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Snakes Are Sinister
aka: Snakes Are Evil

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Snakes are associated with evil.

We've seen lots of evil snakes. Now how many times have you seen a good snake in fiction? None? Very few? That's because of this trope. Aversions of this trope are rarer than aversions of Reptiles Are Abhorrent in general—heroic turtles and lizards are fairly common and good crocodilians, while rare, are not unheard of, but heroic snakes much less so.

So why do snakes in particular get such a bad rep? Well, out of all the different groups of reptiles, their lack of limbs make them the least anthropomorphic and thus harder to sympathize with, and a lot of them have venom, one of the nastiest methods to get yourself killed.

People tend to fear snakes more than other crawling creatures. This is not an ordinary phobia, but an instinctual Primal Fear. Other mammals besides humans share it. A hypothesized reason is that the ancestor of all mammal-kind were small burrowing scavengers: ideal prey for a subtle snake. When we look into the lidless eyes of a snake, we are meeting the gaze of our ancestral, primordial arch-enemy.

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Because of their primeval scariness, it does not take much imagination to portray these animals as monsters or harbingers of death in fiction.

Aside from literal serpents, this also works metaphorically. Thus, many of the examples below aren't really snakes but humans or other creatures that use snake symbolism as an evil motif. Smug Snake characters can play with this, even if they aren't literal snakes.

Compare:

Sub-Trope of Reptiles Are Abhorrent. In antiquity, snakes are the inspiration for dragons and giant serpents, so they inform the oldest Dragon Tropes. Thanks to the serpent from Genesis, snakes are forever associated with Satan, the Satanic Archetype, Forbidden Fruit, and The Corrupter.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk has a very serpentine Apostle serving as the main antagonist for the first episode of the manga and 1997 anime. He looks very snake-like in his humanoid form, wears a cobra-themed suit of armor to go with it, and transforms into a massive cobra-like monster. He's also unapologetically cruel in how he tortures, slaughters, and even eats people purely out of sadistic amusement. His death at Guts' hands is both very painful and very deserved.
  • Snakes are featured in the second chapter of Heaven's Design Team, and they serve as an antagonist to the helpless birds, whose eggs they like to eat. The entire chapter is dedicated to find ways for the birds' egg to stop itself from being eaten without having to change its design too much.
  • The Jungle Book averts this with Kaa, whose characterization is true to the books. However, it plays this straight with Buldeo's pet cobra.
  • Subverted with the snake Friends in Kemono Friends. Some of them are rather touchy, especially if they're venomous, but none of them are evil.
  • Played with in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Emily having a snake familiar marks her as being a bully towards Shouta, but the snake itself appears rather benign.
  • Naruto:
    • Orochimaru, the initial Big Bad has a snake theme and abilities, including an ability to elongate his neck and tongue and heal injuries by shedding his skin. He can summon snakes to do his bidding as well, ranging from those of average size, to the colossal Manda. His students Kabuto and Sasuke inherit this love of everything serpentine from him.
    • Later, in Boruto we have Orochimaru's son, Mitsuki, who has white snake motifs, but is a close friend of Boruto. We are also introduced to good summoned snakes like Aoda and Garaga.
  • Medusa from Soul Eater is another nasty manga/anime villain with a snake motif.
  • Professor Cobra, the Big Bad Wannabe from season three of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX; his deck used venomous snake-like monsters.
  • Pretty Cure:

    Art 

    Comic Books 
  • "Atlantis Attacks" was a Marvel Comics Crisis Crossover where the Big Bad was Set, a gigantic six-headed serpent-demon.
  • The DCU has a villainous "Cult of the Cobra" running around.
  • Xenophobic Robin Series villain Sir Edmund Dorrance invokes the evil snake concept through his large snake tattoo and using "King Snake" as his code name.
  • Lord Hebi from Usagi Yojimbo is an ally of the main villain, Lord Hikiji.
  • Wonder Woman
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Golden Age Big Bad Mars has snakes painted on his armor.
    • Villain Circe generally keeps an array of Bestiamorphs about, but the only constant in their visual theme is snakes, especially large poisonous ones.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Vengeful fear god Deimos has venomous snakes in place of hair, and when he possesses The Joker it changes his hair into snakes.
    • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): The twisting snake theme of Ares' helm is kicked up a notch by having a live snake twisted around the horns on each side of the helmet. While this "Ares" is actually Deimos and Phobos merging their powers to impersonate their father rather than the real Ares their father does maintain his tie to venomous snakes.
    • ''Wonder Woman: Warbringer: Fear god Phobos who is part of a plan to destroy civilization and entangle humanity's remnants in a forever war has a snake motif, with a relief of Medusa's head on his helmet and snake-like fangs.

    Fan Works 
  • Old West is set after the events of Rango (see the Western Animation section below), and it averts this trope by featuring snakes who come from both sides of the morality spectrum. The canonical Rattlesnake Jake is portrayed as an Anti-Hero, and he shows once in a while that he is capable of compassion. Another main character, Grace Glossy, is a law-abiding and honest boar-farmer and a devoted single mother for her only child Teddy. One of the antagonists includes a kingsnake named Henry, who's explicitly stated to be the Expy of Frank. There's also Grace's cowardly con artist husband Benjamin Hares who ends up on the villainous side for self-serving reasons. Unfortunately for good snakes like Grace and Teddy, most of the Mojave Desert's inhabitants fear and despise snakes in general. The wariness can be partly explained by the fact that snakes are predators, but the bad apples make people scorn the more well-meaning snakes.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Disney's Aladdin, Jafar uses snake motifs throughout the movie, and when he wants to amp up the evil, he turns into a giant cobra.
  • The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue averts this with Murgatroyd, who is a good-natured and polite friend of Toaster and the others.
  • An interesting case was Kaa in The Jungle Book, a python who, in the movie, tries to prey on Mowgli. A clear case of Adaptational Villainy (Kaa was Mowgli's friend, though a rather frightening one, in the book version) he was made a villain here because of this Trope. As in, Disney didn't think audiences would accept a benevolent snake character. However, this is downplayed with his younger self in Jungle Cubs.
  • Kung Fu Panda has a notable aversion in Viper, who is one of the nicest members of the Furious Five.
    • And in the short film Secrets of the Furious Five. Grand Master Viper, Viper's father, he is a heroic snake who protects his village from the bad guys and loves his daughter.
  • Subverted in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. During the song "Not One of Us" a few African rock pythons menacingly hiss and snap at Kovu, but this is because they are outraged by the Outsiders' ambush on Simba as the other animals are, which technically makes them good guys (even if their blame on Kovu is one-sided). Which becomes ironic in that one of the scrapped characters in the The Lion King was a python who was going to serve as The Dragon to Scar, thus playing this trope straight.
  • Pinchcliffe Grand Prix. The antagonist is running for an oil Company called "Snake Oil". Do the Math.
  • Ju-Ju in The Princess and the Frog is an aversion, a friendly and good-natured assistant to the benevolent voodoo priestess Mama Odie.
  • While Rango averts Reptiles Are Abhorrent overall with several heroic reptilian characters (including the protagonist, a chameleon, and his Love Interest, an iguana), it features Rattlesnake Jake, a gigantic, terrifying, gunslinger snake as one of its main villains. However, he is only The Dragon to the Mayor, and turns against him in the end, while he starts respecting Rango as his equal. Interestingly, the Mayor himself is a subversion of the "Turtles are good" trope.
  • Sir Hiss in Robin Hood is a Butt-Monkey servant to Prince John, and his hypnosis is implied to be the reason why the King went on his crusade in the first place
  • Averted in Sahara note , where most of the main characters, including The Protagonist Ajar, are snakes. (Ajar in particular is a cobra). Also an inversion if you count that the Big Bad Omar is a cruel human.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Numerous monster movies where the villain is a giant snake, such as Anaconda, Python, and King Cobra. They tend to be portrayed as a Super-Persistent Predator who eat entire towns for breakfast. One of the monsters in The Cabin in the Woods was a send-up to this genre.
  • In Conan the Barbarian (1982) the Big Bad is the head of a snake-worshipping cult, and in the climax turns into a snake himself.
  • Nancy is paralleled with snakes in The Craft. In fact right before her Face–Heel Turn into the movie's antagonist, she's seen telling Sarah "the serpent is a very powerful being, you should respect it."
  • The Taiwanese martial arts film, The Evil Karate, has one of it's villains, the Dark Action Girl assassin, carrying a poisonous live snake as her main weapon just to emphasize on the "Look I'm eeeeeeeeeeevvvvilll" aspect every time she shows up onscreen. She notably uses this snake to kill the main character's mentor.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn - Satanico Pandemonium does a sexy dance with a snake draped around her. It's around this point that things go quite bad for the protagonists, and she herself turns into a snake-featured vampire.
  • Carla Rainer - the scheming murderess in Exception to the Rule - really has a thing for serpents. Besides injecting two men with sea snake venom and wearing a glove bearing a shiny snake-like motif, she leaves a live snake as a 'present' for another of her victims.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): King Ghidorah has snake-like characteristics such as his long necks moving and rearing up like cobras, his tail spikes vibrating like a rattlesnake and his forked tongues that flick out. And fittingly, this version is also his most malicious portrayal in the entire series.
  • Kaa is a sinister villain in the 2016 remake of The Jungle Book and intent on eating Mowgli (using child molester techniques), unlike his portrayal in the books. She's also absolutely huge: at one point she's visible in a long-range shot in both the background and the foreground and her head is big enough that she could easily swallow Mowgli without stretching her jaws.
  • In Lockjaw: Rise of the Kulev Serpent, Lockjaw is a giant snake with the head of an alligator. As a magical spirit of vengeance, it will not stop once it has been summoned until it has killed those it was summoned to punish.
  • Being Truer to the Text, Mowgli averts this with its portrayal of Kaa, who is a wise ally of Mowgli just like in the books. She is, however, still creepy and terrifying.
  • Primal: When Loffler releases Walsh's animals after he escapes, the thing that most worries the passengers and crew—after the 400 lb jaguar—is the two bushmaster snakes. The crew point out that a ship has countless small spaces they could hide in, and Walsh says they will head for the warmest, moistest pace on the ship: the engine room. Later, Captain Morales gets bitten on the leg in the engine room.
  • Shanghai Grand: The film's main villainess has a pet boa constrictor which she feeds her enemies to.
  • One of the omens of Bughuul, the pagan god in Sinister is a snake, along with a scorpion and an enormous dog.

    Literature 
  • Mr. Snake in The Bad Guys series is one of the villains attempting to atone from the beginning of the series. Unlike the others, he is still a bit slow on fully becoming good, and is very sour on the situation, often screwing up situations by his irritation and eating people he shouldn't.
  • In the Conan the Barbarian franchise, anything and anyone related to snakes are Always Chaotic Evil without fail. Of note is the nation of Stygia. It uses a lot of serpent imagery, it's home to the Cult of Set, which worships a snake-like god and practices all manner of human sacrifice, and the land is ruled by numerous iron-fisted Evil Sorcerers.
    • In the short story, The God in the Bowl, a massive snake-like thing turns out to be responsible for the murders in Kallian Publico's Temple. It's unknown what it is, but just seeing it is enough to nearly drive Conan mad and force him to leave the city in a fright, even though he just decapitated it.
    • In The Scarlet Citadel, there is Satha, the giant white snake that ranks chief among Tsotha-Lanti's "pets". Ironically though, Conan admits he actually likes Satha the most, as of the monstrosities in Tsotha's dungeons at least Satha offers only a swift physical death.
  • The Cthulhu Mythos is home to Yig, a serpent god who came out of H. P. Lovecraft collaborating with Zealia Bishop. Yig, in his first story, isn't so much "evil" or "alien, inhuman and maddening" as he is "fiercely protective of snakes, and extremely vengeful"; kill snakes in Yig's territory, and madness, death, and giving birth to snake/human hybrids await. Yig is generally considered to be one of the more reasonable of the Great Old Ones, but he's definitely not cuddly.
  • The Big Bad from Down The Bright Stream is a treacherous, sadistic adder with a fondness for baby birds.
  • Harry Potter has numerous examples:
    • The Big Bad Voldemort has snakes as his Animal Motifs. He is a Parseltongue (which means he can talk to snakes), he has a pet snake called Nagini, he went to Slytherin House (see below), and his appearance (especially his eyes and nostrils) is often compared to snakes.
    • Slytherin House's name sounds like "slithering", and has a snake as its mascot. This house has a reputation of raising the most dark wizards, including Voldemort himself. The House's founder, Salazar Slytherin, was a Parseltongue too.
    • It is noted that being a Parseltongue is often seen as a sinister and evil trait in the Wizarding World. The power itself is not evil, and most snakes are just ordinary animals, but due to Voldemort being a well-known Parseltongue, the ability is tainted in the public eye.
    • The Basilisk is a monstrous snake that has been placed in the Chamber of Secrets under Hogwarts by Salazar Slytherin, and only can be controlled by the Heir of Slytherin. Its task is to rid the school of muggle-borns.
    • Averted with the boa constrictor that Harry Potter accidentally releases in the first book. It just wants to leave the zoo and go to Brazil.
    • Also averted with a snake seen in a flashback in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, to which Morfin is crooning in Parseltongue, "Hissy, hissy little snakey / Slither on the floor / You be good to Morfin / Or he'll nail you to the door!" This is just a harmless random snake that twisted Morfin is taking a sadistic pleasure in torturing.
  • Averted in the children's book The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash. While Jimmy's boa scares the farmer's wife and the chickens, it doesn't mean to cause any harm and is fairly non-aggressive. The Stinger even shows that the farmer's wife took a liking to it, keeping it inside with them in the winter and knitting it a long sweater.
  • The Jungle Book:
    • Mowgli's story (the original, not the Disney version): Mowgli falls into a cobra pit, but thanks to animal speak is able to ask them not to attack. Kaa the python is actually a heroic character and a mentor to Mowgli. He's feared, yes, but also respected and portrayed as very wise, even referred to as "all-knowing". Disney's adaptations of the Mowgli stories tend to completely ignore this.
    • A later story has Mowgli fall into an ancient treasure trove guarded by a cobra... whose venom sacs have shrivelled up a long time since.
    • In Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, another story in the book, the hero is a mongoose, a cute furry predator of snakes among other prey, so of course he encounters not only evil cobras (who plot to kill the humans who've adopted him out of spite) but a smaller snake called Krait.
  • Every single snake that's appeared in the Redwall series is pure evil. The first one ever seen is a monstrous adder named Asmodeus, while others include a Treacherous Advisor grass snake living on a huge raven's head, a blind and insane adder descended from Asmodeus, a gigantic lake-dwelling snake known as the Deepcoiler, and three conjoined adders that basically function as a hydra.
  • Averted in A Series of Unfortunate Events with the Incredibly Deadly Viper. Despite its name, it's actually stated to be one of the friendliest animals in existence. It also becomes very good friends with Sunny in the second book.
  • The Sherlock Holmes story "The Speckled Band" has a fictional snake as the villain's murder weapon (albeit with lots of Artistic License – Biology). Holmes turns it against the murderer.
    • In another story, he compares a particularly odious blackmailer to a snake.
    "Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents at the zoo and see the slithering, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that's how Milverton impresses me. I've had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion I have for this fellow."
  • In the Oscar Wilde short story The Star Child, the titular child is a beautiful boy who is innerly cruel and evil. He suffers a karmic punishment to be transformed into a snake hybrid to reflect how he is on the inside.
  • In the second Time Out Of Time book "The Telling Stone", Balor rides on a giant snake in the battle at the Travelers' Market. The snake appears again near the end of the book in Dunsinane to kill Timothy to keep him from being the next keeper of the market.
  • Louise the Larger in A Wind in the Door is a complete aversion — she's completely harmless and, as a Teacher, is a benevolent figure in her own right.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An early episode of Charmed (1998) featured the evil witch Tiawatha, who had a snake for a familiar. The snake could be summoned at will, sent for recon, and regenerated into two separate snakes when cut in half. There was also a spirit who protected an Egyptian urn who could summon animals to kill those who'd stolen it; one of those animals was a cobra.
  • Game of Thrones: The Sand Snakes (Obara, Nymeria and Tyene), which is the collective name for Prince Oberyn "The Red Viper" Martell's bastard daughters, received Adaptational Villainy where they committed Revenge by Proxy on Princess Myrcella Baratheon by poisoning her and killed their own uncle and cousin who do not support their plans in avenging their father despite that it's a lawful trial by combat. Averted with the Red Viper himself who did want revenge for his dead sister, niece and nephew, but didn't want to hurt innocent people.
  • Kamen Rider Build has the cobra themed villain Blood Stalk a.k.a Souichi Isurugi a.k.a Evolt/Evolto and later Kamen Rider Evol, who is a part of a terrorist/scientist cabal Faust, who is in reality is an alien invader. Evolt's monster form also resembles a humanoid alien cobra.
  • Kamen Rider Ryuki has the Mirror Monster Venosnaker, who's shown to be vicious and animalistic; appropriately enough its partner Kamen Rider Ouja (Takeshi Asakura) is a Serial Killer, meaning they get along just fine.
  • Monster Warriors: The Monster of the Week in "Anaconda of the North Woods" is a giant anaconda.
  • In Power Rangers: Beast Morphers, the Big Bad is a cobra-themed Computer Virus named Evox. It's eventually revealed that the reason for his snake avatar is because of an experiment of Nate's on the Cell Shift Morpher housing his data involving snake DNA, transforming him from Venjix to Evox.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Narek pilots a Snakehead, a Romulan scout ship, which reinforces the theme of Romulan culture identifying itself with predatory animals (the most famous being the raptor) to reflect its history of violence and conquest. The curved "wings" of his vessel are somewhat reminiscent of the hood of a cobra. In a Space Battle with La Sirena, Narek proves to be a dangerous adversary, and Rios would later nickname him "snakehead" to express his disdain for the Zhat Vash spy, which is appropriate because Narek did try to murder Soji with a poisonous gas (his "venom," so to speak).
  • The Ultra Series have various kaijus modeled after snakes,and NONE of them are friendly.
    • Ultraman 80: One of the most powerful and dangerous Monster of the Week is Gamos, a cobra-headed monster which is said to have destroyed entire planets in its rampage, as well as killing Alien Zuckal's family and disintegrating several innocent people with its Acid spit (including a child!) ONSCREEN during its rampage on earth.
    • A similar planet destroyer called Bogal shows up in Ultraman Mebius; it is also modeled after a cobra, destroyed Planet Aarb prior to the series, and can regenerate itself to fight Ultraman Mebius several times.
    • From Ultraman X there is Gargorgon, a reptilian kaiju based on a gorgon, with three snake-like heads. Yes, once again, this one is also responsible for wiping out an entire civilization in the past, specifically by turning its inhabitants to stone, and is one of the first Wake-Up Call Boss kaiju of the show.
    • The ultimate Big Bad of Ultraman Orb is Maga-Orochi, which, much like its namesake, is an unstoppable juggernaut of a kaiju with a snake-looking appearance.
    • Ultraman R/B has another serpent-themed kaiju, Snake Darkness, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It serves as one of the strongest kaiju opponents in The Movie.
  • In V (2009), Anna, the leader of the Visitors in the reboot as played by Morena Baccarin, has some noticeable serpentine features, such as very short hair, a long neck, and a very slender frame. Of course, underneath her human skin she's really a member of The Reptilians.

    Music 
  • Many heavy metal bands ranging from Alice Cooper to Soundgarden to Symphony X use snakes as symbols of fear, and this translates to heavier music.
  • Paula Abdul: HE'S A COLD HEARTED SNAKE! Look into his eyes, he's been tellin' lies.
  • "Attacked by Snakes!" by The Aquabats!, where a hapless fellow finds his front lawn infested with thousands of angry snakes that are after him for some reason:
    Attacked by snakes, by snakes
    So many snakes it would take a thousand rakes
    To contain the snakes after me
    I'd rather be burned at the stake than be
    Attacked by snakes!
  • Poets of the Fall's Hamartia, the Monster Clown Slasher Smile wearing jester mascot of Twilight Theater's album art, sports a Happy Harlequin Hat with a flap that turns into the silhouetted, coiling head of a serpent.
  • The Belgian synthpop group Telex are probably best remembered for their song "Raised by Snakes", which goes thus:
    I was raised by snakes
    I lie all the time

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Snakes, serpents, and other similar creatures that crawl on their bellies are often identified as being evil and unclean in The Bible, starting all the way back in the Book of Genesis, in which Satan disguises himself as a serpent to tempt Eve into eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Because of this, not only does God curse the serpent for it deceiving Eve and Adam to sin, but almost all snakes and serpents throughout the rest of the Bible are regarded as symbols of evil and immorality.
    • On the other hand, Jesus tells his followers to "be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves."
    • Moses also turned his staff into a snake to show the power of God; likewise, during the 40-year Exodus trek, the Israelites set up a copper snake as a healing symbol for those who were bitten by fiery serpents. Historians argue that this snake was the original totem connected to the tribe of Dan. By the time of King Hezekiah, the copper snake was being worshiped as an idol, and the king ended up destroying it, calling it Nehushtan ("a thing of bronze") to mock the Jews for their idiocy in worshiping a lifeless object.
    • And Biblical seraphim, while not outright described as snake-like, are associated with snakes/serpents throughout Jewish and early Christian texts and are now thought to derive from the concept of the uraeus, an Egyptian symbol of royalty/sovereignty. On the other hand, they do obliterate anyone who looks at them to cinder.
  • The snake is associated with the deadly sin of Envy and its patron demon Leviathan is usually depicted as a giant serpentine sea monster. Leviathan in general is an example of this, even before the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins came about.
  • Orochi, the eight-headed serpent of Japanese Mythology. It preyed on a family's daughters for seven years simply because it could (what it ate before it coerced the couple into feeding it their daughters is never stated).
  • In Greek Mythology: Greek mythology is full of this. There are a lot of snake or dragon monsters roaming about that are killed or otherwise defeated by a hero or god.
    • Apollo slew Python to gain control of the Delphic oracle. Typhon was Zeus' Arch-Enemy and the greatest threat faced by the Olympians. Zeus also slew Campe to free the Cyclopes and Hecatoncheires from Tartarus. Andromeda was to be fed to a sea serpent known as Cetus. Scylla was portrayed as being part serpent.
    • Hera sent two snakes to kill Hercules just after his birth. This failed, however, when he strangled the snakes to death in his crib. Later in life Hercules would slay the Hydra as one of his Twelve Labors.
    • Though subverted by Asclepius, a healing god who's associated with snakes due to the Serpent of Immortality trope; his signifier was the caduceus, a rod with a snake entwined around it that's still a medical emblem today, and one of his temples even encouraged the local harmless snakes to take up residence on the grounds.
  • Apep/Apophis in Egyptian Mythology is the God of Evil known as the snake of chaos, with the resident good god Ra constantly battling him and making sure he doesn't win because if he does, he will consume the whole world. At the same time, snakes were also associated with protection, such as the goddess Wadjet, whose symbols were worn by the Pharoah.
  • Norse Mythology: This is a recurrent theme throughout, although examples are less numerous than that of Greek mythology. Jormungandr, aka the Midgard Serpent, is an evil serpent so huge that he can wrap himself around the world. He's Thor's Arch-Enemy and the two are fated to kill each other at Ragnarok. Nidhogg is a vile serpent/dragon that lives at a root of Yggdrasil and chews on it. Unlike Jormungandr, he'll survive Ragnarok. There are also several instances of heroes slaying poison-spewing dragons in all branches of Germanic mythology.

    Podcasts 
  • Averted with Shannon's pet in the Cool Kids Table Harry Potter-themed game Hogwarts: The New Class, a piebald ball python named Sekhmet who cuddles up to her chest as soon as she purchases her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In all editions of Dungeons & Dragons, the yuan-ti are a race of Snake People who are Always Chaotic Evil.
  • In Necromunda, House Delaque incorporates a snake into its heraldry and is considered to be the creepiest of all the Clan Houses, due to its membership consisting of spies and assassins. The models for the 3rd Edition of the game take things even further with the high collars of their stormcoats resembling a cobra's hood, their armour having a segmented scale-like look and the models themselves being tall and sinuous.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The Venom and Reptilianne archetypes.
      • Venom combines this trope with Swamps Are Evil, since the main card of the deck is Venom Swamp, which slowly weakens all non-Venom monsters and destroys them when their ATK drops to 0. The two boss monsters of the archetype are DARK-attribute Snake People, one of which is pretty much The Juggernaut if you manage to summon her.
      • And should Vennominaga somehow fail, the deck's final trump card is usually Ananta, a monster based on the Lernaean Hydra.
      • All of the Reptilianne monsters are DARK-attribute gorgons in one way or another, and their effects revolve around reducing the ATK of opposing monsters to 0, emulating the whole Taken for Granite aspect of gorgons. Even Reptilianne Gardna, the odd-one-out of the archetype, seems to be designed to avert the Turtle Power trope by by being depicted as veiny and ugly.
    • The aptly named Sinister Serpent. It used to have a powerful effect that placed it squarely in the forbidden list, until an errata greatly nerfed it.
    • Divine Serpent Geh, a God of Evil that rules over a dark dimension. In the anime, it's an embodiment of pure evil and possibly the most broken card to be ever invented. The real life counterpart looks intimidating, but is more of a case of Awesome, but Impractical.
    • The Cyber Dragon monsters are apparently based on Chinese dragons, but look more like mechanized snakes. They are used by Ryo Marufuji in the anime, who is an Aloof Ally at best and an Ax-Crazy sociopath at worst.

    Video Games 
  • Bio Lab Wars: One of the enemy types you encounter in the game is snakes. To shoot them, you need to get on your belly.
  • Blazblue: Big Bad, Yuuki Terumi's entire motif are, you guessed it, snakes. And this holds true for all of his alternate forms (Hazama and Susanno) all of them sharing the same dark and green color scheme. Terumi plays this so straight to the point where all of his moves are named after some form of snake or something related to them. (i.e. Venomous Bite, Serpent's Infernal Rapture, Unholy Wrath of the Basilisk, etc etc).
  • In Brain Dead 13, there is a giant snake that can wrap around Lance and eat him up at the maze if you're not quick enough.
  • Both non-networked Dark Sun games have something:
    • Shattered Lands has the snakeman statue in Gedron. You sense its evil from the start. Then a defiler (evil wizard) moves his soul in it and it becomes one of the bosses. Then he joins the army of Tectuktitlay for the final battle against you.
    • Wake of the Ravager has Yuan-ti (see in Tabletop Games above) and an unrelated Kartang — a sentient magical mutant snake commanding a pack of its animal brothers. Both are evil and eat humans.
  • In Ensemble Stars!, both Keito and Ibara are associated with snakes (in fact, one of the characters in Keito's surname Hasumi means 'snake', and in the Eastern Zodiac set he takes the snake), and both are antagonists to the main characters during part of the story, calculating and ruthless at their worst. However, though the symbolism is stronger with Keito he is ultimately an Anti-Villain at best during the main story and a fully-fledged protagonist in his own right once the story hits its Rotating Protagonist phase.
  • According to Far Cry 4's survival guide Pagan Min, the Big Bad, loves pit viper meat, has a chef specially trained in preparing pit viper meat, and often adds pit viper meat to his crab rangoon.
  • Gradius: Absolutely Averted with the Vic Viper, a heroic snake-themed Gradian star-fighter whose pilots dedicate themselves to protecting the galaxy from Bacterion forces. Played Straight with Zelos, a malevolent Planet Eater who is portrayed as a serpentine Draconic Abomination, at least based on the Salamander/Life-Force art cover.
  • Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass features a giant snake as the Bonus Boss of a Surprise Creepy level.
  • The The Jungle Book Licensed Game both plays this trope straight with Kaa, who serves as a boss, and other snakes who serve as regular enemies, as well as inverts it with the Trampoline Tummy snakes, who actually aid Mowgli.
  • Kirby: Triple Deluxe has Coily Rattler, the fourth boss. It is a living snake statue that's made of 12 segments, including its head, which is its weak point. Its pause descriptions imply that it used to be a symbol of peace revered by the People of the Sky, but Taranza animates it with his black magic and commands it to attack Kirby.
  • In Lara Croft GO, snakes are one of the common enemies. They normally just stay curled up in one spot, but will attack Lara if she moves in front of them (unless she has a torch). Additionally, there's the Queen of Venom, a giant snake who pursues Lara from across several levels and is the game's only "boss".
  • Several types of monstrous snakes appears as enemies in Miitopia: the gigantic Cobras, the deadly Orochis (which look like serpentine dragons with magical balls they use as weapons), and the I, Medusas.
  • Nioh: Edward Kelley, a bald, British sorcerer and alchemist who has enough snake motifs to make Voldemort jealous, from the scale-patterns that appear when he casts magic to his loyal Guardian Spirit Uroboros.
  • Pokémon:
    • Although anyone can train them, Ekans, its evolution Arbok, and Seviper are all owned by villains such as Team Rocket. All 3 are Poison types and can be rather mean.
    • Onix and Steelix, Dunsparce, and the Snivy line pretty much avert it, although Snivy's family are all Smug Snake characters.
  • Primal Rage has Vertigo, a Kaiju resembling a mix between a theropod dinosaur and a cobra-like snake. She's one of the most evil characters in the game whose mere presence drives people insane and who intends to trap all of humanity in a World of Chaos for her own amusement.
  • Downplayed with Elliana in Rivals of Aether. She originally only wanted to fly, but being humiliated and exiled by the Air Armada due to Fantastic Racism toward her being a snake despite proving herself capable led to her becoming a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds hellbent on destroying them.
  • Runescape:
    • Subverted with Juna. She's an ancient serpent resembling a gigantic python, but is a loyal guardian of the god of balance Guthix and not at all hostile towards the player.
    • Played straight with the enemy snakes the player may come across.
  • Senran Kagura has the Hebijo Academy who has snake as their symbol (the students of Hebijo are sometimes called "Serpent Girls") and train "evil shinobi" (though the term "evil" can be bit loose). And then there is the snake-like demon Orochi, who is born from the dead souls of the school's students and wants to destroy everything.
  • Subverted in Shadowgate: upon walking into one room, you come across a large, threatening snake that turns out to be a harmless statue. Moreover, the statue can then be transformed into the Staff of Ages, an artifact that is necessary to defeat the Big Bad.
  • Smite has a lot of snake-based deities and most of them came in different flavors; Nu Wa is a benevolent goddess with snake lower body, Kukulkan is serpentine and can look like a callous jackass but actually works on Blue-and-Orange Morality and is usually just being Creepy Good, Medusa also has snake lower body but as the myth goes, she's a malevolent monster. Additionally, there's the aforementioned Apep/Apophis, while he's not shown with a lot of personality by the virtue of being a Bonus Boss, everything that has been said about the Snake of Chaos are all true in this game. And then there's Jormungandr, who's a towering piece of malevolence who is eager to bring down Ragnarok to the realm.
  • Lyric, the main antagonist of the Sonic Boom video games, Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal, is a snake cyborg. In Rise of Lyric, Sonic and the gang accidentally free him from an ancient prison, and he immediately resumes his plot to activate an army of giant, killer robots with the Chaos Crystals. In Shattered Crystal, he kidnaps Amy Rose and forces her to seek out the pieces of the titular crystal for nefarious ends.
  • Cobrats in Super Mario Bros. 2 lurk in the desert sands and inside vases and attack the player character when they get close. Tryclyde, one of the major bosses of the game is a fire-breathing three-headed snake.
  • Snakes are an enemy in Sydney Hunter And The Shrines Of Peril. They just stay where they are, but touching them results in Sydney Hunter losing a life.
  • the Trails Series has the Society of Ouroboros. Their name and logo is 'the snake that eats its own tail', the high ranked members are called Anguis, which is latin for snake, and are sometimes scornfully referred to by certain characters as "(a) den of snakes". Needless to say, they're not particularly nice people.
  • The Naga of Warcraft III's expansion were Night Elves turned into undersea snake-men by a cataclysmic magic explosion.
  • The Way Of Cinnamon: Cinnamon can encounter snakes as enemies. They stick up out of holes in the ground and spit venom at him.

     Webcomics 
  • In Champions of Far'aus, the sea serpent Serpentus is a soft spoken killer.Extra info from the companion Webcomic to C.o.F, "World of Far'aus", says that sea serpents "-enjoy playing mind games with their victims".
  • Erma: Erma's maternal aunt Rin is a nure-onna. Once introduced, she proves to be a Jerkass who instantly dislikes Erma and her human father, Sam, and only steps off when Emiko steps in and not-so-subtly threatens her. Actually turns out to be a subversion, as Rin was nicer earlier in life, has a very good reason to not like humans, questions her own behavior, and becomes much friendlier to Erma and Sam while making amends with Emiko.

     Web Original 
  • In the CollegeHumor sketch "Adam and Eve in the Friendzone," Eve tells Adam that she doesn't want to start a relationship with him because "she's just out of a really long relationship and wants to keep her options open." As Adam wonders who this alleged ex could possibly be, the snake (a puppet) pops up from behind a log, wearing a leather jacket and a red mohawk, and invites Eve to the Tree of Knowledge. She accepts his invitation, leaving Adam behind to sulk. God tells Adam that He can make him a new partner, but that He will need another rib to do it. Adam declines, saying that he and Eve will make it work somehow.
  • In A Conspiracy of Serpents, most of the antagonists are snake-like deities or monsters who are all trying to destroy the universe.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Evil Luddite Michael can summon and manipulate venomous snakes.
  • Dreamscape: Ethan's Badass Longcoat has snakes on it.
  • The Evil Overlord List includes the line "I will not turn into a snake. It never helps."
  • Averted by the popular "Snek" internet meme, in which snakes are portrayed in a cute LOLCats-esque fashion.

    Western Animation 
  • Played with, but ultimately subverted by Adder from The Animals of Farthing Wood. She is the most reluctant of the animals to uphold the Oath of Mutual Protection, and often terrorizes or threatens to eat the smaller animals of the park's group. However, she does prove herself to be a bit more noble than she lets on, even saving Vixen from the hunting party in episode 8. She does also soften a bit as the series goes on, as a hallmark of her Character Development.
  • Brandy & Mr. Whiskers averts this with Lola Boa, who is one of the more likable characters and often helpful to the main duo. In fact, she's the first friendly character the two encounter in the Amazon, although Whiskers was initially terrified of her due to his fear of snakes. That said, there are cases in the show where snakes play this straight, namely as menacing predators who try to eat the main cast.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog:
    • Averted in "Serpent of Evil River", in which a salty sailor is hunting a large serpent named Carmen to bring her in for a bounty — the fact that she dwells in Evil River, and one look at the giant, one-eyed, sharp-toothed serpent would make you think she's a monster, but it turns out she just wants an audience to listen to her opera singing.
    • In "Watch the Birdies", Courage accidentally grabs a snake while digging for worms to feed a trio of baby vultures Muriel's been tasked to baby sit, and upon seeing the babies, the snake decides to eat them, with Courage and Muriel trying to fend him off.
    • Played Straight in "The Uncommon Cold", in which Big Bayou is an incredibly vain snake who has enslaved a colony of slugs to make statues of him to admire stuffed in his own shedded skins; he's also a magician — he enslaved the slugs under his magic, and only his magic can free them as well.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • In the series premiere, several rattlesnakes are a hazard in Atlantis, and they end up biting Launchpad who gets all loopy from their venom.
    • In "Quack Pack!", Gene mentions that Louie is going get a pet rattlesnake in the next sitcom episode. That rattlesnake later attacks Louie (who wouldn't even consider getting a pet snake in reality) when the wish system starts to act against the family, but it's later used by Webby as weapon against the maddened human audience.
    • The world-encircling serpent Jormungandr is mentioned in "Last Christmas!", apparently kept at bay by Scrooge McDuck. Jormungandr finally appears in the episode "The Rumble For Ragnarok!" where he takes the form of a four-limbed snake man that Scrooge and his family must defeat in a wrestling match or else he will destroy the world.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe the Snake Men are just as evil as Skeletor and far more feared.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness addresses and subverts this trope. Master Viper is generally popular and well liked in-universe, however the Valley of Peace becomes suspicious and fearful of her when the snake hero Fu-xi goes rogue and starts terrorizing non-snakes. Fu-xi embodies the sinister snake trope to a tee, and spends the episode seducing Viper to his cause (and to himself). Subverted further when it turns out Viper was playing Fu-xi the whole time, in order to save the entire valley from being poisoned by him.
  • In The Legend of Tarzan, snakes are generally hostile towards Tarzan and others. One of the one-time villains is Hista, a gigantic python who hunts gorillas.
  • Zig-zagged in The Lion Guard:
    • On one hand, we have Ushari the Egyptian cobra. While starting off as a rather normal albeit irritable snake, he ends up becoming one of the chief villains in Season 2 where he helps Janja in bringing back Scar, in a plot to get even with the Lion Guard and take over the Pride Lands, and then serves as Scar's second-in-command. Season 3 escalates this by revealing that not only did Scar get his scar from a random cobra, but that cobra venom can remove your morals. So yes, cobras are pretty much the physical source of immorality in the Lion King verse.
    • By contrast, African rock pythons are not shown as more menacing than the other predators in the show and have been the one large predatory reptile to never cause trouble, inverting the trope. However this is invoked in "Baboons!" where Baby Baboon gets scared by a python on a branch, although the snake doesn't make an attempt to attack him. Apparently, only venomous snakes are sinister.
  • Little Bear averts this with Nofeet, a friendly and gentle garden snake who is good friends with the titular character.
  • The Loud House both invokes and subverts this with Lana's pet snake El Diablo, who has the tendency to scare newcomers (by wrapping his coils around them and squeezing them as a greeting) but is generally inoffensive. And the many other snakes Lana befriends are often an aversion.
  • Slips in My Gym Partner's a Monkey' is an aversion — he's lazy and The Stoner, but not evil or sinister.
  • Played with in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • On the one hand, cobras specifically are usually portrayed as, if not evil, then dangerous creatures — in particular, they're a common feature of the Death Traps that the Adventurer Archaeologist Daring Do has to deal with.
    • On the other, common garden snakes are not depicted as any more dangerous than the rest of the show's small woodland critters, and one makes semi-regular appearances in Fluttershy's roster of animal friends. This is however Invoked in "Winter Wrap-Up" when Twilight, who has severe herpetophobia, awakens a den of hibernating snakes.
    • Zigzagged with Antoine the python from "She Talks to Angel". While he has intentions of eating Muriel the elephant calf, he is willing to negotiate with Fluttershy and is content with eating other treats. Unfortunately, taking away said treats leads to him actually eating Muriel, so the others have to free her from his belly.
  • Zig-zagged throughout Ninjago:
    • In the first season, the enemy is a race of humanoid snakes called the Serpentine, who plot to revive a gigantic snake called the Great Devourer to, well, devour the entire world so they can rebuild their society afterward. Said Great Devourer also carries a venom that turned Lord Garmadon evil in the backstory.
    • After the Great Devourer is defeated, the Serpentine pull a Heel–Race Turn and become recurring allies, with the exception of one.
    • The villain of season four is human, but features a snake motif and his ultimate goal is to turn himself and his followers into snakes. Ironically, this disgusts Pythor (the remaining Token Evil Teammate of the Serpentine) enough to pull an Enemy Mine to stop him, putting snakes on both sides of the moral spectrum at once.
    • Season six features only one Serpentine character, who sides with the villain but doesn't do anything outright villainous himself, and outright says he's joined up just because he's an outcast and doesn't belong with the other Serpentine.
    • Season seven ignores the Serpentine race, but makes use of snake-mooks called Vermillion Warriors.
    • And season eight introduces the Sons of Garmadon, a biker gang with a snake motif, thanks to Garmadon's connection to the Great Devourer.
  • Cy Sly in Ovide and the Gang is an arrogant, sneaky python who is easily the nastiest character on the show. On the other hand, Cy's Egyptian cobra cousin isn't a villain at all (which subverts the "non-venomous snakes are good, while cobras and other venomous snakes are evil" stereotype), and an anaconda villain of the week pulls a Heel–Face Turn.
  • The Powerpuff Girls has the Gangreen Gang member Snake, who, like the rest of the members of the gang, often commits sordid crimes, such as picking on smaller children, vandalizing property, stealing from others, and so on. Slightly downplayed, however, that aside from the fact that the gang only commit typical street crimes rather than sinister schemes, Snake acts more as a yes-man to the gang's leader Ace, who often punches Snake across the nose whenever the latter speaks out of line.
  • Rick and Morty introduced a race of sapient snakes, identical to Earth snakes but with humanlike societies and their own equivalents to Abraham Lincoln (who ended up becoming a Nazi) and Hitler. When Morty steps out of the car to help Rick change their tire (in space), one of their astronauts goes out of its way to bite him and he beats it to death. Feeling guilty, he replaces it with an Earth snake which bites him several more times in the process. Once the alien snakes figure out how to communicate with it and learn about humanity, they then wage war on Earth and send robotic assassins back in time to kill the Smiths.
  • The Serpent King, a massive cobra, in Rupert subverts this. Despite Podgy's (initial) fear and distrust of him, when Rupert rescues him he turns out to be an honorable and helpful ally, later helping to save them from a gang of hungry crocodiles.
  • One of the antagonists of The Penguins of Madagascar is a giant boa constrictor named Savio.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Averted in "Whacking Day" where Lisa and Bart try to save a bunch of snakes from being killed by the townspeople, due to the titular holiday being based around this trope as well as existing just to give people an excuse to beat and kill snakes. The snakes themselves are also docile and harmless.
    • Also averted in "Stop or My Dog Will Shoot" with Bart's one-off pet python "Strangles". It's instruction manual declares it's pointless to name them because "snakes have poor hearing and live only to strangle", but Strangles is actually friendly to and protective of Bart (the one time he strangles anyone is Homer...to defend Bart from being strangled). In the end Bart is forced to choose between Strangles and Santa's Little Helper, and when he picks the latter Strangles is heartbroken:
      Stranglesnote : If he breaks your heart again, don't bother calling me! ...Oh who am I kidding? I'll always be there for you.
    • Played straight at the ending of "Blame It On Lisa" where Bart gets Swallowed Whole by an anaconda (not that it distresses him).
    • Played with in "Pranks and Greens" where legendary prankster Andy Hamilton keeps a live cobra as a twist of the old "snakes in a can" gag. He explains it's de-fanged albeit still capable of releasing venom, which ends up making Milhouse woozy.
  • TaleSpin: Thaddeus E. Klang, a cobra with a mechanical body who kidnaps the archaeologist Katie Dodd, forcing her to find the lost city of Tinabula for his so he can use the weapons hidden there.
  • Played with by Karai's mutation into a snakelike creature in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) — while an antagonist at first, she is one of the more sympathetic villains. She ultimately pulls a Heel–Face Turn, and by the time she is transformed she has become more-or-less an ally to the Turtles.
  • In The Wild Thornberrys, every snake Eliza encounters has been menacing. The most prominent example is an Indian cobra kept at a palace in "Darwin Plays the Palace".

    Other 
  • Ornithologist Alexander Skutch, famous for his work on cooperative breeding in birds, subscribed whole-heartedly to this trope. He hated snakes, and despite otherwise being a rational biologist, he carried a machete with him on his expeditions to kill any snakes he found.
  • Interesting subversion (and later zig-zag), a 13 banded rattlesnake is seen on the "Don't tread on me" flag used in the American Revolution and much more recently incorporated into the USN naval jack. The rattlesnake was chosen because rattlesnakes don't strike unless provoked, and, unlike the vast majority of animals, issue a warning even if they are. There was serious consideration to make rattlesnakes the nation animal of the United States but it was decided to use a bird and from there a Bald Eagle was selected. Presumably this trope was involved in the selection process.
  • There's a political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin that depicted the colonies as a snake that had been cut into thirteen pieces. This was to evoke a common belief that snakes could be put back together if they were cut up, and the intention was to show that he felt this was happening to the colonies. The goal was to urge the colonies to work together, thereby becoming a whole snake.
  • Another notable cartoon from 1861 by J.B. Elliot, "Scott's Great Snake", depicts the Naval Blockade of the Confederate States during the American Civil War as an anaconda wrapping its coils around the territory. Although Elliot lived in Cincinnatti, Ohio (a pro-Union state), he was mocking the plan drafted by Union general-in-chief Winfield Scott for a slow war of attrition.
  • The Nazis were notably fond of using skulls on their caps, but one particular medal they issued (Bandenkampfabzeichen, for anti-partisan operations) uses sinister-looking snakes as well just to be more Obviously Evil. It looks like the sort of thing Voldemort would give to his Death Eaters.

Alternative Title(s): Snakes Are Evil

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