Monster Files #8. Cockatrice Picture
Area Found: Europe
Threat Level: 5/5
A cockatrice is a mythical beast, essentially a two-legged dragon with a rooster's head. Described by Laurence Breiner as "an ornament in the drama and poetry of the Elizabethans", it featured prominently in English thought and myth for centuries. he cockatrice was first described in its current form in the late twelfth century.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives a derivation from Old French cocatris, from medieval Latin calcatrix, a translation of the Greek ichneumon, meaning tracker. The twelfth century legend was based on a reference in Pliny's Natural History that the ichneumon lay in wait for the crocodile to open its jaws for the trochilus bird to enter and pick its teeth clean. An extended description of the cockatriz by the 15th-century Spanish traveler in Egypt, Pedro Tafur, makes it clear that the Nile crocodile is intended.
According to Alexander Neckam's De naturis rerum (ca 1180), the cockatrice was supposed to be born from an egg laid by a chicken and incubated by a toad; a snake might be substituted in re-tellings. Cockatrice became seen as synonymous with basilisk when the basiliscus in Bartholomeus Anglicus' De proprietatibus rerum (ca 1260) was translated by John Trevisa as cockatrice (1397). A basilisk, however, is usually depicted without wings.
It is thought that a cock egg would birth a cockatrice, and could be prevented by tossing the yolkless egg over the family house, landing on the other side of the house, without allowing the egg to hit the house.
Its reputed magical abilities include turning people to stone or killing them by either looking at them—"the death-darting eye of Cockatrice"—touching them, or sometimes breathing on them. Like the head of Medusa, the cockatrice's powers of petrification were thought still active after death.
It was repeated in the late-medieval bestiaries that the weasel is the only animal that is immune to the glance of a cockatrice. It was also thought that a cockatrice would die instantly upon hearing a rooster crow, and according to legend, having a cockatrice look itself in a mirror is one of the few sure-fire ways to kill it.The cockatrice was also said to fly using the set of wings affixed to its back.