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When a centipede meets a slug


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.


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.


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:

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

Picture credit: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (


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