Adder by Geoff Aldred
Adder by Geoff Aldred
This carving, in Hopton Wood stone, by Geoff Aldred, celebrates the word ‘Adder’, and was created as part of our exhibition ‘The Lost Words - Forget-me-not.’ For this exhibition artists have created a permanent record of the natural words removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Size: 40 x 23cm
A small venomous Eurasian snake which has a dark zigzag pattern on its back and bears live young. It is the only poisonous snake in Britain.
Vipera berus, family Viperidae
Origin: Old English nædre ‘serpent, adder’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch adder and German Natter. The initial n was lost in Middle English by wrong division of a naddre; compare with apron, auger, and umpire
Language is like life, and words are like species, millions of them, all independent yet interdependent, the loss of a single one reverberating through the whole. We are told that the extinction of the bumble bee would result in the end of human life.
All animals have their place, venomous snakes included. The ADDER is a reclusive creature that will generally keep out of your way. Thankfully, it is an offence to injure or destroy one. The adder is not aggressive and will only bite if threatened – or if an inquisitive canine comes too close. My piece honours their markings, which are strikingly beautiful. A zigzag dorsal pattern stretches the entire length of its body, from its broad flat head to its tail. Is it because of its elusiveness or its beauty that so many legends have been woven about the adder? That it cannot die until sunset. That females will swallow their young to protect them from danger. On Dartmoor, where such legends proliferate, adders are known as ‘long cripples’ and are said to sting, not bite. The Exeter historian Sabine Baring Gould wrote that the dry walls of old Dartmoor farmhouses were ideal places for adders to hibernate. He was told by an old moorman that when the peat fire was lit and the room warmed, ‘long cripples’ would shoot out from the wall crevices and ‘sway’ in front of the fire. Here in Suffolk we can see a similar phenomenon at Dunwich, when the first beams of April sun shine on the cliffs. Out the adders come, to bask and replenish their energy. Choose your day, cross your fingers, and you might see them.