These famous snakes in books slither, surprise, and often bite unsuspecting humans. Over the years, serpents have played an important role in literature. Get to know these top 10 snakes in literature.
1. Cadmus in Metamorphoses by Ovid
Cadmus, after killing a serpent, “felt his skin hardening as scales grew there, while dark green patches checkered his black body. He lay prone on his breast, and gradually his legs fused together . . .”
2. Jörmungandr in The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson
From 13th century Norse mythology, Jörmungandr the serpent is thrown into the ocean by the father of the gods, Odin, where he encircles and holds together the earth.
3. The asp in Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
Captured by the Romans, Cleopatra commits suicide using a poisonous asp, sticking it on her breast, “with thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate / Of life at once untie: poor venomous fool / Be angry, and dispatch.”
4. Satan as the snake in Paradise Lost by John Milton
“Fold above fold a surging Maze his Head / Crested aloft, and Carbuncle his Eyes; / With burnisht Neck of verdant Gold, erect / Amidst his circling Spires.”
5. Kaa in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Kaa, a 100-year-old python, is friend and mentor to the man-child Mowgli.
6. The snake in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Holmes and Watson discover an instrument of murder, “the squat diamond-shaped head and puffed neck of a loathsome serpent.”
7. The snake in “Snake” by DH Lawrence
Watching a poisonous snake drink from a water trough, a poet muses, “a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld.”
8. The Incredibly Deadly Viper in The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
Considered a favorite by herpetologist Uncle Monty, who looks after the orphaned Baudelaire children, The Incredibly Deadly Viper, which is not deadly but harmless, is kept in The Reptile Room.
9. The snake in The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Nathan Price, having moved his wife and children to the Belgian Congo for missionary work, encounters unimaginable tragedy when his youngest daughter, Ruth May, dies by a green mamba snake bite.
10. Nagini in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Nagina is Voldermort’s giant python-viper hybrid. Also, a serpent represents Slytherin, one of the four Houses at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, founded by Salazar Slytherin.
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