U is for Uroboros

It’s a powerful image, isn’t it? The serpent that devours itself. To the Egyptians, it was the formless nothing that surrounded the ordered world of the gods. Plato thought it was the first being, a perfect creature that sustained itself. The Norse Jormungand is the same sort of creature, a serpent big enough to encircle the world that bites its own tail. When Ragnarok comes, it will release its bite and poison the sky itself. You could even make the argument that it is the same sort of symbol as the Taoist yin-yang.”

I grinned. In my four years of undergrad and my two years (thus far) of grad school, Professor Shiny was easily my favorite teacher. Likely my favorite teacher of all time. He shared a certain morbid sense of humor with me, an appreciation for the macabre absurdities of life. “Fascinating that so many cultures would develop it, don’t you think? Why is that?”

Professor Shiny shrugged. He opened his desk drawer, reaching for the bottle of scotch that he kept in there and that he shared with students from time to time.

“I mean, there must be some sort of primal basis to it. Like how so many cultures have a flood myth.”

“Perhaps it’s simply an easy extrapolation. If you see a flood big enough to wipe away your village, you can imagine one big enough to wipe away the world. If you see a serpent big enough to swallow a man, you can imagine one big enough to encircle the world.”

I frowned. Probably it was that simple, but the idea was so boring. “But archaeological evidence suggests massive flooding at some point prior to the writing of the Bible. Maybe there’s some kind of common source for the myth of a creature that eats itself.”

Professor Shiny stared at me in silence for a moment. We sat there, and I squirmed under his gaze. “What if there is?” he whispered. “What if there was a shapeless, formless creature that existed once, that produced vital organs from its own body and then consumed them back into its protoplasmic being?”

“What if?” I said, my feeling of discomfort growing.

“Would you want to know about it? Would you want to research it?” He leaned forward and grinned. “Would you want to see it?”

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