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The Farmer and the Viper

The Farmer and the Viper” is a fable often attributed to Aesop. Of ancient origin, it appears in several West African and European sources as well.[1][2] The story concerns a farmer who finds a viper freezing in the snow. He takes pity on it and picks it up and places it within his coat. The viper, revived by the warmth, bites the farmer. The farmer cries out that he should have seen it coming.

In some versions, the farmer brings the viper home and his children go to pet it. The viper gets ready to bite the children when the farmer cuts off the viper’s head.

The moral is that “kindness is wasted on evil”.

Another version says that the viper is magic, and repays the farmer with a sack of Oboluses each morning. The farmer’s son tries to cut the snake open to get all the coins, but the snake kills him. The farmer mourns over his son, and the snake mutters to him the moral before vanishing forever: Why do you mourn over loss of that which gave none, yet tried to destroy that which gave all.

This fable is a common variant subtype of The Scorpion and the Frog.

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