A very long time ago, when the trees were much larger than they are now, and animals of various kinds were more likely to be met by a traveler who followed the streams through the forests, there lived a man. He lived in a place where a large river split itself around a large outcropping of boulders and stones.
He was not a human man; in the evenings, he would slip into the water and turn into an enormous snake which had two long, sharp horns coming from its head. In this shape, he would coil up under the water and sleep. Sometimes he would sit very still, and look like the mud and stones of the river bottom, and eat fish who swam nearby. He also ate turtles, and toads, and eels.
When he emerged from the water, he would take the shape of a human man, and wander in the forest. Sitting still, he might look like a tree-stump, and snatch foxes or rabbits up when they came by, but he usually let them go after they kicked and cried out in terror. A fox who bit him while he was engaged in this prank discovered that his blood was too strange and powerful; it warped the tongue and throat of the fox.
The horned snake man slipped back into the water one evening, assuming his long, scaly shape. But unbeknownst to him, the large stones and boulders who had watched him for seasons beyond count had been plotting against him. They chose one of their number to harm him- and as he passed below them in the water, a great boulder freed itself from the dark soil and rocks that held it suspended over the river. It crashed down, making an enormous splash, and crushing the horned snake man. He died there in the water, pressed against the bottom of the river.
His spine was crushed, and much of his power slipped out of him, being drawn away by the moving water, which licked and drank it up. Some fish came to take their share. All the horned snake man could do with the power he saved from his spine was assume the shape of one of the fish in the river. And thus he had to remain, for many seasons: a fish in the shallow water near the bank and the stones. Continue reading