The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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Probably no wild beast that ever lived has caused such deadly terror to so many people as that inspired by snakes of all kinds. With a lion or a tiger a man feels that he knows pretty well what the creature will do, and how he must defend himself. The animal springs, and bounds, and bites, and men can spring, and bound, and bite, too, if they want to, though not so far, or so well. As regards a snake it is quite different. His ways are not our ways ; his method of getting along is totally unlike ours; he does not display a great row of gleaming teeth to frighten you and tear your flesh; his head darts at you like lightning, and is as quickly withdrawn ; but in that instant, unless strong remedies are at hand, your death-blow has been struck.
It is this sense of mystery and strangeness that hangs round serpents which makes them the object of such dread, though of course there are many kinds which are perfectly harmless. Dark tales, too, are told of their strength and power of fascination, by which their victims are not only prevented from making their escape, but even forced to advance towards their fate. As a l'ule, however, snakes, unless they are very hungry, only attack in self-defence, and act on the principle that ' if you do not hurt me, I will not hurt you.' Still, without meaning to hurt them, they sometimes look so like a dead branch that they get trodden upon; then woe be to the creature who has roused them from sleep !
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