The Snake and the Orangutan

A fable

There was a beautiful snake whose glossy scales shone in bright beguiling colors. The animals who gazed upon this creature and saw its body slithering to and fro would fall into rapture at the sight. Often, the many creatures of the forest would grow so enamored by the serpent that they would elect it king.

But one morning the snake saw a scale fall from its hide, and day by day its wonderful skin slowly turned a monotone grey.

“What must I do,” said the snake, “To keep my crown?”

The wise owl spoke, “You must shed that skin you have so much pride in.”

For this sedition the owl was banished.

The snake thought as its beauty waned: I must find some creature to run against who, uglier than I, my subjects, seeing us juxtaposed, will forget my vanishing virtue and entrust me again their ruler.

Looking into the faint reflection of a pool the snake supposed itself not so ugly as it had feared. “But who,” it cried, “Could be so ugly and still think itself fit to rule?”

It was then the orangutan, the silliest of the animals, passed the palace window. The snake watched the orange beast as it scratched itself, and, perchance finding a bug in its coat, made a snack of it.

The next day the orangutan and the snake had a beauty contest for the rule of the kingdom. The night before the snake had all the courtiers glue its fallen scales back into place and paint them to regain their lost colors. The orangutan ate over-ripened fruit the night before and had a queasy stomach in the morning.

The two strutted up and down before the electors. The orangutan, finding its late night meal too much to hold, upchucked over the slithering snake. The snake’s beloved subjects came to wipe those wonderful scales clean and cleaned the paint from them.

It was just a little spot of grey, the snake told itself. But the glue, untrustworthy, began to fail as well, and the animals watched their ruler transform into a patchwork of lying colors and gross truths. The orangutan threw some of its dung at the snake as well.

It was with those same unwashed hands the orangutan touched the sacred stone and swore to judge the animals rightly.

The moral of the story:

There is a point where the chick must leave the shell’s safety or die, and a crisis where the mind either expands or sinks to the depravity of dishonesty. There is security that turns to slavery.


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