The Basilisk, from the Greek word ßas???s??? basiliskos, meaning a little king, is a legendary reptile often refered to as the king of serpents, and said to have the power to causing death with a single glance. According to the Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder, the Basilisk is a small snake that is so venomous it leaves a wide trail of deadly venom in its wake, its gaze is also reportedly lethal. So feared was the Basilisk that some cities adopted it as the guardian of there city to deture would be invaders, one such city is Basel in Switzerland. The Basilisk is also mentioned in many famous works of literature including chapter XVI of The Zadig, by Voltaire.
There are three descriptions of the Basilisk: a huge lizard, a giant snake and a three foot high cockerel with a snake's tail and teeth, all of which are similar to the Cockatrice, in fact stories of the Basilisk place it in the same general family as the Cockatrice. It is called the "king" because it is reputed to have a crown shpaed crest on its head. The Basilisk allegedly is hatched by a cockerel from the egg of a serpent, the reverse of the Cockatrice, which was hatched from a hen's egg incubated by a serpent's nest. Other legends suggest that the Basilisk is spawned from a spherical, yolkless egg, which must be laid during the waning days of the Dog Star Sirius by a 7 year-old rooster. The egg, once abandoned by its mother, must then be hatched by nothing less than a common toad.
In Medieval Europe, the description of the creature began taking on features from cockerels. Geoffrey Chaucer featured a basilicok, as he called it, in his Canterbury Tales. According to some legends, Basilisks can be killed by hearing the crow of a rooster or gazing at itself through a mirror. Stories gradually added to the basilisk's deadly capabilities, such as describing it as a larger beast, capable of breathing fire and killing with the sound of its voice. Some writers even claimed that it could kill not only by touch, but also by touching something that is touching the victim, like a sword held in their hand. Also, some stories claim their breath is highly toxic and will cause death, usually, immediately.
It was even commonly believed that if a man on horseback should try to slay a Basilisk with a spear, the potency of its toxic breath would envelope and kill not only the rider, but his horse as well. Illustrating this belief is the story of a Basilisk, referred to in this account as the Cockatrice, which was reportedly discovered in a Roman vault in the chapel of Saint Lucea during the time of Pope Leo the 4th, somewhere between 847 and 855 AD. Although the details surrounding this story are few, it was said that the vile breath of the Basilisk so fouled the air that numerous deaths were attributed to the beast.
Some researchers believe that there are much simplier explanations for the Basilisk, in particular that reports of cobras may have given birth to the stories of the creature. The king cobra or Hammadryad has a crownlike symbol on its head and, as with many snakes in overlapping territories, is often killed by mongooses which are said to be an enemy of the Basilisk. Eleven species of cobras can incapacitate by spitting venom, and may well have been confused by similar appearance with the Hammadryad. The Egyptian cobra lives in the desert and was used as a symbol of royalty. There is in fact a small lizard called the Common Basilisk, Basiliscus basiliscus, though it shares none of the attributes of the legendary creature, with the exception of a frill resembling a crown.
The Basilisk stretches far beyond legendary tales and has been reimagined and employed in modern fantasy fiction for books, movies, and role playing games. A large, snake like basilisk was featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, yet in the movie the basilisk was portrayed as a much larger creature than the true mythological character. In the movie the basilisk had yellow eyes that cause death to anyone who looks into them. In the 1980s computer game Archon the game starts with two basilisks, which fire very fast projectiles at the player.
A large toad like creature that can petrify its enemies is found in the game Secret of Mana, and a large lizard that could also petrify anyone with a gaze is found in Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, Dragon Rider, and Total Annihilation: Kingdoms. In ,any MMORPG video game such as Lineage II, Everquest and World of Warcraft the Basilisk takes the form of killable monsters which apear in many different colors and difficulties. The pokemon Giratina is also based on the legendary Basilisk. The Sci-Fi channel has also produced an original movie entitled Basilisk: The Serpent King. It can also be found in the Final Fantasy installments. Also, the new game Gears of War features a Basilisk as a giant enemy Locust at the end of Act 4, "The Long Road Home".
Though heavily documented in its many forms during the Middle Ages, there is no physical evidence to suggest that the Basilisk is actually a real creature.
There have been no reported sightings of the Basilisk in modern times; if the creature was real it seems to have gone extinct during the middle ages.
The Stats (Where applicable)
Size: Historical records indicate the creature is quite small, no more than 12 finger lengths, however some accounts state the basilisk is much larger.
Diet: Unknown, most likely carnivorous
Movement: Walking or serpent like movement
Environment: The basilisk seems to thrive in many environments