Basilisk – king of sand dunes
When the ancient Romans and Greeks appeared in the African desert for the first time, they looked at boundless barchans with astonishment and horror. The entire army could disappear there. Hundreds of miles of dead sand definitely had their master and patron. The ancient decided it was basilisk – king of the desert.
Now it is difficult to say who exactly was a prototype of the basilisk. Perhaps it was a small snake inhabiting the Libyan desert. It could attract the attention with its red “crown” and the way of moving. It moved almost vertically, standing on its own tail.
The stories about meetings with Basilisk were retold and this representative of reptiles gradually added in size, acquired supernatural strength and power and received an interesting pedigree. For example, the Basilisk experts claimed that the monster was born by a cock, a snake and a toad. (And the cock should be black and seven years old). Basilisk had not only poisonous teeth, but also could kill with its glance.
People thought that weasel was able to defeat cock-toad-snake monsters. Perhaps, this legend appeared after Europeans learnt about mongooses and their ability to kill giant cobras. There were no mongooses in Europe, but weasels were quite similar to the Indian fighters with snakes, and therefore people gave them the ability to destroy the terrible basilisks. Another enemy of the basilisk was his own dad (or mother) cock. It was believed that monsters were afraid of crowing and, hearing Cock-a-doodle-doo they immediately stopped the fighting and went back home. People also said that the basilisks were afraid of unicorns.
With each century the basilisk grew and became more and more terrible and aggressive. After a while he had four cock’s legs, bat’s wings, sharp spikes grew on the snake’s tail, horns appeared on the head, and eyes became green-violet.
In Europe, there were a lot of stuffed basilisks. Yes, the cunning traders brought inhabitants of exotic countries (for example, moray eels or a huge cobra), made stuffed animals using the limbs of other animals and sold them at local markets. Mainly alchemists bought them, because they believed that the ashes of a monster could turn silver into gold. And doctors used them to treat people.
Nowhere, except in Europe, no one even heard of basilisks. But many towns of the European Union can boast of coat of arms depicting this fantastic beast.
Basiliscus is a genus of large corytophanid lizards, commonly known as basilisks. They are close relatives of iguanas and also have a crest on their backs. On the head there is a leathery ornament that looks like a cock’s comb. They live in Central America, in South America and in Mexico. Basilisks are able to run on the water surface. For this ability, the basilisks were also called the “lizards of Jesus”.