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News Clippings

Saturday 14 September 1996 (Daily Telegraph)

The deadliest snake is one with a gun
By Paul Sieveking

A CHINESE hunter trying to catch a snake was fatally shot by the irate serpent last June. The man named Li and his brother came across the snake while returning from a hunting trip on a mountain near Li Bian village in Huang Jin county, Shanxi province.

Li, attempting to add the snake to his hunting bag, placed the butt of the gun on its head. The snake then coiled itself round the gun and lashed the trigger with its tail. Li was shot in the buttocks and died on the way to hospital.

A similar accident took place in Iran six years earlier. Ali-Ashgar Ahani, 27, tried to catch a snake alive near Teheran in April 1990 by pressing the butt of his shotgun behind its head. The snake coiled around the butt and pulled the trigger with its thrashing tail, firing one of the barrels and shooting Ahani fatally in the head. His companion tried to grab the shotgun, but the writhing reptile triggered the other barrel.

I have quite an extensive file on the "revenge of the hunted", with examples of beleaguered fish, pheasants and rabbits turning the tables on their tormentors. With such a strong moral twist, it is only natural that the theme extends into folklore; there's a splendid woodcut of a bird shooting a hunter from the popular 19th-century chapbook The World Turned Upside Down.

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