A Snakeskin snake

May 10, 2010

A main attraction of this month’s Snakeskin is Thomas Land’s delightful fable The Peacock. A sharp-minded reader has objected, however, to its presentation of an asp, sent to murder the heroine:

She received the serpent
in her naked hand,
singing till the killer
slept in harmless coils

Snakes, our reader protests, have no ears,  and would therefore not be able to hear her singing, let alone be soothed to sleep by it.
I put the point to Thomas Land, concerned that it might undermine his fable (as, indeed, it might cause doubts about the veracity of the book of Genesis, whose snake is capable of intelligent though deceitful conversation).
Thomas replied:

Our reader got me worried because I do accept that one must get the science right in order to make the magic work (especially when writing about a snake for Snakeskin). This is what I have learned: snakes have highly developed inner ears that respond very well to vibration and, to my great relief, they can certainly ‘hear’ a lady’s song at an arm’s length.

That saves his poem, then – though I’m not so certain about Genesis.


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