"Li Ji Kills the Snake" was a tale in a collection of ghost stories from the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316 C. E.). The Li Ji of the title is a young woman who lives in a village that has been paying tribute to a gigantic serpent for nine years. Each year, the daughter of a criminal or servant is selected to be devoured by the snake. Li is the daughter of a respectable family; she volunteers although her parents forbid it. She is not a mere noble suicide, though: she has a plan, employing both intelligence and ferocity. Li takes a snake-hunting dog, some sweet rice-balls, and a sword with her to a cave near the valley of the snake. She lures the creature into the cave with the treats, releases the dog while the monster is preoccupied with the food, and then leaps onto the serpent, slashing it with her blade until it crawls back into the valley to die of its injuries. In the fairy tale ending, the king is so impressed that he makes her his queen. Most striking, however, are Li's words when she recovers the skulls of the nine girl victims. "For your timidity," she scolds them, "you were devoured. How pathetic!"

Li Ji is cool.

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