Lizards in literature
Yesterday, my wife and I collected our baby leopard geckos; Hastur the Unspeakable, and Mokele-Mbembe. The latter is the name of a mythical dinosaur in legends from the Congo River basin. The former is a character from the work of HP Lovecraft. No prizes for guessing which one was named by my wife (the dinosaur expert) and which by me (the strange and bizarre fiction lover).
When I mentioned at work I was getting geckos, the reaction was almost universally one of revulsion. Lizards are slimy, disgusting and scary.
It’s a stereotype perpetrated throughout literature. Lizards are, with very rare exceptions, evil.
Take it back to the granddaddy of all reptile stories (and all evil). Who is the major villain in the Garden of Eden? That’s right, the snake that tempts Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
With very few exceptions, dragons are rapacious creatures, demanding human sacrifices, to be vanquished by heroic knights, or laying waste to villages (think of Smaug in The Hobbit.
In Britain there are two very similar legends of creatures, the Lambton Worm and the Linton Worm, that terrorise the surrounding countryside, but cannot be killed, as the wounds heal themselves. It is only when the hero wears armour covered in spikes and fights the worm in a stream (so that the parts wash away before healing) that the Worm is defeated. Worm, or Wyrm in Old English, translates as “serpent”.
Even as recently as Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs are the major threat to the humans, with the velociraptors in particular being singled out as cruel hunters.
I’ve been racking my brains to think of “good” lizard/reptile characters. Aside from the occasional dragon (who are generally “helpful” only insofar as it suits their purpose), I’m drawing a blank. And I think that’s grossly unfair. After all, look at this little guy:
How could you think he’s evil?
So, can anyone think of any examples of good/heroic/nice lizards, serpents or reptiles in literature?