When he had been taken and cast into prison, his guilty limbs were given to serpents to devour, and adders found ghastly substance in the fibres of his entrails. His liver was eaten away, and a snake, like a deadly executioner, beset his very heart. ... The executioner beheld him beset with poisonous beasts, and asps gorging on that heart which he had borne steadfast in the face of every peril.A Snake Pit is the terrestial cousin for Shark Pool - a pit or container full of venomous or otherwise dangerous snakes, other reptilians, arachnids, scorpions or other nasty creatures. The victim is supposed to get killed by multiple angry animal bites or stings. While this is a very nasty and historically plausible way to get killed, it is also fairly impractical. This trope plays on the often irrational fears many people harbour towards reptiles and arachnids. It likes to pretend that the little crawlies are tiny monsters programmed by nature to attack humans, and therefore will swarm in droves upon a hapless victim if given the chance. In reality, most such creatures avoid humans; stinging or biting us is exclusively a defensive behavior. A subtrope of Fed to the Beast.
—Gesta Danorum, book 9: the death of Ragnar Lothbrog
- In the Don Rosa Scrooge McDuck story "Treasure of the Ten Avatars", Scrooge and Donald run into such a Death Trap.
- When the Ogress in Charles Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty" finds out the cooks have not carried out her order to kill Sleeping Beauty and her children, she orders a large tub to be "filled with toads, vipers, snakes, and all sorts of serpents" as a means to execute Sleeping Beauty, her children, and the disobedient cooks. But the king returns before the execution is carried out, and the ogress throws herself into the pit to be "instantly devoured by the ugly creatures she had ordered to be thrown into it for others."
- A similar method is used in Charlotte-Rose de Caumont La Force's fairy tale "The Good Woman". This time, it's an evil king ordering the execution. The titular Good Woman saves herself from being executed by throwing moss at the king's feet, making him fall into the snake pit and die.
- Gunga Din features a pit full of cobras.
- A natural Snake Pit occurs in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the heroes fall in a dried-up well full of various snakes.
- In the James Bond movies:
- In Norse Mythology:
- In the legend of the Niflungs, King Gunnar of the Niflungs is thrown into a snake pit to die by his treacherous brother-in-law Atli. Related in Prose Edda, Poetic Edda and Völsunga saga.
- In Gesta Danorum, The Saga Of Ragnar Lodbrok and other texts King Ella (or Aelle) of Northumbria has the captured Viking warlord Ragnar Lodbrok executed by throwing him into a pit of vipers.
- In Sourcery:
- The Grand Vizier, after learning that all their other methods of execution are out of order, reluctantly has Rincewind thrown into the snake pit. It turns out to contain one snake, which hides in the corner. It's the snake pit, not the snakes pit.
- There's also Lord Vetinari's scorpion pit, but it's only for mimes.
- In Vikings, King Aelle of Northumbria has one of his captains who has failed him in fighting Ragnar Lothbrok thrown into a snake pit to die.
- In the 2006 Robin Hood series, Robin at one point is lowered into a pit of venomous snakes... that were clearly harmless boa constrictors.
- The Well of Souls in Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure
- The Lava Pit of Williams Electronics' Gorgar pinball includes a Snake Pit, which features a giant snake head and can catch the ball.
- One of Captain Bimbo's traps in Zortic.
- One appears in an episode of Jonny Quest The Real Adventures.
- In Drawn Together, Xandir's girlfriend is being lured into a pit of cobras when Xandir calls her to tell her he's gay.