Tag Archives: white snake

The Little White Snake


AX: “This is very common. If you ask any Chinese person, they could tell you about it. So there’s this little white snake. My tale is… a long time ago, there was a little white snake, and she wanted to become a human and go to school. For context, I was a little girl who did not want to go to school, by the way. As she was slithering down the mountain, a hunter caught her and was about to kill her, but then the hunter’s apprentice, this little boy, was like no, she’s innocent, let’s just let her go! So the hunter released her, and she never forgot about this. So centuries pass by, and this little white snake has been training and learning to be a human forever, and then when she does it, she runs into the reincarnation of that apprentice, and they fall in love… happy story. They have a child. But then the monks found out she was actually a snake, so they locked her up under a tower. This little boy grows up, went to school trying to save his mother. He ended up being smart enough and gained enough credibility to force the tower to come down, and that’s how he freed his mother. There’s a lot of variations of it. I think in other variations, there’s no child, it’s just the snake falling in love with her lover, and in others, it’s not even a lover: she grows up and has a child with someone we don’t name, and she frees herself from the monks.”

Context: AX is a freshman at USC studying English—she’s a fellow student in the folklore class and knows the material well. She grew up in Chino, a small suburb outside of Los Angeles. She’s of Asian descent.

AX: “Now that I’m saying it out loud, it’s so obvious that my mom was trying to get me to go to school! I was like oh my God, I want to learn how to go to school and learn how to free snakes!”

Analysis: The informant acknowledges the existence of other versions, enforcing the fact that it’s a folk narrative with variation. It reflects both the individual and community—the story is very uniquely AX’s, drawn from her community but affected by her mother’s telling. As for the category, it’s a tale, primarily aimed at AX as a child, updated to reflect her need to go to school. On a separate note, the coloration of the snake is loaded with symbolism. Going back to Vaz da Silva’s examination of the chromatic symbolism, the snake was white at first, representing purity. On top of that, the snake is described as little, which reflects its age. It’s childlike in size, adding onto the white coloration to create the image of purity. However, when she grows up and reaches maturity, she loses the form of a white snake and thereafter gives birth, a symbolic loss of purity with sex. In this particular variation, the snake appears to have agency until after giving birth, after which her son makes the major choices in the story. Her loss of agency may reflect the patriarchy of society, where a matriarch is only in control of herself until she bears an heir, after which he takes control.