Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Fairytale Tale of Snake And Toad

As a child like most children I read and re-read fairytales and loved them. As I grew a little older I accepted that in real life if Red Riding Hood's Grandma had been eaten by a wolf then it was very unlikely that the wood cutter would have rescued her still alive from the belly of the slain wolf.

 Illustration by Gustave Dore

The same goes for the seven little kid goats (except the clever one hidden in the grandfather clock that is ) saved, alive, bleating and replaced with stones in the stomach of another big bad wolf. I soon realised this too was beyond belief.
Illustrator unknown?

Recently however I had such an obscure encounter of my own it surely seems to have stepped off the very pages of a fairytale. Sadly there are no photographs as I didn't have my camera with me at the time. Oh how I wish I had....
It happened a few weeks ago on the day that our Mother hen had hatched her two eggs. She had to be moved to a safe pen with her newborn chicks. The pen was moved to a new position and it was as we brushed the old sawdust out that a rather long grass snake appeared. It headed straight across to the vegetable bed and quickly became entangled in the strawberry netting that we use as fencing to protect the plants  from scratching hens. I soon realised this strawberry netting is lethal to small creatures such as a snake.

I had never held a snake before, but did as I've watched on numerous occasions on television and  held it by the back of it's head whilst it lashed about frantically. Poor thing, the more it moved the more it became embedded in the net. My daughter quickly ran to get scissors and we carefully cut the net away from it's scales and thankfully managed to free it. It began to slither away slowly, then stopped and proceeded to regurgitate its lunch, a brown slime covered lump. Not a pretty sight....
The snake then slipped under cover to safety, beneath  the blackberry brambles and we had a closer inspection of the brown slime covered lump which we noticed now was moving slightly. Yes, moving! With the aid of a small watering can of water the slime was washed away and low and behold there sat a toad still alive! Once we cleaned him or her off it began to walk slowly. We picked it up and carried he or she in a flower pot to the other side of the land away from the grass snake and set it free.
This is a memory I will now keep with me forever. It was just so surreal...
And before you ask.... No, I didn't kiss the toad.
So who knows, maybe if the wolf had been a giant snake then Grandma and the six baby goats would have  survived after all?

I do apologise if I have given you the shivers with this story. My posts don't often contain talk of snakes,slime and Grandmas being eaten. For those of you that don't know, a grass snake is a totally harmless snake and a protected species in this country.And for those of you that use the lethal strawberry netting, please be sure to watch out for wildlife getting caught.

To calm things down now ;)  Here is something relaxing to finish with. A little birdsong in my garden.


  1. What an incredible story, Karen! I am so happy for the snake being ok, and for the toad to still be alive. Sounds like something that would make for a great illustration. Life really can be a faerie tale sometimes. Theresa

  2. What gorgeous birdsong...thank you for that :>]]

    And what a fine fairytale of snake & toad...a great in-the-making story to share with your daughter. I bet that toad has a new lease on life, HA!!

  3. what a lovely thing to witness, we did see a snake swallow a small creature in our garden a few years back, we couldn't work out what the creature was but the snake contorted and restricted and the meal was taken down to the belly in a big distorted lump! I think this is where these fairtales come from, simple people who have seen things like this and made them into a magical story!

  4. Ooh, with all that good-deedery, they will help you when you are on a quest. A whole host of grass snakes with one problem and a whole host of toads (or parliament as we might call it!!) with another.

    So, when are you going on a quest?!

  5. So the fairytales are true after all. (I like to think so!) I did used to worry about the digestive juices ruining the grandma's skin. Those incredible momnets of nature stay in your memory for ever don't they? I once saw a frog hop out of our pond and catch a bee in mid air. The strangest thing I ever saw though was when we were eating lunch in a pub garden and a wasp cam down and took a chunk of chicken off the plate and flew away with it. It must have weighed so much compared to the wasp! Then there's time, (just a few weeks ago in Paris) of a sparrow trying to eat my husband's baguette whilst still in flight! Odd.xx

  6. That's a wonderful story, not sure I would have been brave enough to hold a snake, no matter how harmless!

  7. That's a great story. I've always believed that fairy tales and legends have their roots in the truth - then a little bit of wishful thinking is added. Glad it was a happy ending for all concerned.

  8. Most amazing! I'm sure the toad was very happy you came along, as well, the snake!

  9. Very well done for saving the snake... nature is extraordinary isn't it!

  10. So, I read that you didn't kiss the toad, but did you ask it if its name was Jonah? Quite something... lucky snake, lucky toad.

  11. What an experience you've had! Theses are the little details in life that are embedded in your memory...I have seen the troubles garden netting can cause although it is a necessary evil for us as well. I once found 2 deer skulls with antlers, tangled terribly together in the bush...they must have been battling and became forever entangled.

  12. After reading your post I went outside to find a hawk caught in our fencing around a peach tree. I wore protective gear, cut the fencing and it flew away.

  13. :-O



    Even as a child, when I heard stories like that I would think "well what about the stomach acids? and didn't the wolf chew?" :D

    Glad to be proven wrong then, even at a adult age!

    ♥ Maria-Thérèse

  14. The world is a marvelous place with all of its little mysteries and glorious creatures.... glad two of them lived to see another day...

  15. i can see why that memory will stay with you! a most unusual encounter!! how funny, just the other day i was trying to remember what story it was where the stones were put into the stomach of a wolf, thanks for the reminder!

  16. beautiful words and fabulous artwork, thanks for sharing. You might enjoy our blog The CelticYear project... - my latest painting of the honey moon has two hares that just magically appeared!

  17. Thanks for all your comments lovely folks :)

    Sweetpea... My daughter was there to witness :)

    Griffin... Oooh good, I have always wanted to go on a quest..

    Jess..You have seen some wonderful things too by the sounds.

    Kerry.. So sad. We once had a young deer caught in our chicken fencing :(

    Jodi... So pleased that you managed to get that hawk out safely x

  18. Can I just say that I just found your blog and it is heavenly ! I shall return , your artwork is stunning. I am an artist myself but not producing much at moment (young children) so your site has really inspired me, it is beautiful , thankyou for putting it out there to share with people : )

  19. Don't you just love miracles?

  20. It's sounds like it was a happy ending for everyone, Karen!


  21. I've just discovered your lovely blog due to a link being sent to me re your grass snake post, just like I've just discovered a grass snake in my compost bin, and like you didn't have a camera at the ready at the time! I had that very same copy of The Wolf and the Seven Kids book as a child. Happy memories. x


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