Creatures of Fear: Serpents of Various Sizes

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So, I was thinking of making this week about three common animal-based ‘fears’ that seem to show up in fiction.  It’s not too strange to know a person is scared of an animal, but these three seem to always get a bad rep.  I’m not going to mention the other two even though I’m sure you can figure out one of them pretty easily.  Just going right into our slithering ‘death machine’.

What is it about snakes that scare us?  Even in mythology and religion, the serpent gets used as a villain.  They show up very often as obstacles in dungeons and their poison is the dramatic death of choice.  Many of us probably thought of quote:  “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.”  Those two things might really be it if you think about it.  Much of our animal-based fears could go back to our prehistoric instincts since we are animals ourselves.  When it comes to snakes, there are two aspects that commonly that stand out in the mind of someone they terrify.

  1. Snakes are very thin and can hide very easily.  If there are snakes in your area, you watch out for them sleeping under the car or getting into the house.  Some people are afraid of them coming up the sewer pipes and getting them on the toilet.  In fact, I read an article about cobras in India getting into plumbing.  Even for the big serpents, we have this idea that they can be in every shadow and are lurking.  The thought of a one coiled behind a box isn’t far-fetched and it’s made worse when you consider the striking speed and the-
  2. FANGS AND VENOM!  This is probably the bigger source of fear than their ability to get into anything.  It isn’t very surprising since humans don’t have a natural resistance to venom.  Other animals with this problem make it a point to steer clear of venomous snakes too.  It could be worse with us because of how our minds work.  We imagine getting bitten and dying a horrible death.  At the very least, we are scared, lose the limb, or are left with some debilitating reminder of the encounter.

All of this is entirely logical and should make us cautious about snakes.  Yet, we get it wrong to many extents as well.  One way is that we sometimes forget that not every snake is venomous.  I’ve read stories where a person is bitten by a python and dies a painful death, which makes no sense.  Pythons are a constrictor type, which means they wrap around and crush their prey.  If they’re big enough to swallow a man then they could be a danger, but the real ones would be more inclined to leave a human alone.  This is obviously done to take advantage of the fear and doesn’t really do any research.  I can only see it working for a fantasy world since you can mess with the fauna.  When your story is on Earth then you really need to be careful of the snake breed.

Another mistake people make when writing snakes is their aggression.  First, realize that snakes don’t eat as often as warm-blooded animals.  Smaller ones eat maybe twice a week and larger ones can even go a few weeks without food.  That means an anaconda won’t really go around devouring an entire crew over the course of a few hours.  Most snakes will only eat what they need and all other attacks stem from one thing: FEAR.  Like all animals, they can be startled and strike out at anything they perceive as a threat.  This seems to feed the idea of a lurking danger because they rest in the sun or shade a lot to regulate their body temperature.  Running into a groggy or resting snake could be easier than one realizes, but it isn’t like humans are pleasant gems when we’re startled.

Now, this isn’t to say snakes can’t be aggressive.  If they’re hungry then they act like one would expect of a starving predator.  For example, the following GRAPHIC scene from Planet Earth 2:

So, what do you think about snakes?  Do they scare you?  Do you think they’re unfairly feared?  Feel free to add to the info here because I don’t live in an area with snakes.  So, I’d love to see some comments from people with experience.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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40 Responses to Creatures of Fear: Serpents of Various Sizes

  1. Excellent post, Charles. I live among rattlesnakes and know that avoidance is the best defense. A person of sound mind does not go into the dunes and the underbrush. They are there and would not like to be surprised by some stupe stepping on them. Snakes are really beneficial. They keep the rodent populations under control. It saddens me when I see ignorant people kill a snake for no reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. L. Marie says:

    You are on fire with the posts, Charles! So many good ones.

    One of my former bosses brought his boa constrictor to work one day. He wanted everyone to touch the snake and let the snake crawl up our arms. So I did. He was a very friendly boa!

    My parents live in an area with rattlesnakes. They don’t engage with the snakes!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. twixie13 says:

    Snakes used to freak me out. But then I learned about scarier things (like student loan debt). I can get being scared of them, given just how strong some snakes’ venom can be, and how much power one can find with a healthy constrictor. But if someone’s going to outright kill one, there had damn well better be no other option.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debt defeats all other fears. I’m betting the Reaper himself fears falling into debt. With you on the killing part, but I do know people who live in rattlesnake country. They’re fairly quick to kill when they find them in the house or garden.


  4. I’ve lived among them all my life. My childhood upbringing was to kill rattlesnakes, and I killed plenty of them. As I grew into my twenties, I realized they were getting kind of scarce. I’ve been known to use a stick or shovel to move them off of gravel roads before driving on. They were a genuine hazard on one survey job in the late seventies. We were killing about twenty per day. You almost couldn’t take a step without pissing one off. When the job has to get done, you do what you must.


    • Do you think people have become more concerned about preserving rattlesnakes in recent years? I’ve seen many talk about killing them way back, but now there’s more talk of relocation. I can’t think of any way you could get rid of them if they’re that plentiful. Put them in an empty drum and drive them somewhere? That still seems dangerous.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oddly enough, they live half the year in what’s called a hibernaculum. Think of hundreds or even thousands of snakes of the same species spending the winter together in a crevasse or cave. The rest of the year involves slithering away from this site, then slithering back. (Like the rays of the sun.) Relocating them is futile, because they will get lost and die. I’ve not heard of anyone who wants to preserve them, and that’s a shame. Fairly sure the site I dealt with in the 1970s was very close to one of these sites and they were in the process of leaving.


      • My son’s animal show did an episode on rattlesnakes and they actually went into the hibernaculum explanation. Apparently, spellchecker doesn’t think it’s a word. Shame they can’t survive if relocated, but it makes sense if they’re so dependent on familiar territory. I’ve noticed that venomous animals are rarely pushed for preservation. Guess it’s because you can’t really cuddle them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • People get all screwed up over good or bad animals. They’re just animals. Not a lot of difference between a vulture and a bald eagle, but you’d never know that by talking to people. I’ve seen eagles crawling all over a beached whale and even going deep inside out of sight.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Considering we did a big zoo trip today, my mind goes to the vulture and eagle differences. Only scientifically though since that’s what the signs and munchkin talked about.

        I wonder about animals being good or bad. Not so much as a species, but individuals. If humans have a good/bad dichotomy due to our emotions then animals could have that too. This would be why you can have two elephants with one a jerk and the other nice. This is probably more philosophical than anything else though.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I agree with you on the individual creatures. I can see it with my pets.

        Liked by 1 person

      • My sister and I had hamsters. Her’s was lazy and mild. Mine was psychotic. Animals definitely have personalities.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Colleen Chesebro says:

    🎶 I don’t like spiders 🕷 and snakes 🐍… 🎶


  6. I’m not afraid of snakes. I actually had a great time cuddling snakes in the reptile room of the zoo when I had my “keeper for a day” experience last year. My only issue with snakes is that most of them tend to eat rodents, and I love rodents, so feel sorry for their food. But I do understand they have to eat. Besides, since I’m a vegetarian who feels sorry for the chicken on my husband’s plate, that’s obviously not just a snake themed thing for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t like snakes, but I don’t fear them like some people do. I’m looking forward to the spider post coming up, that should be interesting.


  8. As I grow older, I find myself liking all sorts of animals I never thought I would–or that I once feared. That includes snakes and spiders. Mosquitos, on the other hand, are still the bane of my existence!


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