The Girl Who Married Rattlesnake


At a place called Cobowin there was a large rock with a hole in it, and many rattlesnakes lived inside this hole. Nearby at Kalesima there was a village with four large houses, and in the one with a center pole lived a girl. In the spring when clover was just right to eat, this girl went out to gather some. While she was working, she was watched by a rattlesnake.

The snake followed her back to the village, and close to her house he transformed himself into a handsome young man with a net on his head and fine beads around his neck. Then he climbed up onto the top of the house and came down the center pole. The family was surprised to see him, but he told the girl that he wanted to marry her. He remained with the family overnight and the following morning went home again. He arrived and left like this for four days; then on the fifth evening he came back, but this time did not change his form. He simply slithered into the house and began conversing just as before. The girl's mother, waiting for her daughter's suitor, said she heard someone talking in the place where she heard the sound, and there was Rattlesnake. He shook his snake's head, and she dropped the light and ran in terror.

On the following morning Rattlesnake took the girl home with him, and there she remained. In time she bore him four boys. Whenever these children saw any people from the village, they would coil to strike, but their mother would say, "No, you mustn't bite your relatives." And the children would obey her.

As the four rattlesnake boys grew older, they also grew more curious, and one day they came in from playing and asked their mother, "Why don't you talk the way we do? Why are you different?"

"I'm not a rattlesnake, like you and your father," she replied. "I'm a human being."

"Aren't you afraid of our father?" asked the boys, and she shook her head.

Then the oldest said that he had heard the other rattlesnakes discussing her differences and deciding to crawl over her body to find out what kind of creature she was. While this might have alarmed another human, the rattlesnake's wife was not at all afraid. When the other rattlesnakes came, she calmly let them crawl over her.

Then she said to her oldest boy, "It's impossible for you to become a human being, and though I'm not really human any longer, I must go back to my parents and tell them what has happened." And so she returned to the house with the center pole and said to her parents, "This is the last time that I will be able to talk to you and the last time that you can talk with me." Her father and mother were sad, but they said nothing until their daughter started to leave. Then her mother ran and caught her by the door, brought her back into the house, and wept over her because she was so changed. But the girl shook her body, and suddenly she was gone. No one knew how or where she went, but they think she returned to Rattlesnake's house and has lived there ever since.

 

* Based on a legend recorded by Samuel Barrett in 1933

First Opened: November 13, 2000
Revised: June 200
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