Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Snakes of Ireland

Ha!  The title of this blog entry is a joke because guess what -- there are NO SNAKES IN IRELAND!  Some people think that the reason why there are no Irish snakes is because St. Patrick chased them all out of the country.  But this isn't really true.  This story is what you call a "legend," which something people like to tell over and over, and they think it is true, but it's probably not.

Here's a picture of St. Patrick, and if you look at the picture, you can see that he used to wear a tall, pointy hat and carry a big, staff thingy.  Frankly, I think he's pretty scary looking, and if I were a snake, and I saw St. Patrick coming, I would slither out of Ireland, too.  But like I said, it wasn't St. Patrick who made Ireland be a snake-free zone.  Because the fact is that there were never any snakes in Ireland, even before St. Patrick or anybody else got there.

So now I will try to explain why no snakes ever went to Ireland.  And here's how it happened:  A long, long, long, long time ago, there was this huge chunk of land called Gondwanaland, and it was made out of a bunch of continents all shoved together.  And these continents later split up and became Antarctica, South America, Africa, India, and Australia.  And it was in Gondwanaland that snakes first started being snakes.  So they kind of slithered all over these southern continents, but they did not go to Ireland because at the time, Ireland was totally underwater, so you couldn't get there without a submarine.

Then later on, Ireland came up out of the water, but there was no way to get from Europe to Ireland because there was no land bridge.  And then there was an ice age or two, which made a way to get over to Ireland, but snakes can't cross the ice because they are Cold-Blooded animals.  Which means that their bodies don't stay warm if they are not in a warm place.  So if they go on the ice, they get as cold as the ice is, and they freeze.  And this is why you don't ever see snakes out making snow angels in the wintertime.

So the snakes couldn't get to Ireland when there was an ice age going on, and they couldn't get there after the ice went away either, since they would have to swim across the Irish Sea, which has very cold water in it, not to mention being pretty wide for a snake to swim across.

And that is why there are no snakes in Ireland.  But Ireland isn't the only place where there are no snakes.  There are also no snakes in New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica, all of which are places that have a bunch of water around them, so the snakes couldn't get there.

Snakes have got a bad reputation with some people who think of them as a symbol of evil, like for instance in that story about that serpent in the Garden of Eden.  So one way to look at the whole deal with St. Patrick and the snakes is to think of it as him chasing the evil out of Ireland by bringing Christianity there.  And if you want to think of the story in that way, you are welcome to do that, but I don't want to get into talking about religious stuff, like I told you before.

Personally, I wouldn't mind it if St. Patrick would come to America and just get rid of the poisonous snakes, like rattlesnakes and copperheads and coral snakes and cottonmouths and any other snakes like those.  He can leave the nice snakes, but I don't think I would miss the scary snakes much at all!

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