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There are a lot of mythological references, which states that the crow of a rooster is fatal to a Basilisk.

From CHAPTER XXXVI of the Bulfinch's mythology, MODERN MONSTERS- THE PHOENIX- BASILISK- UNICORN-SALAMANDER.

There is an old saying that “everything has its enemy” – and the cockatrice quailed before the weasel. The basilisk might look daggers, the weasel cared not, but advanced boldly to the conflict. When bitten, the weasel retired for a moment to eat some rue, which was the only plant the basilisks could not wither, returned with renewed strength and soundness to the charge, and never left the enemy till he was stretched dead on the plain. The monster, too, as if conscious of the irregular way in which he came into the world, was supposed to have a great antipathy to a cock; and well he might, for as soon as he heard the cock crow he expired.

And from the Aelian's characteristics of animals (mythology from the 2nd century):

With its crowing a cock scares a lion and is fatal to a basilisk.

In addition, there are a lot of instances where this is mentioned in the Wikipedia article too:

From Tales of Canterbury:

basilisks can be killed by hearing the crow of a rooster

From the Cantabrian mythology:

The weasel is the only animal that can face and even attack it. It can only be killed with the crowing of a rooster, so, until very recent times, travelers were carrying a rooster when they ventured into areas where it was said that the basilisks lived

So, why is it that a rooster can fell such a monstrous creature?

Is there any reason behind the formulation or origin of this?


Related question on SciFi.SE: Can the crow of a rooster petrify/kill a basilisk?

  • I still think that cockatrice should not be considered the same as basilisk. Just like salamander is not a dragon. – Nuloen The Seeker Feb 26 '18 at 23:10
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Pliny the Elder describes the Basilisk like this:

[The basilisk] is produced in the province of Cyrene, being not more than twelve fingers in length. It has a white spot on the head, strongly resembling a sort of a diadem. When it hisses, all the other serpents fly from it: and it does not advance its body, like the others, by a succession of folds, but moves along upright and erect upon the middle.

Lives in Northern Africa, venomous, able to envenom from a distance (ie. spitting), able to maintain an upright posture while moving (see image). The length in Pliny's account is quite a bit off for an adult, and the white marking would seem more consistent with a Spectacled Cobra, but many believe that this sounds quite a bit like an Egyptian Cobra:

upright posture

The Evolution of the Basilisk by R. McN. Alexander draws this conclusion, and provides a great deal more detail (including some possible reasons for the white crown mark detail).

As far as the source of roosters as deadly to the Basilisk, the above paper, unfortunately, doesn't address it, and I can't find much that does. However, many birds are known to deter or even eat snakes. Roosters have been known to kill and eat snakes at times, guineafowl are galliformes (that is, closely related to chickens and turkeys) endemic to Africa and are noted for deterring snakes, and the ibis was a sacred bird in Egypt which also eats snakes.

  • 2
    Thank you for a nice answer. However, the basilisk having come out for a rooster egg, incubated by a toad, don't you think it's weird that a rooster's crow can be able to kill it? – Dawny33 Jan 15 '16 at 3:10
  • The stories about hatching from a rooster egg were, as I understand, first recorded (by Theophilus Presbyter) about 1000 years after Pliny the Elder's account, so seemed unlikely to be relevant to addressing this particular question. – femtoRgon Jan 15 '16 at 4:57
  • @Dawny33 Cockatrice is what you think about. People used the same names, because they copy pasted its ability. – Nuloen The Seeker Feb 26 '18 at 23:14
  • I heard that some snakes can spit paralysing poison into the preys' / threads' eyes. So could medusas' and basilisks' petrifiing gaze originate from them? – Nuloen The Seeker Feb 26 '18 at 23:17

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