Amazing Mosquitoes

I love mosquitoes. Yes, you read that right. Mosquitoes have always fascinated me, from the time I was a kid. I mean, every person on Earth wants to drive mosquitoes to extinction. But mosquitoes aren’t just still around — they’re prospering. How do they do it?

I’ve done various experiments in my own yard. I’ve come up with many theories, unscientific as they might be, and I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two from my studies.

For starters, a mosquito missing two of it’s six legs can function just as well as mosquito with all of them. How do I know this? From counting the legs of mosquitoes who bit me, and by carefully tearing the legs off the mosquitoes with all six. Losing a limb doesn’t even slow them down.

The lesson? Go for the wings, not the legs. Or just squash the insect — that works too.

Mosquitoes evolve fast, much faster than humans. A subspecies of mosquito has been discovered in the New York subways — it lives in the subway tunnels and only in the subway tunnels. A new subspecies — that’s huge.

I think I may have discovered a new subspecies myself — though, not being a scientist, I may be wrong. See, theres a forest near my house. I often go for walks there. There are no paved paths, and it’s not unusual to run into a herd of deer, or an angry moose. The shadiest part of the forest is close to a pond.

Mosquitoes love shady areas. They also love ponds. But one of the mosquitoes there wasn’t like the ones I usually saw — it was huge, by mosquito standards, and incredibly slow — a blow any other mosquito could’ve dodged squashed this dude flat.

It was later that I noticed the swelling on my ankle. What looked — and felt — like a giant mosquito bite, two inches square. I’d never had an insect bite that bad before. I thought of the mosquito I had squashed in the forest. Was it possible another one, just as big, had caused this bite.

It took several days for the swelling to go down. I soon figured out that the giant mosquitoes could only be found in the forest, the place where I’d been walking when I got the bite. Could it be that one of these giant mosquitoes was responsible for the swelling on my ankle?

To test the theory, I let one of the giant mosquitoes bite me. Not a long bite — the mosquito only got a few seconds before it was interrupted. The bite did swell up, and it was unusually large, but no where near the size of the one on my ankle.

What if the amount of time was a factor? A bite that only took several seconds might swell up less than a bite that took an entire minute.

I came up with a plan to find out. I went back to the forest, and waited for a giant mosquito to land. I didn’t squash it, even though it would have been easy. I let it take what I call a ‘full bite’ — as in, when the mosquito finally flew off, it was because it was full of blood, not because it was disturbed.

I’d let the normal mosquitoes give me full bites before. They’d been slightly larger than normal, and slightly itchier as well, so I knew the length of the bite had something to do with it.

The giant mosquito’s bite grew. Within a few hours, it was the size of the largest normal mosquito bites. By the next day, it was two inches square, itchy and raw. Like the first bite, it lasted for several days. I came to two occlusions from this experiment: 1), the giant mosquitoes were responsible for the giant bites and 2) I was never doing another experiment this stupid again — not with the half week of itchiness that followed.

By this time, I was certain that the giant mosquitoes were a separate sub-species. So, being very scientific, I decided to give them a proper sub-species name: ‘beaters’. If I ever discovered another sub-species, I’d call them either ‘chasers’ or ‘keepers’. What can I say? I love Harry Potter.

I have several theories about beaters that I am currently unable to prove.

For starters, their size. It slowed the beaters down, to the point they couldn’t dodge a human. They were easy to spot and squash. How could any species survive like that?

Well, what if it was the forest — or, more specifically, the animals that lived there? Not many humans went to that part of the forest.

But there were deer and moose — I often found their prints along the path. It would make sense if these were the beater’s prey. Deer and moose can’t easily slap a mosquito that lands on them.

Maybe a bigger proboscis helped beaters get through the animals fur? Did it help them carry blood? Or was it just that, with deer and moose as their main victims, there was no reason for the beaters not to be big?

Mosquitoes are horrible. They’re also amazing. The next time I see one, I’m killing it.

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the Horror of Imprisoned Children

Over two thousand children have been taken from their families and imprisoned. If by chance you don’t know what I’m talking about, then let me explain.

The Trump administration has announced a ‘no tolerance’ policy towards illegal immigrants. Anyone caught, or suspected, of illegally crossing the border will be treated as a criminal and arrested, and thrown in jail. Children, who came across with their parents, are separated from them.

No, let me rephrase that. I’ve read dozens of reports and articles and ‘separated’ is too kind a word. Children have been torn from there parents arms screaming — in one case, a mother begged to have a few extra minutes to calm her hysterical child. She was denied.

In some cases, officials tell parents that they’re taking their children to have a bath. Instead, the children are taken away to a government facility and the parents are tossed in jail, to await their trial, a process that can take months.

And what happens the children then? An image has been circling the news, of little boys, locked behind a wire fence, set up inside a garage-like building with a concrete floor. It looks like a bit like the solitary confinement cell I once saw in Alcatraz.

It seems that the boys are separated from the girls. This likely means that brothers are taken away from their sisters, and vice versa. Although the Trump administration says that the children are being taken care of, a teenage girl claims she was forced to take care of toddler, and she and her ‘inmates’ were responsible for changing the toddlers diapers.

The Trump administration claims that children age five and younger are allowed to stay with their parents. This teenager’s story directly contradicts that claim. And even if it is true, do you really think a six-year-old is better equipped to take care of herself than a five-year-old?

Did you know that long term separation from their parents can traumatize children? Many children have already been kept in the ‘facilities for several months. And when I say traumatize I don’t just mean ‘upset’. I mean ‘has to see a doctor for several years’ type traumatized. Most people who traumatize children in that way are called abusers, predators, or monsters and locked up.

Why don’t these children have the same protection? Aren’t they human?

Some of these children don’t even speak English. If a grown-up decides to hurt one of the children — more than the new policy has already hurt him or her— they have no means of reporting them. Over the years, I’ve learned to recognize potentially abusive situations. And one thing I’ve found is that if there is potential for abuse, someone always rush to fulfill it.

And what has the great Trump done? The usual — no apology, insisting his administrations policy is right, because the Trump administration can’t be wrong, can it? Seriously, has anyone ever heard Trump apologize?

Often politics are grey, with both sides having legitimate points. But this? This is black and white. You do not tear screaming children away from their parents and lock them in cages. There are no excuses.

The thing about situations like this — unless somebody goes out of their way to stop them, they continue, and often grow worse. If locking children in cages becomes normal … I would not want to live in that country. I wouldn’t even want to share a border with that country.

Sometimes, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. And other times, the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. Why? Because if the few are left to suffer, or die, the many will lose whatever humanity they may have.

Would anyone want that?

the Arizona Differences

Everyone sees things differently.  Take language, for instance. A person from Scotland will hear Canadian accents differently than someone from America would. A French speaker will hear English differently than a Japanese speaker.

This difference has fascinated me since I was a little kid. What would someone from Hawaii think of the -30C snowstorms here? What would someone from the Dark Ages think of the modern era? Do the Chinesse think Canadians are polite or rude?

You can learn a lot by examining the differences between two points of view. And it can be pretty entertaining. Which is why I decided to write about my recent visit to Phoenix, Arizona, filtered through my Canadian Albertan view.

One of the first things I noticed about Arizona — there were no public washrooms. I may have been to America more than a dozen times by now, but that always catches me by surprise — the fact they have ‘restrooms’ instead of ‘washrooms’. I could give a lecture about why ‘washrooms’ are better than ‘restrooms’, but that’s not really the point of this post.

The second thing I noticed, driving away from the airport, was that there was no grass by the side of the road. Just pale sand and gravel.

There’s a difference between knowing something as a fact and truly understanding it. I knew for fact that this part of Arizona was a desert, but until I saw the complete lack of grass, I didn’t understand it.

There was an area in the resort I stayed at with green grass. I was pretty amazed at the colour — in a place with too little rain to grow grass beside the road, how on earth did they manage to keep the grass so green?

I soon got my answer. The grass was fake. It looked pretty darn real, more real than the fake grass that some golf courses in Canada have. But when you felt it, you could tell — it was stiffer than any green grass should be, and there was zero moisture.

Which was too bad — lying in cool grass is such a wonderful feeling.

The only real grass was in the upperclass part of town, and that grass was barely green at all; it looked like the grass in Alberta does during the dry season.

And then there were the cactuses (I know the forrest term is cacti, but cactuses sounds better), lining the side of the road like trees, resting in dusty garden, sprinkled on the slopes of mountains — hundreds of cactuses. Within one day, I had seen more cactuses then I’d seen in my life.

There were so many varieties — more than half a dozen at least. I even learned the names of three cactus species — golden barrel, giant argentine, and old man cactus.

Some of these cactuses came as high as my knee. Others, as high as my chest. But there were two species — I was unable to learn the name of either — that stood several feet above my head. One, the most common of the two species, towered at least twelve feet.

I never dreamed a cactus could be so big. Cactuses were the best part of Arizona.

Another thing that surprised me — the air in Arizona was drier than Alberta. I woke after the first night with a sore throat and flakier than usual skin. I recognized the symptoms immediately; they were the same symptoms I experienced every time I returned to Alberta from a wetter climate. I call it ‘dryness shock’ — when your body throws a temper tantrum about the sudden lack of moisture in the air.

I’ve never been to a place with air dryer than the air at home. I was pretty impressed.

Later, I went to a restaurant that served brilliant food — ever tried almond croissants? Inside the restaurant I noticed a sign, that read ‘no firearms allowed’. Evidence that I was sitting in the middle of America. I know there’s a cultural difference in how Canadians and Americans view guns, but still … how scared do you have to be to take a gun into a restaurant?

There were other things I noticed — fast food restaurants with two types of mustard, foot long churros, no doormat to leave your shoes on — but the things in this post are the differences that stuck out the most.

It often surprises me, the differences you notice about places you’ve never been to, and the way mentioning them can prompt surprise from the people who live there, and have always taken those things for granted. I have to wonder what you, the reader, think of the differences I’ve listed above. Does anything stick out to you? Perhaps the place you live — America, Britian — has changed the way you read this article? I’d love to know.

Colten Boushie: Igniting the Storm

I first read the name ‘Colten Boushie’ during my daily news check. According to the article I’d clicked on, Colton Boushie, a Cree man, was shot in the head by a white man during a fight. Last month the white man, Gerald Stanley, was found innocent of second degree murder by what some claim was an all-white jury.

Apparently there had been protests.

When I find an article that captures my attention, I tend to do an internet search, and see what else I can learn about the subject. So what did I find when I typed ‘Colten Boushie’ into the internet?

Images of protesters, holding cardboard signs with slogans like ‘Murdered on Stolen Land’ and ‘Indigenous Lives Matter’. Interviews with Colten Boushie’s family. And a growing sense that this — the protest over Stanley’s release — was just the tip of the iceberg. That Colten Boushie’s death was only part of a storm that had been building for a long, long time.

As I researched more, digging deeper into the data files, I found things that horrified me. Did you know that in Canada, indigenous woman are 4 times more likely to disappear/be murdered than other Canadian woman? And 1.5 times more likely to be killed by strangers?

Did you know that in Thunder Bay, a city in northern Ontario, a white man threw a crowbar at an indigenous woman’s head, in full view of police, and no attempt was made to arrest him? And worse — in Thunder Bay this is a normal occurrence. There, indigenous women get things thrown at them all the time, and the police never do anything.

Did you know that woman regularly turn up dead in Manitoba’s Red River? And that the one thing they all have in common is their indigenous heritage? Dozens of murders, but only a few men have been charged. I have yet to hear of any convictions.

This is the storm that’s been building. This isn’t just about Colten Boushie. It’s about decades of injustice.

Is this really Canada? The country I call home?

Things have to change. Surely everyone in Canada agrees on that. The thing about change? It never comes without resistance. If we want a fair country, where race alone doesn’t decide whether or not you’re worthy of justice, we are going to have to stand up and face down the ugliness.

Right now, this post is the only thing I can do to change things. I don’t have much advice to give. Just this — keep on eye out for racist bigots who need a moose-stomping.

If we can agree that things have to change, then there’s hope. And hope is something worth fighting for.

Canada: Where the Vikings Landed

At l’Anse aux Meadows stands a grass covered building, with multiple chimneys sprouting from the earthy roof. This is the only confirmed Viking settlement in Canada. There are no confirmed Viking settlements in the United States, and certainly none in Mexico. The nearest confirmed Viking settlements are in Greenland, a place with an even lower population than Canada.

L’Anse aux Meadows is a place that everyone in Canada can be proud of. But, according to the Viking sagas, it wasn’t the only place in Canada they visited. The sagas list three places were the Vikings landed; Helluland, somewhere in the far north, Markland, a forested area, and Vinland.

Where exactly were these lands located? And have we found any of them?

Helluland
There is seems to be no doubt that Helluland was in Canada. It was recorded as the first place, west of Greenland, that the Vikings stopped. A land of flat stones’ that Leif Erikson, leader of the traveling Viking, deemed too inhospitable to make a permanent settlement it.

Dr. Patricia Sutherland believes she may have found Helluland. Where? On Baffin Island, part of Nunavut, the fifth biggest island in the world. It all started when Sutherland went to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and noticed, among the museums collection, several strands of yarn, found on Baffin Island.

Why was something as simple as yarn such a big deal? Because the people native to the island had never made yarn. Instead they made strong cords out of animal sinew. So how had this yarn wound up there?

Sutherland traveled to Baffin Island, and began digging. There she found whetstones, designed to be used on metal tools, and rat dung. There are no rats native to Baffin Island. No rats native to the Canadian Arctic.

So where had the rat dung come from? Analysis confirmed that this was the dung of an European rat. A rat couldn’t have swum across the Atlantic alone. Analysis suggested the dung was from 1000 AD. Which could only mean one thing; around 1000 AD a group of Europeans had arrived on Baffin Island, and stayed long enough for rats to escape their ship.

The yarn found proved to be made from the fur off an arctic hare. Which meant that these Europeans had stayed long enough to catch or trade for a hare, and spin it’s fur into wool. Long enough to damage their tools enough that they needed sharpening.

This is the farthest north that evidence for pre-Columbian Europeans has been found. Almost all researchers agree that Helluland was the most nothernly land the Vikings found. So is this Helluland?

Well, there’s one little problem. The Vikings arrived in Helluland around 1000 AD, but like I said before, they didn’t stay for long. Not long enough to make yarn out of hare fur. Which begs the question — who was on Baffin Island?

My theory? The Irish. Tales have been told for over a thousand years of the Irish sailing west, over the Atlantic, and discovering new land. There has been speculation for years about what land the tales might be referring to. Iceland? Greenland? Or a land that existed only in the minds of the Irish?

There isn’t enough evidence to come to a conclusion. But there is no doubt that, many, many years before Columbus arrived a group of Europeans stood on the cold shores of Baffin Island.

Markland
Most scholars agree that Markland was located south of Helluland, but north of Vinland. It’s described as a heavily wooded land. Leif Erikson gathered lumber from Markland and brought it back to Greenland, a place with a severe lumber shortage.

It seems Vikings were still harvesting lumber from Markland three hundred years later, when records from Iceland mention a ship bringing lumber from Markland to Greenland.

Many believe that Markland was located somewhere on the Labrador Coast, a place covered by taiga, also known as boreal forest. Sadly, no hard evidence has been found. Yet.

Vinland
I grew up believing the story that Vinland could be translated as ‘Wine land’. I was wrong. What Vinland actually means is ‘land of meadows’. Disappointing, I know. Who doesn’t like the thought of a bunch drunk Vikings naming the land they’d discovered ‘Wine land’, after their favourite drink? Alas, it was not so.

Most researchers believe we’ve already found Vinland, none other than l’Anse aux Meadows, the only confirmed Viking site west of Greenland. The evidence seems to be everywhere — even in l’Anse aux Meadows name.

The word ‘meadows’ is not, like the rest of the name ‘l’Anse aux Meadows’, French. The site was originally called ‘l’Anse aux Médée’ — Jellyfish Cove. Then the Englush moved in, and corrupted the name as ‘l’Anse aux Meadows’, influenced by the fact l’Anse aux Meadows is full of, well, meadows.

The Vikings described Vinland as a land of many meadows — a description that matches the meadows of l’Anse aux Meadows perfectly.

The question that fascinates archaeologists — was l’Anse aux Meadows the Vinland or just a part of Vinland. After all, butternuts, hundreds of years old, were found at the site. And wild butternuts don’t grow in Newfoundland, where l’Anse aux Meadows is located. The nearest place where butternuts grow is New Brunswick.

Someone picked those butternuts and brought them to l’Anse aux Meadows. The question is, who? Were the butternuts picked by Vikings, journeying inland? Or did they somehow get them through trade?

Add the size of l’Anse aux Meadows — it’s not as big as one would expect a permanent Viking settlement to be. Could it be that l’Anse aux Meadows is merely the entrance to Vinland, a place where Vikings stayed during winter, when it was too cold to explore safely? A place where longboats landed and reloaded?

If that’s so, if l’Anse aux Meadows really was just the tip of the iceberg , how far into North America did the Vikings go? The St. Lawrence river? The great lakes? Maybe even America? No one knows — yet.

In Closing

Learning about the Canadian Vikings is exhilarating — we know so much more than we once did , but countless mysteries still remain. I’ve considered becoming an archaeologist before, but decided against it. Helluland, Markland, and Vinland make me want to reconsider that decision.

In the meantime, Canadians can be proud of l’Anse aux Meadows — the only confirmed Viking settlement west of Greenland. The site America wishes it had.

Sources

Viking Settlement on Baffin Island

Nunavut Viking Settlement

Leif Ericson and the Vikings in Canada

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

Vanishing Vaquitas: Pandas of the Sea

The world’s smallest porpoise, the vaquita, lives in small area of ocean, surrounding the area where Mexico meets California. They have other names, like desert porpoise, cochito, or gulf porpoise. Some call them ‘pandas of the sea’ because of the dark black patches surrounding their eyes. Vaquitas are little more than a meter long, the size of a human child.

There are less then 30 live vaquitas remaining, and the numbers are going down fast.

Vaquitas are amazing creatures. There size isn’t the only thing that sets vaquitas apart from other porpoises. For instance, the vaquita, unlike most porpoises, is not what you would call social. It’s incredibly rare to see more than one at a time, and when more than one is seen, its often a mother and her calf.

Vaquitas, perhaps due to their small size, hunt in shallower waters than other porpoises, like lagoons. Vaquitas aren’t picky; they’ll eat almost any animal they find. Crabs, lobsters, octopuses, squid, various types of fish — the vaquita will eat them all.

A certain fish lives in the same area as the vaquita. It’s called the totoaba, and is considered a delicacy in China. The most common method for catching totoaba? Gill nets. Many, many gill nets.

Gill nets are the main threat to vaquitas. Why? Simple: bycatch. The nets are supposed to catch totoaba, but they catch many other animals as well. Like vaquitas. In fact, the gill net is the biggest threat facing vaquitas. If people stopped using gill nets, there’s a chance the vaquita could be saved.

There have been attempts to breed vaquitas in captivity, safe from the danger of gill nets. That way, when the danger of gill nets has dried up, the captive raise vaquitas can be retrained and released into the wild. The problem? Vaquitas, like most other porpoises, do not do well in captivity.

The most recent captive breeding attempt, lead by a team from VaquitaCPR, an organization dedicated to saving the vaquita, failed. It was an act of desperation. Porpoises do not do well in captivity. So much so that, if the vaquita weren’t so desperately endangered, it’s doubtful anyone would’ve taken the risk of capturing one.

No aquariums were prepared for the attempt— that would be to stressful for any porpoise. Instead a sea net was set up, and the hunt for vaquitas began.

The first vaquita caught and brought to the net was a juvenile. Within a few hours, it became clear that the juvenile was dangerously stressed. The team had no choice but to release her.

The second caught, an adult female, died soon after being placed in the sea net. The cause? The female’s fear and stress were so great upon finding herself trapped, that she gave herself a heart attack.

There are less than 30 vaquitas remaining. The loss of even one is a devastating loss.

The team had no choose. A sea net was better than an aquarium. But it wasn’t good enough. They couldn’t risk killing another vaquita. The attempt was abandoned.

Many fear the vaquita may soon join its cousin, the baiji, in extinction. You may not have heard of the baiji, might think the name refers to a long dead ancestor of modern porpoises. It doesn’t. The baiji, or Chinese river dolphin, was the smallest dolphin in the world. In 1979, the Chinese government recognized the baiji as endangered. In 2006, a group of researchers took action to save the baiji — a six week expedition up the polluted Yangtze river to find what individuals remained.

What did this team of trained, determined people find? Nothing. Not the slightest glimpse of a baiji, not even a floating lump that could possibly be a baiji. It was too late. The world’s smallest dolphin had gone extinct, at exactly the moment people were ready to save it.

Hearing about the vaquita made me want to do something. But what could a girl in the middle of Canada do about a porpoise in Mexico? I did what I often do when I have a question; I began to research.

Spreading the word is the simplest way of helping. There are over seven billion people on the planet. Odds are that at least one of them has an idea or plan that could save the vaquita. Not to mention that spreading the word puts pressure on gill net fishing. It’s not much, but its something.

Avoiding totoaba is another thing you can do. I’ve found no evidence of restaurants or stores serving totoaba in Canada. However, if you find yourself in the US, be careful. Some US restaurants will serve totoaba, disguised as white sea bass. And if you wind up in China, the country providing the demand, be twice as careful.

In fact, any seafood caught using gill nets should be avoided. Double check your tuna cans for the dolphin friendly sign. Don’t risk buying if you even suspect gill nets may have been used. Look up restaurants online, see whether or not they’re getting their seafood responsibly.

Even though the baiji hasn’t been seen for over ten years, some people still hold out hope that the baiji is still out there, and might someday return. Last check, vaquitas weren’t extinct. Yes, they are in an extremely bad position, but they are still around. There is still hope.

Sources and Links

Last Chance to Save the Panda of the Sea

More on How to Help

the Sounds Vaquitas Make

Attempt to Save the World’s Smallest Porpoise Ends in Heartbreak

Rescue Plan Abandoned

Scientists Plan to Save Vaquita Goes Terribly Awry

Vaquita, Wikipedia

the Basilisk and Other Legendary Snakes

One thing I love is learning about mythical monsters. Just picturing these creatures stirs my imagination, and sometimes brings a smile to my face. Lately I’ve been learning about legendary snakes, and, wow, have I been enjoying myself.

I hope you, too, enjoy learned about these amazing, mythical creatures.

Basilisk

The basilisk is one of the most well-known mythical snakes, mostly thanks to Harry Potter. Stories have been told about the basilisk for centuries. Various people, like Pliny the Elder, and Leonardo da Vinci, have written about it. Even Shakespeare paid the basilisk brief tribute, in his play, Richard III.

The basilisk’s appearance has evolved through out the centuries. According to Pllny the Elder’s Natural History, written around 78 AD, the basilisk was a snake, with a crown-like crest on his head; almost all future authors kept that feature.

Some people insisted the basilisk looked like a rooster, with the tail of a snake. Can you imagine how weird that would look? If I meet a basilisk that looked like that, I would either scream in terror or die laughing.

According to Leonardo da Vinci, the basilisk was twelve fingers long (27 centimetres), a far cry from the massive creature that would later appear in Harry Potter. He, too, mentioned the crown-like crest. Apparently, when other snakes heard the basilisk coming, they would flee in terror.

Both Pliny and da Vinci claimed that the basilisk’s worst enemy was the weasel. Leonardo wrote that weasels would seek out basilisk dens and urinate on them. The smell of the weasel urine would kill any basilisk that smelled it. I have to wonder how a basilisk would’ve handled skunk urine …

One thing has remained the same in all basilisk legends since Pliny — the baslisk’s poisonous nature. Pliny claimed the basilisk was so poisonous that it could kill plants just by breathing on them, and burn grass just by touching it. According to da Vinci, a man on a horse killed a basilisk with his spear. The basilisk he’d killed was so poisonous that, even though it had bitten neither man or horse, both died immediately afterward.

Quite a few people nowadays believe that the basilisk was based on the king cobra. Like the basilisk, the king cobra has a crown shaped mark on it’s forehead. Although it’s nowhere near as poisonous as most writings say the basilisk is, the bite of a king cobra can easily kill a grown man.

Not only that, but the mongoose, a creature that looks a lot like a weasel, will often hunt and eat the king cobra. However, the mongoose kills with its teeth — not by urinating on the cobra.

Python

You might be a bit puzzled by the title. Pythons are real, aren’t they? You can see them in most decent zoos, and they’re a favourite for documentaries. And thats true — pythons are real snakes, but they got their name from a mythical serpent known as Python.

According to legend, Python lived in Delphi, which the Greeks believed was the centre of the Earth. An early account refers to Python as a female, but later accounts refer to Python as male. Nowadays, it’s known that some snails can change from male to female — maybe Python was related?

When the goddess Leto got pregnant by Zeus, god of thunder and the sky, Zeus’ wife, Hera, got jealous. Hera decided she would like Leto better dead, so she sent Python to kill Leto, preferably before she gave birth.

Hera’s plan didn’t quite work out. Leto ran away from Python, and managed to find a place where Python couldn’t get her, and gave birth to twins — the goddess, Artemis, and the god, Apollo. The twins aged fast. When Apollo was only four days old, he decided to take revenge on Python for what the serpent had put his mother through.

It would have made more sense to for Apollo to kill Hera, since she was the one who’d sent Python after Leto, but I suppose newborns have never been that logical.

So, young Apollo, who by four days could already walk, went to Hephaestus, the god of metalworking, and asked for a weapon he could kill Python with. Hephaestus made him a silver bow with golden arrows.

Apollo took the bow and arrows, and went after Python. Most newborns couldn’t kill a fly, let alone giant serpent, but apparently Apollo was different, because Python died during their confrontation.

Zeus was not happy, possibly because Python’s mother had been Gaia, which would make him Zeus’ uncle. Just a few days old and Apollo had already pissed off daddy. To make amends, Apollo started the Pythian Games, a competition of musical and martial skills, named in honour of Python.

To summarize, Python the serpent was Zeus’ uncle, sent by Zeus’ wife to kill Zeus’ lover and killed by Zeus’ son. Any questions?

Lindworm

The lindworm is not as well-known as the basilisk. It’s described as a giant serpent , able to breathe either poison or fire. The lindworm moves by dragging itself with its two arms, which, in many accounts, are its only limbs. Some stories add wings, giving the lindworm a wyvern-like appearance.

Stories of the lindworm were first told by the Norse. One such story is the legend of Fafnir, a dwarf turned lindworm through a mixture of cursed gold and greed.

As the story goes, Loki, the Norse trickster god, accidentally killed one of Fafnir’s brothers. Fafnir’s father demanded Loki repay him for the loss of his son with gold. Loki came up with the gold, and gave it to Fafnir’s father. The gold happened to be cursed, but Fafnir’s father, apparently unaware of Loki’s reputation, accepted it.

The sight of the cursed gold corrupted Fafnir, who killed his father to take it for himself. But cursed gold can have nasty effects on humans, and it turns out dwarves are no different. Within months, Fafnir had transformed into a lindworm, one with very poisonous breath.

For the next who-knows-how-many years Fafnir basically just lay around on his pile of gold. His poisonous breath kept most visitors, and potential thieves, from coming anywhere near his treasure.

Regin, Fafnir’s sole surviving brother, wanted the gold for himself. Apparently the thought of becoming a lindworm didn’t disturb him. Anyways, Regin decided to send the hero, Sigurd, to kill Fafnir.

Sigurd succeeded in killing Fafnir, and then, as Regin had instructed him, cooked Fafnir’s heart. Sigurd was supposed to serve cooked heart to Regin, but was warned that Regin was planning to kill him. After foiling Regin’s plot, Sigurd decided to keep the heart for himself. He cut the heart in half, and gobbled up one half.

The other half, Sigurd kept, and later gave to his wife, Gudrun. Talk about a romantic gift. I can’t imagine his wife was thrilled.

For any women readers: If your husband gave you a shrivelled, dried lindworm heart as a gift, what would you do?

In Closing

Snakes — especially legendary ones — are amazing. Writing this article was surprisingly fun — I especially enjoyed writing about lindworms. If you had as much fun reading this post as I did writing it, then I know you had a good time. Merry Christmas!

Sources

Lindworm, Wikpedia

Fafnir, Britanica

Basilisk, Wikipedia

Python, Britanica

Leto, Wikpedia