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In its simplest form, the Bosom Serpent legend complex includes any story in which a person believes that an animal is living inside of their body. Normally the animal is a snake or lizard, although amphibians and worms are becoming the most common in modern variants Bennett. Most Bosom Serpent legends begin in the same way: a person mysteriously becomes sick and complains that it feels like something is squirming around inside of them. Then, the patient goes to the doctor and explains that they believe a live animal is inside of them.
The doctor does not believe the patient and sends them home. At this point, there are two common ways that Bosom Serpent legends will continue. Eventually the patient dies and when a medical examiner opens up the body, animals are found inside of the victim.
The coaxing works and the patient is cured by a traditional healing technique. Bosom Serpent legends have changed over time with respect to the type of creature that lives inside the patient, where the creature lives inside the patient, and how the creature got inside the patient in the first place. Over time, the Bosom Serpent legend has changed to reflect societal values. A legend that was originally a representation of guilt in the form of a serpent has morphed into tapeworms that induce weight loss in response to shifting cultural values.
In this episode, agents Mulder and Scully are investigating the deaths of two American soldiers who were stationed at a Haitian refugee camp. Voodoo plays a large role in this episode and while conducting interviews, a soldier tells Mulder and Scully that he believes Voodoo is behind the deaths at the camp.
During her autopsy, snakes crawled out of her stomach after it was cut open. Agents Mulder and Scully react differently upon hearing the variant of the Bosom Serpent legend.
Mulder believes the story whereas Scully remains skeptical. The scene is transcribed below. All they could do was shoot her full of morphine the pain was so bad. She died five minutes past midnight on her wedding day, and when they did an autopsy to try to figure it out, all they could find was a bunch of snakes squirming around inside her belly.
There has been some speculation regarding what might have inspired Hawthorne to write his story about a man with a serpent living inside his heart. All of the newspaper stories from this time were about people who successfully removed the animal Bush. There is much doubt and suspicion regarding the truthfulness of the news articles about Bosom Serpent stories during this period and most researchers regard them as examples of sensationalism that was based on rumors Barnes.
There were elements of classism in most news accounts of this nature because the victim was almost always living in a poor, rural area and the articles generally focused on how the victim was not smart enough to realize that if they had practiced better hygiene, there would have never been an opportunity for an animal to get inside of their body Bennett, Bush. Bennett has a unique theory that a main function of Bosom Serpent legends is to show that science, doctors, and modern medicine are not always right and cannot be blindly trusted.
Throughout time there have been people who were weary of the progression of modern medicine and scientific practices, which helps explain why Bosom Serpent legends have been in circulation for so long. Even today, most people have some degree of anxiety related to scientific progress. No matter which of the two endings a Bosom Serpent legend takes, both options shed a negative light on the scientific and medical communities.
If, at the end of the story the patient lives by taking advice from a healer using an unscientific, but more traditional approach, it makes the doctor look foolish, untrustworthy, and unknowledgeable.
In the variants where the patient listens to the doctor and ignores the pain, it results in their death. Even though the doctor believed that based on scientific research it was an impossible ailment, modern medical practices failed. When the victim visited the doctor, he did not believe her and did not provide any treatment, which resulted in her death. When the medical examiner opened her stomach snakes crawled out, which is a perfect example of how modern medicine and scientific research was wrong and that more traditional healing methods may be more efficient.
Mistrust of modern medicine and science is a major theme in most variants of the Bosom Serpent legend and can be seen when the patient is forced to choose between believing their doctor and seeking a second opinion from a healer who has not been medically trained. Bosom Serpent legends are still in circulation today, but they normally involve worms rather than snakes and lizards Bennett. A widespread modern adaptation of the Bosom Serpent legend is that there are diet pills being sold that contain tapeworms Bennett.
The famous opera singer Maria Callas was accused of using tapeworms to lose sixty pounds in , but that rumor has now been disproven Grabianowski. In fact, there has been no evidence that anyone has ever intentionally swallowed a tapeworm for weight loss or that companies have ever used tapeworms in diet pills Grabianowski. The tapeworm diet pill variant of the Bosom Serpent legend is unusual because a person wants to be parasitized by the tapeworm and intentionally swallows it whereas in older variants of the legend the person never wanted to have the animal living inside their body.
Grabianowski says that modern science has debunked the theory that tapeworms can be coaxed out of the body. Many variants of the legend involve a patient not eating for a few days to starve the tapeworm and then putting food usually milk in front of their mouth to coax the worm to leave the body. The folklorist Harold Schechter studied how legends are interpreted by both popular and serious art forms.
The earliest accounts of Bosom Serpent legends are different from the modern variants in a few key ways. First of all, the legend complex was originally used as an allegory for guilt that involved a serpent occupying the hearts of sinners representing the sin they had committed. The metaphorical serpent could not be removed just as the sinner could not get over their guilt. Shifting societal anxieties and cultural values over time seem to have influenced many aspects of the evolution of the Bosom Serpent legend complex.
Barnes, Daniel R. Bennett, Gillian. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi, Bush, Sargent. Grabianowski, Ed. Schechter, Harold. Iowa City: University of Iowa, Artifacts is a refereed journal of undergraduate work in writing at The University of Missouri. Mizzou Logo University of Missouri. By Laine McCall In its simplest form, the Bosom Serpent legend complex includes any story in which a person believes that an animal is living inside of their body.
Reference List Barnes, Daniel R. About Artifacts Artifacts is a refereed journal of undergraduate work in writing at The University of Missouri.
Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent
The couple has been separated for four years. Roderick used to be a brilliant man, now he is a wretched thing, moving and hissing like snake whom he believes to have in his breast. First Roderick's marriage deteriorated, then his social connections, finally he has estranged himself from all companionship. After learning from his servant that he is being talked about, Roderick's behaviour swung to the other extreme. He craved for notoriety and presented his snake the symbol of his monstrous egotism to the faces of passers-by. He also sought brotherhood with similarly affected people, finding his own disease in every breast.
Hawthorne’s Bosom Serpent
This outcry, saluting Herkimer's ears as he was about to enter the iron gate of the Elliston mansion, made him pause. It was not without a shudder that he found himself on the point of meeting his former acquaintance, whom he had known in the glory of youth, and whom now after an interval of five years, he was to find the victim either of a diseased fancy or a horrible physical misfortune. No second man on earth has such a bosom friend. And now, my poor Rosina, Heaven grant me wisdom to discharge my errand aright! Woman's faith must be strong indeed since thine has not yet failed.
The Bosom Serpent Legend Through History: How The Legend Changes To Address Modern Anxieties
In its simplest form, the Bosom Serpent legend complex includes any story in which a person believes that an animal is living inside of their body. Normally the animal is a snake or lizard, although amphibians and worms are becoming the most common in modern variants Bennett. Most Bosom Serpent legends begin in the same way: a person mysteriously becomes sick and complains that it feels like something is squirming around inside of them. Then, the patient goes to the doctor and explains that they believe a live animal is inside of them. The doctor does not believe the patient and sends them home. At this point, there are two common ways that Bosom Serpent legends will continue.
The Egotism; or Bosom Serpent
The author originally intended for the story to appear in a collection entitled "Allegories of the Heart". It later appeared in " Mosses from an Old Manse ", a collection of short stories by Hawthorne published in Plot synopsis George Herkimer visits his old acquaintance, Roderick Elliston, who is rumored to have a snake residing in his bosom. Herkimer says he brings Elliston a message from his wife Rosina, but he retreats into his house before receiving it.