The cockatrice is a dangerous creature with a reptilian body, dragon wings, and the head and legs of a rooster.
imilar to the basilisk in origin and powers, the cockatrice is a dangerous creature with a lizard body, snake tail, dragon wings and the head and legs of a rooster. A cockatrice is born when a rooster lays an egg that is hatched by a toad or serpent. Whereas a basilisk is born from a toad or snake egg hatched by a rooster. Some tales say that the rooster has to be seven years old and lay it under a full moon and the toad or serpent has to hatch it for nine years. The first description of a cockatrice appeared in the late twelfth century and was written by Alexander Neckam.
The cockatrice has many formidable abilities. It kills people by turning them into stone with even the slightest glance of the creature’s eyes. It can also kill by touching them or, in some cases, breathing on them. It is believed that its saliva is so potently venomous that it can kill an elephant. Due to the fact that it looked like a small dragon, it was gradually added that it was capable of breathing fire and could kill with the sound of its voice.
The cockatrice shares other characteristics with the basilisk. By mere touch or breath, the cockatrice can scorch grass, shatter rock, and kill bushes. It is supposed to be so poisonous that if a human tries to kill the creature with a weapon the venom will travel up, through the weapon and kill whoever held it. If the person were on horseback when it attacked the creature, it would not only kill the man, but the horse as well.
Like the basilisk, the weasel is immune to the cockatrice’s glare and can be used to kill the beast. A cockatrice can also be killed instantly by hearing the crow of a rooster. The sound of the crow will give the cockatrice violent fits and it will thrash itself to death. It is also thought that if a cockatrice looks upon itself in a mirror it will die. Even after a cockatrice dies its ability to petrify are still effective.
A story from Wherwell, England tells of a cockatrice that terrorizes the town. The villagers are somehow able to trap the creature in the dungeons below Wherwell Priory. The village could not figure out how to kill the beast and offered anyone who could kill it a piece of land. A man named Green figured out a way. He lowered a mirror into the dungeon. Upon seeing its own reflection, the cockatrice fought with itself until it was exhausted. Seeing the creature tire itself out, Green was able to kill it. To this day, there is an area near Wherwell called Green’s Acres.
Another tale from England, this time in Saffron Walden in Essex, tells of a cockatrice plaguing a village in the 17th century. The creature was only a foot long with red eyes and the ability to breathe fire. The fire killed anything in its path, including people. Plants would no longer grow where the cockatrice lived. A knight came to the village’s rescue wearing a coat made of crystal glass that reflected the creature’s gaze. When the cockatrice saw the purity of the crystals it curled up and died on the spot. The knight became a hero to the village and his sword was hung in the church.
The only other known story of killing a cockatrice involves Pope Leo IV in the mid 9th century. A cockatrice somehow became trapped in the vault of a chapel dedicated to Saint Lucea. Its poisonous breathe filled the vault and the surrounding air, causing many people to die. The city dissolved into chaos until it was finally killed by the prayers of the pope.