The Grootslang: Guardian of the treasure

Somewhere in the Richtersveld, an area of scrubland in the middle of South Africa is a deep cave that is crammed with diamonds, according to legend. However, inside the cavern dwells a legendary cryptid known as the Grootslang/ Grote Slang (Afrikaans and Dutch for “big snake”).

The Great Snake of the Orange River is a fearsome 40 ft long serpent with enormous gems in its eye sockets. It was thought to be a primordial creature as old as the world itself.

An artist’s rendition of the Grootslang

Various tales state that the gods (who were new to the art of creation) made a terrible mistake in the Grootslang’s creation, and unknowingly gave it incredible strength, cunning and intellect. Realizing the seriousness of their mistake, the gods split the Grootslang into separate creatures and thus created the first elephants and the first snakes. Many legends claim the fearsome beast to be a huge elephant with the tail of a serpent.

Image source: Mythika

But one of the original Grootslangs escaped, and from it all the other Grootslangs were born. It is claimed to devour elephants by luring them into its cave.

Guides are reluctant to take expeditions into the cavern, also known as the ‘Wonder Hole’ or ‘Bottomless Pit’. Only one tough prospector is said to have tried to explore the unexplored. Local tribes say that the cave is connected to the sea 64 kilometers (40mi) away. He used a winch and cable to reach a ledge far below the cave. Tunnels led off the ledge and there was a strong smell of sulphur. He dropped his electric torch when bats flew in his face and he was hauled back to the surface. He never tried again.

Various reports of sightings have occasionally appeared in South African newspapers. Witnesses confirm the creature’s length as 40 ft and a tell of 3 ft wide tracks in the muddy banks of the Orange River. A party of prospectors once followed the track for miles before it finally vanished into the river. The Grootslang is believed to inhabit warm rivers and lakes. Natives say that it is a spirit snake, and anyone who encounters it is overcome by a sense of evil.

Grootslangs were known to covet gems, especially diamonds. Despite their lust for cruelty, victims can often bargain for their freedom by offering the beast enough precious gems.

While searching for treasure in 1917, English businessman Peter Grayson disappeared after members of his party were attacked and injured by lions, prompting stories that the Grootslang had killed him thereof.

Does a giant snake indeed live in the Orange River country? Or could it have been a python? Although it is fairly unlikely that these reptiles might attain a length of 40 ft, it is not impossible. Medusa, a reticulated python was recorded as the longest snake in captivity and clocked in at 25 feet, 2 inches long in its official world record measurement on October 12, 2011.

Medusa, the reticulated python (Image source: Guinness World Records

Long Pythons have been shot in thte area, and one of these, if seen at close quarters, would be sufficiently alarming to make exaggeration understandable. Besides the grootslang is believed by many to be half elephant and half serpent.

Natives maintain that there is only one Grootslang.


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