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Apothecary Alligator

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Romeo supporting his local apothecary - note the alligator in the upper left.

There was a large crystal ball with a crack in it, an astrolabe with several bits missing, a rather scuffed octogram on the floor, and a stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling. A stuffed alligator is absolutely standard equipment in any properly-run magical establishment. This one looked as though it hadn't enjoyed it much.

The workshop of a wizard, alchemist, or apothecary is never complete without a stuffed crocodile or alligator hanging from the ceiling. Occasionally, another kind of reptile, usually some kind of large snake or, in more exotic settings, a monster like a basilisk, might appear in addition to or instead of the traditional crocodilian. What it's actually for is anybody's guess.

Somewhat Truth in Television, as historically animal skeletons, fossils, and taxidermy pieces were exhibited by medieval apothecaries and astrologers as a show of wealth and worldliness. The curiosities brought in both gawkers and customers, and served as a form of advertisement note ; after all, anyone making enough money to purchase exotic specimens for display must be doing good business. This trend would eventually evolve into early museums in the form of personal "cabinets of curiosities" — see this picture from 1599. Historians suspect the alligator in particular might have turned into the most prevalent example simply due to its durability: with their thick hairless hides and squat, compact bodies, preserved alligators are less prone to damage over centuries than more delicate specimens, meaning that more of them have survived to give the impression that every apothecary had one.


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  • The Alchemist at Work, a 17th-century painting by David Teniers the Elder.
  • John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I, by Henry Gillard Glindoni.
  • The Inspection, the third painting in Hogarth's Marriage A-la-Mode, sees Viscount Squanderfield visiting the office of manifestly unqualified French surgeon Monsieur de la Pillule. Among the many oddities cluttering the room is a stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling... with an ostrich egg hanging from its stomach. The nonsensical arrangement is yet another piece of evidence that de la Pillule is a quack.

    Comic Books 
  • Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins: The first issue depicts an alligator hanging in the shop of the Stilben alchemist Zeth.

    Fan Works 
  • In A.A. Pessimal's Discworld, the change brought about in Wizardry after the time of Sourcery has rendered the fashion for stuffed alligators obselete and pretty much a thing of the past. Mustrum Ridcully is not pleased to discover the University still has an expensive and hazardous breeding programme for crocodilians of all sorts and points out that keeping them in a large breeding tank restrained only by insecure and haphazard magic is not a bright thing to do. These — and the tigers kept to provide miscellaneous body parts and secretions for old-time magical preparations — are packed off to the newly-established City Zoo for safekeeping. In a cost-cutting exercise and rationalisation programme, Ridcully, and Ponder Stibbons, also take the opportunity to pack off the related and now nearly redundant School of Magical Taxidermy and one entire Department — the School of Para, Neo, Eldritch and Crypto Zoology — to purpose-built facilities at the Zoo. Hilarity Ensues.
  • A Ballad of the Dragon and She-Wolf: Qyburn has a large mummified lizard lion hanging from the ceiling of his lab among many other creepy artifacts.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958): There is a stuffed alligator mounted on the walls of the workshop of Sokurah the magician.
  • The Devils: An apothecary alligator is used as an Improvised Weapon.
  • The Doctor's Apprentice (Uchenik Lekarya): The titular doctor has a stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling of his workshop, as well as other exotic animals, birds and fish.
  • Fist of Legend: A kung fu master uses dried crocodile to treat his asthma, knowledge of which is used to poison him.
  • From Beyond the Grave: At the start of "The Elemental", the proprietor of Temptations Ltd. is carrying a small stuffed crocodile and does not put it down throughout the transaction, which serves to emphasise the peculiar nature of the shop and its contents, and the possibly magical nature of the proprietor.
  • The Garbage Pail Kids Movie: The eccentric Captain Manzini has a stuffed alligator in his laboratory, which the half-alligator Garbage Pail Kid Ali Gator recognizes as his "Uncle Charlie".

  • Anastasius (1836) by Thomas Hope: A wizard's study includes a stuffed crocodile hanging over his head, alongside a serpent hide serving as a rug.
  • The Bad Guys: Parodied. Granny Gumbo is an alligator in this case, while also being a witch doctor.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy (2003): Mentioned in Book 1 in the description of the magician Arthur Underwood's study. The djinni Bartimaeus notes that this, along with other stereotypical "wizardly" paraphernalia, is a good indication that Underwood is a second rate poser, trying to hide his incompetence behind spooky knickknacks that impress the Muggles but don't have any practical use, whereas the truly powerful magicians favor a sleek, modern look (and as later events demonstrate, calling Underwood a "second rate poser" might be considered overly generous).
  • Bedknob and Broomstick (1943) by Mary Norton: Miss Price's workroom includes a small stuffed alligator hanging by wires from the ceiling. She admits that it doesn't serve any particular purpose and the habit's out of date, but she likes the way it looks.
  • "Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book" by Montague Rhodes James: A variant. The Oxbridge protagonist finds a "dusty stuffed crocodile" hanging not in an apothecary's shop, but over the baptismal font in the cathedral of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, in southern France. (Incidentally, James wasn't making it up.)
  • Discworld: Frequently mentioned, and Lampshaded as an occupational necessity. Every proper wizard has a stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling of his laboratory, even if there aren't any alligators naturally in the area. No one, especially the wizards, is sure whynote .
    • The Light Fantastic (1986): A preserved crocodile, smelling strongly of camphor, hangs in a wizard's workshop. A magic shop also briefly displays a stuffed crocodile "with a lifelike expression of extreme pain and surprise".
    • Mort (1987): The workshop of Cutwell the wizard includes, among various shabby decorations, a stuffed alligator. The narration notes that this is an obligatory accoutrement for wizards.
    • Men at Arms (1993): The billiards lab in the Alchemist's Guild features a stuffed alligator in the corner, seemingly for no reason.
    • Soul Music (1994): Quoth the Raven says that "the old stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling" is a key part of wizardry, like dribbly candles and "bubbling green stuff in bottles". He scornfully adds that the wizards "get it all out of a catalogue. Believe me, it all comes in a big box".
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle: Caudicus, the Maer's arcanist, has a stuffed crocodile hanging from his ceiling.
  • "Lot No 249" (1892) by Arthur Conan Doyle: The room of Edward Bellingham, Egyptology student and necromancer, includes a hanging stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling as part of its collection of Egyptian curios.
  • Loyal Enemies: Shelena's employer has stuffed basilisk. Dusty and rather shabby at that, but everyone is too lazy to bring it to taxidermist for restauration.
  • Moth and Cobweb: The witch of Bertolac's castle has an alligator hanging in her tower. Its mate helps Gil and Foxglove escape when they ask.
  • Neverwhere (1996): Lord Portico's study includes a stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling.
  • The Once and Future King (1938): Merlyn's cottage includes "a real corkindrill" hanging from the rafters. Despite being dead and having glass for eyes, it winks at Merlyn when the latter comes into the room.
  • Out of Oz: When Rain explores the Wicked Witch Elphaba's old room, she finds a stuffed crocodrilos hanging from a rafter, pickled in brine.
  • La Reine Margot: René's laboratory had an assortment of odd tools, that include a yawning alligator.
  • "Shadows on the Rock" (1931) by Willa Cather features one, in the apothecary shop owned by protagonist Cecile's father. It's a hand-me-down from Auclair's grandfather, and he keeps it purely as decoration (being a surprisingly forward-thinking apothecary for 1697).
  • Sherlock Holmes: In Sherlock Holmes und das Ungeheuer von Ulmen (Sherlock Holmes and the Monster of Ulmen) by Franziska Franke, there is an apothecary shop complete with stuffed alligator.
  • The Spirit Ring, by Lois McMaster Bujold: The workshop of Abbot Monreale (a magician as well as an abbot and a bishop) includes a "dried and mummified crocodile" (although it's just stuffed in a barrel, not hanging from the ceiling), along with assorted books, papers, jars, bottles, and "mysterious little boxes with labels in Latin".
  • The Steerswoman (1989) by Rosemary Kirstein: An early edition shows, on the cover, a scene set in a wizard's sanctum. You can tell it's a wizard's sanctum because of the stuffed crocodile hanging from the roof — an interesting case of trope-as-shorthand, since the wizards' sanctum in the book itself is entirely bereft of taxidermied reptiles.
  • Stranger at the Wedding (1994) by Barbara Hambly: The dog wizard Tibbeth's shop includes a mummified crocodile hanging from the rafters. The trope is played with, in that it is a common wizard's prop in-universe, and its use is eventually explained — it's hanging until it is entirely mummified, at which point it will be cut to pieces for use in potions and replaced by a fresh one.
  • Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms: In One Good Knight (2006), , one character comments that the Tradition requires Acadian Sophants (a cross between a wizard and an adviser) to have a stuffed crocodile hanging from their rafters. When he tried to get rid of his, there was an even bigger one hanging from his ceiling the next day, looking smug.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones: Alligators in Fantasyland are almost entirely absent except as mummified decorations of Wizard's workrooms, usually serving as signs that the local mage is friendly. The guide speculates that they may be otherwise extinct, as actually living alligators are almost never seen.
  • The Wheel of Time: Referenced. Verin's rooms in the White Tower feature (among many other things) the skull of a huge, toothy lizard native to the Drowned Lands.
  • The Wise Man's Fear: Caudicus, who purports to be a healer, has one in his tower. When the main character asks what it's for, Caudicus admits that he has no idea.
  • The Witcher: In Sword of Destiny, the wizard Istredd has a stuffed crocodile in his study alongside several smaller animals.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Crystal Maze: A Mystery Room in the medieval zone is dressed as an alchemist's laboratory, complete with stuffed crocodile (with a clue in its mouth).
  • Outlander: In the episode "Not in Scotland Anymore", Clare enters Master Raymond's apothecary, where a stuffed alligator is suspended from the ceiling.
  • He may not be an apothecary, but Joseph Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (the father of Captain Ben Sisko) has an alligator suspended from the ceiling of his creole restaurant in New Orleans.
    Jake: I remember when you used to tell me that alligator was just in stasis, and you let it out at night to guard the restaurant.
    Joe: Oh, I had to stop doing that. (chuckling) It got to be too much trouble wrestling it back up to the ceiling every morning.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth (1984), adventure "The Thing in the Well": Dr. Cornwallis has a stuffed alligator hanging by wires from the ceiling of his alchemical laboratory.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In a creepy variant, the goblin spellcaster from the module "DDA4: The Dymrak Dread" has a preserved lizardfolk carcass on display in his workshop.
  • Man Myth And Magic, Book 1 of the main rules: The introductory adventure allows the Player Characters to enter an apothecary's shop. To make it clear to the players that the shop has the product selection of an alchemist's laboratory, not only does it have a stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling, it also has mummified cats, rats, bats and a stuffed owl.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: In the 1st edition adventure "Dying of the Light" (1995), the characters meet Dr Balthazar, a dwarf alchemist from the University of Nuln. The cart he is travelling in is loaded with the paraphernalia of his alchemical studies, including a stuffed alligator.

  • Romeo and Juliet (1597): The description of the apothecary's shop, Act V Scene I, contains what might be the first recorded use of the word "alligator" in English literature:
    And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
    An alligator stuff'd, and other skins
    Of ill-shaped fishes

    Video Games 
  • The Curse of Monkey Island (1997): The Voodoo Lady has a stuffed alligator whose tongue you have to pull to summon her.
  • Everhood: Brown Mage has a crocodile in his lair. Turns out it's not stuffed; it's been paralized, and it begs you to kill it. Doing so is required to finish the game as intended.
  • Gabriel Knight: The Voodoo shop in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (1993) has a dried alligator head. The proprietor claims it to be just a curio to impress tourists and superstitious old ladies. He is lying: the head is an authentic mask for use in Voodoo rituals.
  • Mystery Case Files: In Ravenhearst Unlocked, the apothecary shop has what appears to be a stuffed dimetrodon hanging from the ceiling.
  • The Trader of Stories Chapter II: Referenced. The Alchemical Decore Shoppe offers a free stuffed crocodile with every two skulls, but Sallamman the apothecary doesn't seem to have taken them up on the offer, settling for one skull.
  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception: There is a dissected crocodile attached to a balcony in the library below London. There is even a trophy for jumping over it called "Ride the Crocodile".