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Technical basilisk questions

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Gryphos, Jan 27, 2018.

  1. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    I've recently found myself asking a bunch of questions regarding the specifics of basilisks and their death-stare ability. Some of them I think are quite fun to think about.

    First off, the assumption I'm working with is that the death-stare is a two-way process: it's not just a case of the basilisk looking at you, but you also looking into its eyes at the same time. You need to meet its gaze.

    So what if your eyesight's really shit, and when you look at the basilisk all you see is a blur? Do you still die?

    Or what if you look at the basilisk through a two-way mirror, with the basilisk only being able to see its reflection? Does the basilisk have to be looking purposefully at you, or does it work if its eyes just happen to be pointed in your direction?

    What happens if you look at the basilisk, but you're really far away from each other?

    What happens if you look at the basilisk through one of those funky distorting mirrors? If the image is distorted enough, does the basilisk stare still work?

    And perhaps my favourite question: what if you've just done shrooms or something and you're tripping balls? You're looking at the basilisk, but you're hallucinating enough that you see the basilisk as a fundamentally altered object. What then?
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I guess it depends if you see it as an innate ability/feature of the creature or some sort of hyper defence/hunting ability.
    If it is innate then you are almost incidental to the events. They are going to happen to you regardless.
    If it is an ability the Basilisk can turn on and off, then you might stand a chance... Stoned or not...
     
  3. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    But as far as depictions of the basilisk go, it only kills if it looks you in the eye. If it looks at your back, nothing happens. That implies that the effect also relies at least in part on your perception of the basilisk, and that's what leads to all these cool questions.
     
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    Given that this is a fictional creature and my knowledge of them doesn't go much further than HP or Jason and the Argonauts.
    There is no way to tell for sure, but I don't think that perception is involved... If it is the eye-to-eye link that is key. Then that is a purely physical thing. I don't know of a tale where a Basilisk turns to stone rats and mice but there might be one.
    If you see it as a function of perception... Fine
    What happens if you've never seen or heard of a Basilisk and meet one in an unlit cave? You can smell it, hear it, touch it. You can even look it in the eye [but you don't know you've done that] but you don't know it will turn you to stone...
    Well, I'm off to GoFundMe to start raising the cash so we can go on an expedition to catch one... Where did I leave my mirror on a stick?
     
  5. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Check out Basilisk - Wikipedia.

    If death from meeting the gaze of the basilisk is at all similar to death from looking upon the face of Medusa, then looking at a reflection would not bring death. Medusa - Wikipedia
     
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    It might help to know something of pre-modern notions about how sight works. In the ancient world, vision was understood to be an active thing. Perception proceeded *from* the eye out to the object perceived. There was not really a return trip; it wasn't like a sonar ping. It was more like reaching out and touching something. That's why an evil eye worked, or why a witch could put a spell on you by looking. Sight was active.

    By that logic, though I've never heard this formulated in an ancient text, the basilisk's gaze goes out from the basilisk. It would have to look you in the eye (see how literal that is?) in order for the gaze to have effect.

    But here's a fun one. Two basilisks have a stare contest.
     
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  7. Dark Squiggle

    Dark Squiggle Troubadour

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    So then viewing through a window or mirror, or even glasses would be safe, as the tendril of deathsight would be stopped or broken?
     
  8. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I guess that would depend on how the Basilisk's Death Ray worked. Maybe the stare is broken by reflection or refraction. If it is something else, then a mirror might not work at keeping you safe. It would make for some interesting plot points. How much does the gaze need to be changed/bent to be rendered safe? Heavy rain? Fog? Smoke?
     
  9. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    If the death-stare works by emitting some kind of deathray from the basilisk's eyes – a deathray which I suppose only works if it enters into the victim's eyes – then what happens if the basilisk is tripping out and hallucinating?
     
  10. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

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    The requisite answer to that: Everything get's stoned.
     
  11. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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  12. The 'seeing it through a mirror/reflection/whatever' didn't work in The Chamber of Secrets.
     
  13. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    That's just it. When you're the author, you make the rules. Do whatever works for your story and stay consistent.
     
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  14. rktho

    rktho Troubadour

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    Besides, it kind of worked. If you used a mirror you only froze instead of dying. Then you could be revived with an antidote.
     
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  15. SMAndy85

    SMAndy85 Minstrel

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    It also depends on how literally you want the "turning to stone" to be.

    As above, in the Harry Potter books, if you saw it through a reflection, or not with a direct look (peripheral vision) then you'd only get a partial effect, and it would be possible to revive the victim.

    The Basilisk, as a mythical creature, is something that can be understood by anyone that has heard of one through myths, legends, and other stories. If you're going to have it show up, and someone say "woah, it's a basilisk, run away", then people will make assumptions. The reason it worked so well in the Harry Potter books is because people saw its effects first, and didn't know what it was. Then it was identified, and they were able to deduce the reason for the non-lethal petrification.

    If you're going to introduce a Basilisk with different abilities, then you could have some real fun, and some decent plot points for defeating it, assuming it's an enemy for the MC. What if people don't know what causes the death-stare? It would be fun for someone to see it through mirrored glass, or to see it in a distorted reflection, or any others, and then have to figure out what happened.

    As others have said, your key point here is to be consistent. If you decide ahead of time that seeing it through glass is an effective protection, then you could devise some kind of visor, or shield with a glass viewport. Depending on technology, then a perspex riot helmet would do the job! fun option - what if it slows the process? Catch its gaze for a moment through glass, and you're ok. Have a staring contest with it through glass, and... oops!
     
  16. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    Whichever best fits the scene you are writing.:p
     
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