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When a centipede meets a slug

即且與蝁遇於疃,蝁褰首而逝。即且追之,蹁旋焉繞之。蝁迷其所如,則呀以待。即且攝其首,身弧屈而矢發,入其肮,食其心,齧其䏿,出其尻,蝁死不知也。

A centipede came across a viper by the fields. The viper escaped with its head pulled in. The centipede chased it and circled around it. The viper lost its direction, staying still with its mouth wide open. The centipede held its head back, curled its body, and shot out like an arrow, entering the viper’s throat, eating its heart, gnawing its intestines, and leaving from its tail. The viper died without noticing anything.


他日行於煁,見蛞蝓,欲取之。蚿謂之曰:“是小而毒,不可觸也。”即且怒曰:“甚矣,爾之欺予也!夫天下之至毒莫如蛇,而蛇之毒者又莫如蝁。蝁噬木則木翳,齧人獸則人獸斃,其烈猶火也。而吾入其肮,食其心,葅鮓其腹腸,醉其血,而飽其膋,三日而醒融融然,夫何有於一寸之蜿蠕乎?”跂其足而凌之。

Another day, [the centipede] saw a slug while walking over a stove and wanted to take it. A millepede said to the centipede, “This one is small but venomous. It’s untouchable.” The centipede said in a rage, “Don’t you fool me! Nothing in the world is more venomous than snakes, among which vipers are the worst. A tree withers away if eaten by a viper; men and animals die if bitten by it: it is as fierce as fire. Yet I entered its throat, ate its heart, snacked on its intestines, drank my fill with its blood, and feasted on its visceral fat, waking up after three days with great contentment. What’s the big deal about an inch-long worm!” The centipede raised its feet and marched over to the slug.


蛞蝓舒舒焉,曲直其角,煦其沫以俟之。即且黏而顛,欲走則足與須盡解解,䏰䏰而臥,為螘所食。

Leisurely stretching itself, the slug wiggled its tentacles and oozed out saliva, waiting for the centipede. The centipede got stuck and tumbled down. [It] tried to escape, yet its feet and antennae all became devoid of strength. Lying down feebly, [it] got eaten by ants.



* From Liu Ji 劉基 (1311-1375), Yulizi 郁離子 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1981), 30-31.

The Yulizi is a collection of allegories written by Liu Ji, the philosopher and key advisor to the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The story above may be a fictive piece partly based on real-life observations. According to the Bencao gangmu 本草綱目, topical application of smashed living slugs can cure a centipede bite.[1]



A slug by Nagasawa Rosetsu 長沢蘆雪 (1754-1799)

Image from Rosetsu meiga sen 蘆雪名画選 (Kyoto: Unsōdō, 1937); digitalised by National Diet Library Digital Collections: https://dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/8311853/166


Two slugs from “De zondeval” [The Fall of Man] by Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (1562–1638)

Picture credit: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.8165)


 

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