How Snakes Defend our Gardens

How Snakes Defend our GardensLong ago there was a Doir gardener. They tended a vast plot, producing food for their own table, but every day they lost fruit to the possums, the bats, and the bushrats. These thieves would raid the gardens in the night, taking the ripe fruits and fresh green vegetables and leaving a mess for the Gardener to clean.

Then one day while tending the fence around their fig trees they came across a python.

“Get away,” the Gardener said, stepping back from the reptile.

“If you wish,” the Python replied, “I’ve had my fill of the bats who prey upon your figs.”

“Then I am indebted to you, the bats steal half of my harvest every night.”

“And the possums and the bushrats?”

“Yes, yes, they too steal my crops and leave half-chewed fruit to rot on the ground!”

“So messy,” the Python said, “If I keep those thieves away would you let me stay? I’m tired of Humans always chasing me from their gardens.”

“If you defend my garden you can stay without harm,” the Gardener promised.

Still unsure of the bargain they’d struck the Gardener arose early the next morning to check on their plants. A rustling came from the undergrowth like the slithering of a hundred snakes, stopping once the sun rose. Only then did the Gardener dare wander the yard.

Barely a berry had been nibbled, so they deemed it a bargain well struck.

Now, without the creatures stealing their crops the Gardener was able to grow surplus food, enough to help others in their small community. They soon began hosting gatherings, warning all guests to never stray from the paths at night, and to stay within the firelight.

Years passed and the Gardener aged, and always the Python defended their garden, until one day when they were very old.

Sick and bed-bound the Gardener could no longer tend to their plants, so a youngster from the community was sent to help them. Carefully the Gardener explained the day’s chores, and stressed that the creatures in the garden, particularly the snakes, should be left alone and unharmed.

The youngster agreed and began tending to the house and yard work. Halfway through the morning they’d gotten into a rhythm, trimming some scrub that was growing too close to the house.

Whack, whack, went the long bladed tool as they cut back the branches.

Curious about the commotion the Python poked its head out of a nearby gap, startling the youngster. In fright they swung the tool, remembering too late the Gardener’s insistence that no snakes be harmed.

As the python fell dead on the path a chill wind crossed the yard.

The youngster ran inside, full of regret, to tell the Gardener what they’d done. Amongst their blankets lay a lifeless corpse, already cooling.

Unsettled, the youngster fled home.

The next day they returned with a group of people from the community. At the home of the Gardener they found the place a mess. Many of the plants in the gardens had been stripped bare, their stalks withering in the sun, while others had been uprooted and left to die.

Piles of leaf-litter had blown into the house overnight, the under-layers rustling as the group entered. The detritus was banked higher the closer they got to the bedroom, so high that they had to wade through it to reach the bed.

A long skeleton lay atop the blankets, that of a python, missing its head. The remains of the Gardener were nowhere to be found.

In silence the group left, later to share their tale with the rest of the community and with travellers who passed by their lands. Since then all Doir have remembered how snakes protect our gardens, and to leave them in peace when we see them hunting thieves.


 

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