Cover illustration by Durga and Bernhard.
CAST wishes to acknowledge Great Source Education Group Inc., Company of Houghton Mifflin, for their permission to use The Legend of Snake and Eagle.
Long, long ago when the world was still very young, the animals on the earth looked different than they look today. Some were taller, some were fatter. The eagles were not bald, and snakes walked about on four legs. Snake lived way down in the valley. He walked to the rolling river, and he jogged to the shade trees. He loved his home way down in the valley. He knew every groundhog hole and clover patch. All in all, snake was quite pleased with his life.
One day, as Snake was resting under the shade trees, he looked up to the sky. There, soaring in the clouds drifting above the valley was Eagle. Snake looked at the ground around him. At that moment all he saw was brown dirt and uneven pathways. Snake was overcome with the desire to fly. He wanted wings to spread. He wanted to glide on the wind. He wanted to see his valley from the sky. Underneath those shade trees, Snake grew very jealous of Eagle. His cool blood was bubbling. All he wanted was one ride.
The next day, under the same shade tree, Snake spotted Eagle perched on a high branch."Hello Missster Eagle," Snake hissed through his forked tongue. Eagle turned his head to Snake.
"If you let me ride with you, one time, so I can see the valley from the sky, I'll tell all the other reptiles that you are a bird not to be bothered!"
Now, Eagle was not one for making deals with creatures as lazy as Snake, who spent their days resting beneath the shade trees. But Eagle did sometimes fear Snapping Turtle and Crocodile.
So, after thinking, and thinking some more, Eagle decided to take Snake for a ride above the valley.
“All right,” Eagle agreed. “But, you must ride on my head and hold tight to my curls as if they were the mane of a horse.
Snake climbed up on Eagle’s head and held tight to the beautiful curls. Eagle opened his wings wide into a feathery flap. Suddenly the two were afloat, soaring above the pond that Snake walked to every day, drifting over the shade trees. From this height, Snake couldn’t even see the uneven pathways.
"Higher!" hissed Snake.
The Eagle turned his head toward the sun.
"Higher!" Snake hissed until the two were so high above the valley that the shade trees looked like tiny, green dots.
"Hmm. I'm feeling warm" Eagle thought to himself, "but we are closer to the sun, and I am carrying extra weight on my head."
Snake had become silent.
"Snake?" Eagle cried. "Snake?"
All at once, Snake's blood began to boil in his skin. He had wanted to fly too close to the sun, and the heat raised his temperature until Snake was aglow. Snake's skin was so hot it singed Eagle's hair off, and in one loud cry, Eagle threw Snake from his head. Snake tumbled to the Earth. When he landed, his legs fell right off and he slithered away.
And to this day, the descendants of Eagle are bald, and the descendants of Snake slither forever on their bellies.