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  • 1. Ramsey 1Halley RamseyMs. CorbettAP LiteratureFall 2011 The Misconceptions of Snakes Throughout history, snakes have been mistaken as sinister creatures. From the Biblicalperiod to present day, the myths that cause people to be frightened by them still exist.Particularly in children, fear is normal because of the different influences they come in contactwith, but through teaching a child to cope with their anxiety they may pass that familiarity on toyounger generations. A false understanding of the difference between fact and fiction dates as farback to what religion has portrayed the species to be up to the current fanciful misunderstandingsof a snake‟s appearance, behavior, and the mistaken belief that all snakes are deadly. Almost all fear and anxiety over snakes is rooted within religious text. In the openingpages, the hatred of snakes was just as predominate as it is today. Due to religion being a majorfactor in influencing people‟s lives, when scripture references snakes as evil and deceiving,society assumes the worst in the species. Humans are too close-minded to separate fact fromfiction. In Genesis 3:14, “Then the Lord God said to the serpent, „because you have done this,you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, gravelingin the dust as long as you live.‟” In the passage, the Lord punishes the animal for his sin againstman, but the public [does] not see it as enough (Grisgonelle). Mankind continues to act
  • 2. Ramsey 2contemptuous towards the species that they are slowly going to kill off due to their accusatoryattitudes. Adults develop fear in children before the child is even exposed to what the parent orfamily member is afraid of. Different actions and words used by society to describe snakes tendto terrify their audiences. As a human matures, the objects and situations that frighten themchange but many struggle to confront ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. Dr. Robin F. Goodman,a clinical psychologist suggests that to alleviate an adolescent‟s phobia, “Dont push or force[him or her], but use encouragement and praise for coping and approaching a feared situation”(Goodman). Never put an individual in a position where they feel pressured to get near, touch, orhold a snake. Doing so will only cause greater dismay. Movies and books are another source that is highly responsible for misguiding people‟sbeliefs because generally they do not provide an accurate depiction of how members of thespecies realistically behave and appear. Even educational children‟s books can be misleading.Snakes Long Longer Longest informs kids “Some snakes are deadly…In no time, this nastysnake could bite you, inject poison, and kill you. Yikes” (Pallotta and Wallach 17). The strongnegative language that is used in books that children can find in their school libraries promoteundeserved rejection. Movies such as Anacondas, Harry Potter, or even the Disney classic TheJungle Book create pessimistic images for their viewers to contemplate. A childhood favorite TheJungle Book generates images in kid‟s minds that Kaa, the reptile villain “nearly had the chanceto eat Mowgli before Baghreea ruined [his] meal” (Reitherman). To a naive child, a snakeattempting to make a meal out of the protagonist would not produce pleasant thoughts. Not onlydid Kaa try to eat the little boy he also used hypnosis to pull him in to his clutches. Additionally,
  • 3. Ramsey 3unrealistic cartoons fool adolescents in to believing this imaginary ridiculousness. Teenagersenjoy the Harry Potter series, but on the topic of snakes specifically, the Chamber of Secretsholds the “monster” that is referred to as the Basilisk, “a giant serpent, also known as the King ofSerpents” (Columbus). The basilisk has eyes with the power to instantly kill anything that looksdirectly into them. If the victim is fortunate and happens to look indirectly at the serpent, theywill simply become petrified. During the teenage years identifying an improbable situation is nolonger difficult, but teens never fail to try and persuade younger generations to believe theimpractical. Adults also enjoy the thrill of watching an exaggerated thriller such as Anaconda,which has them questioning the possibilities of the computer-generated snake realisticallyexisting. Tales of an impossibly large size and man-eating qualities are interesting, but notcommon. The character Paul from the movie Anaconda describes an attack by saying, “Theystrike, wrap around you. Hold you tighter than your true love. And you get the privilege, ofhearing your bones break before the power of embrace causes your veins to explode”(Llosa). Paul‟s description is purposely disturbing in order to set a terroristic tone for the movie.Frightening media encourages the formulation of ridiculous fabrications. The human psyche is strongly prejudiced. Individuals evaluate appearance because it iseffortless and simple nature. “To the general public a snake is simply viewed as adangerous "slimy" cold-blooded abomination capable of inflicting serious bodily harm to itsunsuspecting human victim” ("Snake Facts"). People who are ignorant towards snakes presumethat their skin is cold and slimy. When in fact the skin of a snake is actually dry, scaly, andsometimes smooth. Snakes scales are made of keratin, the same component as your finger nailsand hair, neither of which are slimy (Shackelford). Society often exaggerates things they dislike.Snakes being one of the most despised animals, they are an easy target for misinformation. The
  • 4. Ramsey 4size of the snake tends to get overdramatized in conversation, often due to fear. Fear createsmyths occasionally from factual observations, but more often than not misunderstanding andimagination is to blame (Dorcas). The mind can form misconceptions about creatures that are unfamiliar. An immensenumber of people deem snakes as aggressive. They also consider the species insidious, with thesenseless idea that snakes “will…chase you until they have done their God-given duty to killyou” (Steed). Due to the fact snakes are cold blooded, the speed required to chase a personwould be close to impossible to reach. Nearly all serpents are only capable of moving at aroundsix miles per hour, proving this illusion unreasonable (Dorcas). Humans are significantly largerthan snakes. An unfamiliar approaching object is just as intimidating to a snake as it would be fora human being. The freighting reaction snakes exhibit is their self defense mechanism, they fleeto protect themselves. If a getaway is not available, snakes may try and approach the intruder inhopes to urge them away. When a snake is threatened or provoked it will use its only form ofdefense, its mouth, to care for its self. The best strategy for preventing an accident fromoccurring is to disregard the animal. If the snake is not frightened it will do no harm. Snakes arevery independent creatures, and they are most comfortable in solitude. Injurious events areapprehended by not disrupting their satisfaction. Unfortunately, snakes are rejected because of the large variety of negative symbolic andemotional misconceptions people attribute to them. No other species is the topic of as manymyths and misunderstandings as the snake. Known as an insidious enemy, people of all agesdread the mere thought of an encounter with a snake. Reptiles do not deserve the lack of respectthat humans bestow upon them. Through education and understanding children will learn thetruth between fact and fiction, so that in the future they can pass the appreciation of the
  • 5. Ramsey 5evolutionary wonders on to another generation. By doing so it is possible to eliminate themisconceptions of a snake‟s appearance, behavior, and the mistaken belief that all snakes aredeadly. It is only then that individuals might realize that the foolish misjudgments of the complexcreature they once thought to be true are in fact preposterous.
  • 6. Ramsey 6 Works CitedColumbus, Chris, dir. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. “By J. K. Rowling”. Warner Bros., 2002. Film.Dorcas, M. “Amphibian and Reptile Myths.” Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Class at Davidson College , Spring 1999. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://www.herpsofnc.org/herpcons.html>.Goodman, Robin F. “Fears.” NYU Child Study Center. N.p., 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Fears/?page=2>.Grisgonelle, Troy. Weblog post. Life in the goldfish bowl. WordPress.com, 27 Feb. 2007. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://troygrisgonelle.wordpress.com/2007/02/27/misconception-3-the- serpent-in-the-garden-of-eden-was-a-snake-genesis-314-2/>.Life Application Study Bible. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004. Print. New Living Translation.Llosa, Luis, dir. Anaconda. Columbia Pictures Corporation, 1997. Film.Pallotta, Jerry, and Van Wallach. Snakes Long Longer Longest . Illus. Shennen Bersani. New York: Scholastic Inc. , 2006. Print.Reitherman, Wolfgang, dir. The Jungle Book. Walt Disney Productions , 1967. Film.Shackelford, Todd K., Robert Kurzban, and Geoffrey A. Landis. “Fact or Fiction.” Center for Science and Reason. NASA Glenn Research Center, 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://centerforscienceandreason.weebly.com/cleveland-herpetology-initiative.html>.
  • 7. Ramsey 7“Snake Facts.” Perrys Bridge Reptile Park. N.p., 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://www.snakes-uncovered.com/Snake_Facts.html>.Weblog post. Common Misconceptions and Myths About Reptiles. Vash Steed , 28 Sept. 2008. Web. 14 Nov. 2011. <http://scienceray.com/biology/human-biology/common- misconceptions-and-myths-about-reptiles/>.

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