Nine-Tailed Snake

There was a man named Mao Ba(茅八) who, in his youth, went to Jiangxi to trade paper. In the deep mountains of Jiangxi, there were many paper mills. The people in the mills would close the doors as the sun set and warned Mao Ba not to go out, telling him, ‘There are many strange things in the mountains, not just ordinary tigers and wolves.’

One night, the moonlight was very bright, and Mao Ba couldn’t sleep. He decided to open the door and go out to enjoy the moon. Thinking of the warning from the people in the mill, he hesitated at the door several times, fearing to step out. However, ultimately thinking himself strong and skilled enough to handle any unexpected situations, he opened the door and went out.

After walking only a few steps, he suddenly saw a large group of monkeys, about dozens of them, crying and running towards him. All of them climbed up a big tree. Mao Ba also climbed up another tree nearby to get a better view into the distance.

Before long, he saw a snake emerging from the edge of the woods. The snake had a thick body like a giant pillar, shining eyes, a hard armor-like scale on its body, and nine tails below its waist. It dragged its tails forward, making a sound similar to the striking of iron armor. When the snake reached beneath the big tree, it raised its tails vertically. At the tip of each tail, there was a small hole, from which it sprayed saliva like bullets towards the monkeys on the tree. The monkeys hit by the saliva cried out, falling to the ground one by one, their bellies splitting open as they died.

The snake slowly ate three monkeys and then crawled away, dragging its tails. Mao Ba, terrified, returned to the house and never dared to go out at night again.

Translated from《九尾蛇》in 《子不語》: