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Snake Charmer

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An inseparable part of any Mystical India setting (and in many Middle Eastern and North African settings too, especially Egypt), the snake charmer — invariably depicted wearing a turban — sits in a Lotus Position and plays an oriental-sounding melody on his pungi, hypnotizing a snake sitting in a wicker basket. More than just mere street performers, they often have the ability to exert complete control over any snake with their Mind-Control Music — or, for that matter, over any animals or objects that vaguely resemble snakes, such as vines or ropes. In more comedic settings, any character can spontaneously acquire a snake charmer's abilities simply by grabbing a flute and putting on a turban.

Note that despite a common misconception, real-life snake charmers don't literally hypnotize the snake with their music. Snakes can't hear the melody since they lack an outer ear (though they can sense the vibrations made by sound), and they aren't being hypnotized, either. What really happens is that the snake perceives the movements of the performer and his flute as a threat, and assumes an upright, warning stance, tracking the end of the flute as if it was the head of a rival snake.

A subtrope of Magical Flutist. As snakes are sometimes depicted as having Hypnotic Eyes, this can be considered an inversion — or a case of Beat Them at Their Own Game. Compare Music Soothes the Savage Beast.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid has a brief scene where Lucoa (whose true form is a massive Feathered Serpent) is talking on the phone and starts dancing back and forth when she hears the sound of Shouta practicing his recorder for school.

    Comic Books 
  • Nero: Whenever Nero visits India - even if he's only there for a pitstop in the harbour - he always meets a lot of fakirs and there's always a snake charmer sitting there. Specific albums where this happens are Beo De Verschrikkelijke (Beo The Terrible), Operatie Koekoek (Operation Cuckoo), De Kromme Cobra (The Crooked Cobra), De Matras van Madras (The Mattress of Madras), De Neroberg (The Nero Mountain).
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Magic Carpet, some snake charmers are seen when Asterix and company visit India.
  • The first or second Marc Dacier book has Marc meet a snake charmer, who explains to him how the trick really works. According to him, it involves physically hitting the snake with the flute until the animal learns to fear it, freezing at its sight and following its moves.
  • Snake charmers appear in the Nick Knatterton story The Indian Diamond Suitcase — it turns out Nick himself is a dab hand at this.

    Eastern Animation 
  • Podróże Kapitana Klipera: The titular captain Kliper brings one of these on board of his ship for help with untangling a huge knot of ropes.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Zhong Ling-erh from The Battle Wizard, a young sorceress-in-training who can command and control snakes by whistling, and hides hundreds upon hundreds of snakes in her sleeves. She's introduced to audience fondling a dozen reptiles draped all over both her hands, and later in the film she can even launch poisonous snakes from her robes like projectiles as weapons.
  • A variation occurs in The Lair of the White Worm. The vampires are Snake People who can be charmed by bagpipes.
  • At the end of Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy while playing in an Egyptian nightclub, Bud picks up a pungi and charms two snakes out of a giant urn, which turns out to be the costumed hands of an attractive woman who starts making out with him. Lou sees this, picks up a pungi, and charms out two snakes for himself - except this time they're real snakes.
  • Combined with blatant Fanservice in the Fritz Lang movie The Indian Tomb (1959). A woman is being sacrificed to the snake goddess, so she throws off her robe to reveal a Theiss Titillation Theory bikini and dances to mesmerize the cobra which is her means of execution. It works until she stumbles and the cobra rears to strike, but fortunately a watching Indian prince had been quite mesmerized by her performance as well, and saves her life.
  • In Octopussy, Bond's contact Vijay is posing as a snake charmer in the marketplace (and somehow plays the Bond theme on the flute). He then comments that it is a really bad cover, as he hates snakes.
  • In The Master of Disguise, one of Pistachio's tests is whether or not he can imitate a snake charmer. Once he gets into character, he plays "Songbird" by Kenny G on his recorder and has a snake thoroughly pacified.


  • Hitty, Her First Hundred Years: After Hitty the doll is accidentally dropped by her original owner Phoebe in India, she's picked up by a snake charmer, who uses her as a prop for his cobra to slither around while he plays the flageolet.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "King and Brooks", Miss Brooks dreams that she's married to a maharajah. In the dream, Mr. Conklin is a snake charmer practicing his craft outsider her windows. Conklin fails to charm the snake with his music, but makes his necktie curl up.
  • Kamen Rider OOO's movie-exclusive form, Burakawani Combo, has a molded cobra sculpted into its helmet; by using a pungi flute he can bring the cobra to life and command it to attack his enemies.

  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis has made "The Streets of Cairo" the unofficial theme song for such a character.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One The Far Side strip has a snake-charmer's cobra poking his head out of his basket wearing a pair of Groucho glasses, with the charmer thinking "I'm going to kill him."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Complete Adventurer book has a magical item called "Flute of the Snake", which can be used both to control and summon snakes.
    • Inverted with the necrophidius, a construct resembling a giant skeletal snake with a fanged, humanoid head. These creatures can sway hypnotically as they approach a victim, maintaining eye contact in a way that can leave their prey unable to do more than stand and stare at their assassin.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In AFK Arena, Thesku is a snake charmer who is himself a snake person. He rides on his three serpent companions in the lotus position, using his flute to instruct them on which attacks to use.
  • In Aladdin, snake charmers are a type of enemy, who have their snake leap out and bite you if you're near.
  • In Banjo-Kazooie, in Gobi's Valley, the two titular heroes meet Rubee, a snake charmer. When Kazooie lays eggs in Rubee's basket, Rubee will play his pipe and Histup the Snake will emerge from the basket. Banjo can then climb up Histup to get the Jiggy near the ceiling.
  • Dusty Revenge has one of the bosses, Aliciaconda, who controls her giant snake mech by playing her flute.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Giant Fist: A snake charmer is among the fanatic types guarding the desert around Blackberry's pyramid, using his snakes to attack for him.
  • A snake charmer is one of the characters possible to summon in Scribblenauts. They're able to make snakes tame.
  • Skylanders: Trap Team introduced the Magic Skylander Cobra Cadabra, who takes multiple motifs from this trope. One of the most obvious is his design: an anthropomorphic cobra in a basket wielding a flute. His power set also fits with this: his primary attack has him play notes and is similar to a Rhythm Game, as if the notes are played to the beat of the background music, his notes will deal more damage. He can also send out baskets filled with snakes that attack opponents to the beat, and one upgrade path lets him play a solo that enchants enemies to fight one another.
  • In Morpheus, you become briefly one within one of the dream worlds, in order to distract a cobra that has a Plot Coupon in its basket.
  • Terraria has the Snake Charmer's Flute item, obtainable from Underground Desert chests. When used, it spawns a magical snake (with the pot!) that will rise and extend to a certain height or until it hits a block. The snake can then be climbed upon like a rope, and it will disappear after half a minute.
  • In Splatoon 3, Frye plays a pungi to command a group of flying eels during her boss battle.

    Web Original 
  • This T-shirt design by Glennz Tees, where the charmer is controlling a line of Tetris blocks.

    Western Animation 
  • A small-time villain from The Powerpuff Girls (1998), Salami Swami, used his flute in the episode "Slave the Day" to control long sausages.
  • In the Bugs Bunny short "Rabbit of Seville", Bugs as a snake charmer controls a wired electric shaver to attack Elmer.
  • Jonny Quest
    • When the Quests first meet Hadji in India in the episode "Calcutta Adventure" he is charming a cobra while playing a recorder-like instrument.
    • In the episode "The Curse of Anubis" Hadji uses his flute to control deadly snakes and send them away.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons episode Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore when Mr. Burns introduces himself to his outsourced employees in India by emerging, snake-like, from a wicker basket as Smithers plays the pungi.
  • In the Ellipse-Nelvana version of Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh, the evil fakir uses music to make a rope stand. It's less ridiculous than what he did in the book,note  but still completely unexplained.
    • Sounds like a combination of this trope and the Indian Rope Trick, which is a well-known legend.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Boast Busters", Trixie "charms" a rope and then uses it to tie up Applejack. If that is not "snakey" enough, fast forward to "Somepony To Watch Over Me", in which Applejack uses an actual flute to charm a snake that is part of a chimera.
  • In the Ready Jet Go! episode "Sunspot’s Sunspot", Carrot plays some typical snake charming music, and Sunspot's tongue wiggles like a snake.
  • An animated short made for Sesame Street had a snake charmer demonstrate the letter S by summoning a snake. It turns out the snake doesn't like "The Streets of Cairo" and takes away the flute to play something jazzy himself. There was also a Spanish version.