Femme piquée par un serpent [Woman Bitten by a Snake] by Auguste Clésinger
Photo by Devonne taken at Musée d’Orsay
There is an old story that goes something like this…
A maiden was walking towards her village on a cold fall evening. Up ahead in the road she noticed a snake. The snake was not moving and appeared to be harmless so she approached with caution. As she approached she heard the snake call to her “Pretty maiden, please, help me. I am so cold, if left alone I shall surely die.”
The maiden came closer and noticed the snakes colors, it was indeed a venomous snake but her tender heart felt compassion. “Where is your home, I can help you back to it”, the maid said, and inched a little closer.
“My home is cold, there is no one there to keep me warm. Wont you please pick me up and let me warm inside your coat? I will surely die if left in this state!” pleaded the snake.
“But you are a snake, you bite and I will be hurt, I have been warned by the elders to stay away from you.” the maid scolded.
“I am dying, no one understands me.” the snake laments, “Do not worry fair maiden, I mean you no harm. I only want to feel the warmth of your body so that I can feel alive once again. Trust me. Put me inside your coat and take me home to your fire. Let me stay the night in your bed until this cold is gone from me. Surely i would not bite someone who treated me with such love.”
Seduced by the snakes promises, and knowing the pains of being misunderstood, the maiden gave in against her intuition, picked up the snake and put him next to her heart inside her warm coat.
The rest of the walk home the snake wooed her with fine conversation and compliments. The maiden found him to be an intelligent and entertaining companion and she began to trust the snake and believe that she was different that though he may bite others surely he would not bite her. They laughed and talked the whole night. While basking in the warmth of her fire the snake began to warm and regain its strength and when she retired to her bed for the evening the snake wrapped himself around her and tickled her ear with his tongue. “Thank you, my love, you are amazing.” and the maid fell asleep wrapped in his embrace…
In the morning the maid awoke with a sharp pain right over her heart! She threw off her covers to see the puncture wounds of fangs on her chest. “YOU BIT ME! HOW COULD YOU!” she cried as tears welled up in her eyes.
The snake simply smiled and replied, “What are you crying about, silly girl? You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.” and he slithered away to entice his next victim in.