I die." The little boy answered "No Mr. Rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you'll bite me and I'll die." The rattlesnake said, "No, I promise. I won't bite you. Just please take me up to the mountain." The little boy thought about it and finally picked up that rattlesnake and took it close to his chest and carried it up to the top of the mountain.

They sat there and watched the sunset together. It was so beautiful. Then after sunset the rattlesnake turned to the little boy and asked, "Can I go home now? I am tired, and I am old." The little boy picked up the rattlesnake and again took it to his chest and held it tightly and safely. He came all the way down the mountain holding the snake carefully and took it to his home to give him some food and a place to sleep. The next day the rattlesnake turned to the boy and asked, "Please little boy, will you take me back to my home now? It is time for me to leave this world, and I would like to be at my home now." The little boy felt he had been safe all this time and the snake had kept his word, so he would take it home as asked.

He carefully picked up the snake, took it close to his chest, and carried him back to the woods, to his home to die. Just before he laid the rattlesnake down, the rattlesnake turned and bit him in the chest. The little boy cried out and threw the snake upon the ground. "Mr. Snake, why did you do that? Now I will surely die!" The rattlesnake looked up at him and grinned, "You knew what I was when you picked me up."

Here is the same story. Told slightly differently.

Often times young boys were sent from the village in search of a vision. This was the case of one particular young native boy.

He started to go up to the top of a mountain in search of his vision. And as he climbed up the mountain, the air got cooler and cooler. And he came upon a snake laying in the path. The snake was shivering, and said to the boy. "Please help me. I can't move, I am so cold that I can no longer make it any further down the mountain."

The boy said to the snake "No way! You're a snake, if I pick you up, you'll bite me!" The snake replied. "No, no I won't, I promise I won't bite you if you'll only pick me up and help get me down the mountain."

So the young boy picked up the snake, put him in his shirt, and continued climbing to the top of the mountain in search of his vision. When he got back down to the bottom of the mountain, he reached in, took out the snake, and the snake bit the young boy.

The boy replied to the snake "Hey! You bit me, you said that if I'd help you out, that you wouldn't bite me!"

The snake replied "But you knew what I was when you picked me up!"

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