The Basilisk is a mythological creature which has shown up in many bestiaries and fantasy works. Described as being hatched from the egg of a snake (or a toad) by a cockerel, it is generally portrayed with a mix of reptilian/amphibian and bird features. This makes it similar in appearance to its cousin the Cockatrice, a dragon with birdlike features which is said to be hatched from a chicken egg (sometimes a rooster egg) by a snake.
Whether these are two distinct creatures or whether theyíre interchangeable names for the same thing is something of a Cyclic Trope. Originally (i.e., in the Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages), the basilisk was depicted as a horribly venomous snake, while the cockatrice, which first shows up in medieval England, was a chicken-reptile chimera that turned people to stone with its gaze. Eventually, the two creatures blended into a single myth for a number of reasons, and became synonymous terms for a single monster. In more recent times, some (although not all) works of fiction (possibly inspired by Dungeons & Dragons) have come to once again set them apart. The basilisk tends to be shown as a more distinctly reptilian snakelike or lizardlike animal, and usually maintains a deadly petrifying gaze. By contrast, the cockatrice tends to be portrayed as more distinctly avian, with a largely birdlike body bearing a snake tail, bird legs, and wings capable of flight.
Basilisks are reputed as the king of serpents (the name comes from the Greek for "king", "basileos"), and some bestiaries depicted them with crowns, if not with crown-like features such as a cock's comb. They are often extremely venomous and can cause instant death or petrification to anyone who looks directly at them. Weasels are its natural enemy, not unlike the mongoose and cobra, and the crowing of a rooster has a fatal Brown Note effect on it. It is also said that one can kill it by turning a mirror on it, as it is not immune to its own gaze.
Basilisks and cockatrices, regardless of what deadly powers they are given or whether they are treated as the same thing or different creatures, tend to be used in a fairly consistent, uniform manner — as an inherently, incredibly deadly being whose mere gaze or presence is enough to kill, thus posing an unusually dangerous threat that needs to somehow be dealt with without being approached or even looked at.
Not to be confused with Basilisk, which is In-Name-Only. The real life lizard called the basilisk was named for its resemblance to the mythical beast—with its comb-like crest and habit of running on two legs, it looks not unlike a medieval depiction of a cockatrice.
- In Dungeon Meshi:
- An early chapter has the main party capturing a basilisk and roasting it. The basilisk appears as a giant chicken with a snake tail, although in a twist it's said that the snake is the real head. Its eggs (which later they made omelettes with) appear more like snake eggs rather than chicken eggs. Laius noted that the cockatrice is a close cousin of the basilisk and resides deeper in the dungeon.
- In a later chapter they encountered a cockatrice. The cockatrice is similar to the basilisk, but is bigger, leaner, has claws, and is more aggressive. Also, getting bitten by the snake tail causes the victim to be petrified.
- A cockatrice shows up in Berserk after Griffith causes mythological creatures to become real, though it's quickly taken out by his Apostle soldiers (giving them a PR boost by rescuing the regular humans it was chasing).
- Magic: The Gathering: Basilisks and cockatrices are separate creature types aligned with Green, the color of nature, with basilisks being more strongly tied to Green and also more common. Faithfully to their original mythological portrayal, cockatrices are depicted as birdlike creatures with snakelike tails and necks, while basilisks are shown as many-legged lizards or snakes, sometimes with horns. They all have the keyword deathtouch, meaning they instantly destroy any creature they deal damage to, or the ability to destroy any creature that they block or that blocks them, representing their deadly petrifying gaze.
- Harry Potter
- The basilisk is a fifty-foot snake that uses the school plumbing system to get around. It attacks several times, but the insta-death gaze apparently needs to be direct, or else the victim will merely be Petrified, which is reversible. Ghosts who see it get Petrified by default, since they're already dead. Miraculously, the victims in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets all manage to escape death this way: one saw it reflected in a puddle, one saw it through a camera lens, one was already a ghost, one saw it through the ghost's translucent form, and two saw it in a mirror. They can also be controlled by Parseltongues (snake talkers) such as Salazar Slytherin and Lord Voldemort.
- Cockatrices are also mentioned a few times as a separate creature. We never see them or learn anything about them, other than that they are dangerous enough that one was responsible for suspending the Triwizard Tournament for a few centuries.
- The short story "The Sight of the Basilisk" by Lois Tilton, collected in a Bruce Coville anthology, depicts the basilisk as a white snake with a red crest on its head and fatal gaze, which was placed as an egg in an ancient tomb to protect against tomb robbers. It befriends a blind slave who is sent into the tomb, and leaves with him, to the doom of his captors.
- In Andrew and the Alchemist by Barbara Ninde Byfield, basilisk blood is one of the components to create the Philosopher's Stone. It's revealed near the end of the book that the alchemist kept one of the basilisks he raised, which is now very old and spends most of its time hibernating in a dark corner of his cellar. The book doesn't give a physical description, since the only person who gets a good look at it is the villain, and he isn't in any condition afterward to describe it.
- In Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson, basilisks are used as weapons during the War. It's mentioned in passing that, as a double whammy, any creature they turn to stone is dangerously radioactive as a side-effect of the physical process that converts carbon to silicon.
- In The Witcher cycle, these are two separate creatures. A basilisk is a venomous reptile with an extremely potent neurotoxin, while a cockatrice is an avian-reptile hybrid (the description brings to mind an evolutionary missing link) that hunts by stalking its prey and attacking a weak point. Basilisk leather and cockatrice feathers are considered prime quality by, respectively, fashionistas and scribes. Also, both can be killed with a mirror — if hit square in the head, of course.
- In Loyal Enemies, the heroes help a dwarven community which is being terrorized by a house-sized basilisk demanding to be given fifty virgins. Since basilisks don't actually grow that big and cannot speak, they become suspicious and Shelena and Veres set out to investigate disguised as virgin nuns. They discover a group of thugs hired by the villains, who pretend to be the basilisk by magically projecting the illusion of a giant one onto the road, while the real basilisk is held in a cage — it's about wolf-sized and can turn people into stone with its eyes, but that takes energy and the basilisk in question is in such a sorry state that it makes a dash for the nearest wood when released.
- In Dragon Rider, a basilisk appears as a sort of enormous, evil bird-like monster with a killing gaze. Itís never seen fully, and is killed when itís forced to look at its own reflection in a mirror.
- In The Spiderwick Chronicles, cockatrices appear in the field guide as creatures resembling chickens with large spurs on their feet, lizard-like tails, forked tongues and frills around their necks like that of a frilled lizard, which they can extend in a warning display. They are born when a seven-year-old cockerel's egg laid during the full moon is brooded for nine years by a serpent or toad. Their gaze petrifies and their saliva is extremely poisonous. They are also the mortal enemies of weasels, and will go into violent fits and die if they hear a rooster crow.
- The same book makes mention of "False Cockatrices", which similar to how many animals imitate more dangerous creatures as defense from predators, resemble cockatrices but lack the venom and petrifying gaze.
- In The Heroes of Olympus, basilisks are among the monsters in Gaea's army that attacks Camp Jupiter in The Son of Neptune, appearing in much the same way they did in Roman myth. They look like short, stout snakes with a crest of white spikes on their heads resembling a crown, and are so poisonous that they kill and wither any plants they touch. Weasels are their mortal enemies, something that Frank exploits by turning into a weasel and giving chase. At least those in the battle were created by the giant Polybotes, who has living snakes braided into and constantly slithering out of his hair, and simply shook out some basilisks when he needed them.
- Elverlon, AKA "Eelbird," in The Darkangel Trilogy is referred to as a "cockatrice". She's a Giant Flyer with the copper-feathered head and wings of a bird-of-paradise (something of an odd choice, as those tend to be small birds whose showiest parts are their tailfeathers) and a forest-green snake body; she does not seem to be able to hurt enemies in any way by looking at them.
- In the InCryptid series, basilisks and cockatrices are closely related species of cryptids (real creatures unknown to science). Scientists who know of The Masquerade (intended to keep intelligent cryptid species safe) classify them as sibling species in the same genus, Procompsognathus. The primary difference between the two is that basilisks are feathered, while cockatrices are largely featherless. Both are about the size of chickens, and both have petrification powers which science has not yet been able to explain.
- Gerald Durrell's children's fantasy The Talking Parcel is about cockatrices invading the land of Mythologia, and the only way to stop them is for a group of kids from our world to recruit Duke Wensleydale's weasels by giving them rue. A "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer cites the bestiaries where the stuff about rue and weasels comes from (although in the bestiaries, rue makes them invulnerable, at least to cockatrices; in the book it just makes them brave.)
- In the short story "Koko the Basilisk'", a king is sent an immature basilisk as a gift by a neighbour king; he can't get rid of it without causing offence, and it becomes more of a hazard to its keepers as it grows. At one point the king consults a bestiary, only to find its entries only read "Basilisk: See Cockatrice" and "Cockatrice: See Basilisk".
- Mahou Sentai Magiranger: One Monster of the Week was Hades Beast Cockatrice. He was able to zap people with a beam that turned them to stone that he would then eat, which he does to Urara. However, the Magirangers defeat him by using a mirror to reflect his gaze back at him. He appeared in Power Rangers Mystic Force as Clawbster and acted much the same.
- The basiliskís first appearance in western tradition is in the writings of the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, who described it as a twelve-inch-long serpent with a white, crown-shaped spot on its head, capable of killing with its gaze and so horribly poisonous that it would shatter stones and kill vegetation it slithered by or breathed on. He was also the first to record the story of how, when a knight killed a basilisk with a spear, its poisonous blood ran up his spear and killed him and its horse. The only way to reliably kill it would be to set a weasel on it, as its smell was fatal to basilisks. The part about it being hatched by a cockís egg brooded by a toad or snake first shows up early in the Middle Ages.
- At some point in its mythological development, the basilisk transformed into a eight-legged lizard with a rooster's head that holds its tail above its body (see here◊). It is likely the result of when early medieval writers somehow confused the creature with scorpions. This version inspired the popular modern depiction in fantasy games of basilisk as multi-legged reptiles.
- The cockatrice myth originated in England in the Middle Ages, and the creature was usually described as a winged chimera combing a chicken with a serpent or a dragon, with the ability to kill or petrify creatures with its gaze and/or touch. Basilisks and cockatrices were originally separate creatures until one was mistranslated as the other in a 14th-century book, leading to the two names being considered largely synonymous afterwards
- The Basilisk of Vienna is said to have lived in a well, poisoning the city's water and air with its sulfur gas. Everyone who tried to fight it was turned to stone by just looking at it or dropped dead when hearing its scream. That was until a baker's apprentice whose love got sick from the poisoned gas decided to face it. He climbed down the well with his eyes closed and ears sealed with wax, only holding a mirror. When he showed the basilisk its own face in the mirror it turned to stone itself, thus killing it.
- A Polish legend very similar to the Viennese says that a basilisk (Polish: bazyliszek, although it's usually described as rather avian-looking) once lived in the maze of cellars under one of Polish cities, its gaze turning into stone any poor fella who dared to go look for it. Like in Vienna, it was defeated with a mirror.
- There is a fairly fascinating cryptid from Africa known as the Crowing Crested Cobra that is a near perfect representation of this concept—it's a cobra with the crest and wattles of a chicken and who makes a sound similar to a rooster crowing. Its gaze is not deadly, but it can shoot a lethal venom from its mouth (something that some real cobras are capable of doing).
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The basilisk is a large, eight-legged lizard-like creature. Meeting its gaze causes the viewer to turn to stone. Basilisks come in a few variants, such as the venom-eye basilisk (which poisons with its gaze), the greater basilisk (which is bigger and kills with its gaze), and the dracolisk (which is the result of crossbreeding one with a black dragon, giving it an acid Breath Weapon).
- The cockatrice is a chicken-like creature with batlike wings and a snakelike tail: being hit by its beak causes petrifaction. Older art shows cockatrices as otherwise normal chickens with bat wings and snakelike tails, but later editions depict them as much more repulsive, emaciated and largely featherless beasts. There are also pyrolisks, red-featured cockatrices whose gaze sets their victims on fire.
- Pathfinder: Cockatrices and basilisks appear much as they do in D&D. Cockatrices are further noted to have a natural enmity with ferrets and weasels, which are immune to their petrifying bite and often plunder their nests, and with roosters, which they hate and fear for unclear reasons. Old and powerful cockatrices also tend to have petrified extremities (such as their beaks, claws and spikes), whether as a result of some natural process, absorption of the minerals they eat from the statues of fallen foes or a side-effect of their constant grooming accidentally petrifying parts of themselves.
- In Rifts, both species appear as two of the weaker (and more ill-tempered) species of dragon. The basilisk is more serpentine, and can petrify its victims with Eye Beams. The cockatrice has a bird-like beak and feathers, a deadly noxious breath attack, and can wither nearby plants with its mere presence.
- Final Fantasy X's basilisks are huge snakes with arms who can induce Petrification on the party. Running into them is often the player's first experience with the Non-Standard Game Over when all active characters are petrified.
- Runescape: Two different versions exist: the basilisk, which is a large multi legged lizard-like creature, and the cockatrice, which has traits from both chickens and snakes. Alternate versions of the cockatrice also exist like the chocatrice. All, though, have a deadly gaze. Anyone seeing a basilisk indirectly, as in a reflection or through something transparent, is petrified rather than killed, which can be cured with the right potion.
- In the Dark Souls series, Basilisks are common monsters, who are, however, more generally reptilian than strictly serpentine in appearance. Basically, they look like Labrador-sized short-tailed lizards with giant eyes (even though those aren't really eyes). They do, however, share the most important attribute with classical basilisks — turning people into stone. Thankfully, petrification occurs not through their stare, but through giant clouds of poisonous gas they exhale when attacked.
- Basilisks are one of the first monsters available in Magic and Mayhem, here appearing as oversized featherless chickens with reptilian features. They possess poisonous bites, but are easily killed, making them more effective in greater numbers.
- Basilisks appear in World of Warcraft as gigantic, six-legged, armored lizards who have an appetite for crystal gems and can temporarily petrify their opponents. Their aquatic equivalents, the Crocolisks, are simply six-legged crocodiles with no magical powers. Meanwhile, the giant flightless birds that Blood Elves ride were originally planned to be called Cockatrices, but they got renamed to Hawkstriders before the game was released. The only in-game mention of Cockatrices is the "Pygmy Cockatrice", a regular chicken that runs around in Darkmoon Faire.
- Basilisks and cockatrices feature as monsters in The Witcher and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, where they are classified as being relatives of wyverns. Notably a cockatrice is the target in the only storyline-relevant trophy hunt in the first game. These basilisks and cockatrices lack the ability to petrify enemies, an ability the codex states is inaccurate folklore.
- The Cockatrice and Basilisk both appears as monsters in the second and third game of the Disgaea series. They appear as fat, giant chickens with snake as a tail, and are in the same class of monsters. Their most distinctive ability is disabling skills for any enemies standing right next to them.
- Cockatrices appear in the games. If you hear the cockatrice's hiss or are touched by a living cockatrice there's a chance that you'll slowing start turning to stone; this can be cancelled by eating a lizard corpse or eating/drinking something acid. Touching a cockatrice (living or dead) with your bare skin will instantly turn you to stone. Gloved characters can take advantage of this by picking up a cockatrice corpse and using it to bash monsters (in which case NetHack players will call it a "rubber chicken"). But keep in mind that gloved monsters can also pick up a cockatrice corpse and use it against you.
- The variant Slash'EM also has the basilisk, which is basically the same as the cockatrice, except that it doesn't hiss and its corpse it too big to use as an Improvised Weapon.
- Both Cockatrice and Basilisk are among the many demons in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. Both are separate monsters, but when it appears the Cockatrice's in-game description often mention that it is related to the Basilisk.
- The Digimon franchise has Cockatrimon/Kokatorimon, a cockatrice Digimon complete with the usual stone-turning glare. It also has a Palette Swap called Akatorimon.
- Dragon's Dogma: Cockatrices are griffin-like beasts with the hindquarters of lions and the forequarters of black roosters, and breathe out clouds of petrifying gas.
- The Sword Interval: A basilisk can turn anything its eye sees to stone, and can be killed only by the sound of a rooster's first crow at dawn.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-1013 (Cockatrice) is a long-tailed reptile with the head of a chicken and a frill around its neck. Eye contact with it induces total paralysis, at which point it bites the victim, which causes their outer tissues (except for the mucous membranes around the mouth and other orifices) to completely calcify, leaving the victim trapped in a three-centimeter thick shell of marble-like stone. Once this has happened, SCP-1013 either pecks a hole though the other shell or wriggles in through an orifice and proceeds to eat its helpless victim alive.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: A cockatrice (having the head and feet of a chicken, lizard body, and bat wings) that can petrify with its gaze is the main threat of the episode "Stare Master". Its petrification can be reversed, however.
- Some believe that the myths were based on real life cobras with the comb being the hood, the rivalry with weasels actually referring to mongooses, and the deadly gaze inspired by how some species can spit venom (often aiming for the eyes to blind enemies).
- As mentioned above, the real life basilisk is just a small South American lizard that has very little in common with the mythical monster, though it can Walk on Water instead.
- Some small dinosaurs fit the imagery of this concept, being creatures with features of both birds and reptiles—most notably, we have Velociraptor and Yi qi (the latter fits even better, as it may have had batlike wings).
- One odd medieval culinary practice was the construction of "cockentrices" - stitched-together entrees combining the upper body of a capon with the hindquarters of a suckling pig or lamb - as entertaining roasts for important banquets. Dinner guests would enjoy watching other diners who weren't in on the gag gawk in bafflement at the Mix-and-Match Critter, wondering if an actual cockatrice was being served.