The Snake, the Fox and the Man French folktale

There was once a man who was coming home through the woods. Walking under a pine tree, he heard someone call his name. It was a big snake. The snake had crept up the tree, from branch to branch, and now was wound around the very top. It could not get back down again.

"But snake, if I help you out of the tree, you'll bite me as soon as you're back down, won't you."

"Oh no - I promise."

Gripping with his knees and pulling with his arms, the man clambered up to the top of the tree. "Wrap yourself around my neck," he told the snake. "Don't worry, you won't fall."

The man clambered down again with his snake necktie on, and jumped to the ground.

"And now," said the snake, "I want to bite you!"

"But you promised you wouldn't bite me!"

"Have you heard a snake is upright?"

"No, no, I won't take that! We must get a judgment!"

Just then a fox popped out from among the rocks and junipers of the ravine.

"Tell us, fox. Is it right to harm someone who has helped you?" said the man.

"Well," replied the fox, "that depends on one thing and another. Let's see. Tell me what happened."

They told him. He thought it all over and flicked his ears.

"Listen," he said, "this is rather a special case. If I'm to judge it properly, I'll have to have you two go back to where you were when you first met."

The snake went to the pine tree and slithered up to the top.

"Is that how you were a while ago, all the way up there?"

"Yes, fox."

"All right, snake, then stay there!"

The man thanked the fox. "That was a spot of trouble you got me out of!" he said. "I won't forget what you've done for me. I'll run home and bring you something!"

The fox waited among the junipers, licking his chops. But when the fox saw the man returning with a gun, he said to himself, "I won't wait. After all, a judge shouldn't take gifts."

He stole off that minute and disappeared. "Do a good turn to someone who is not upright and decent, and watch out for what may be your lot in return.