The Serpents of Gissmaa Myth in Kelbonnar | World Anvil

The Serpents of Gissmaa

Those who live on the borders of or within the shadow of the Yalthar Jungle will often huddle together during the dark nights when strange, frightening noises echo through the thick tangle of trees, and will pray that the Serpents of Gissmaa do not come to claim them. The myth of the Serpents of Gissmaa is well known to the Yaltharmians who regarded it as being a true part of their oral history, though successive generations of imperial scholars have attempted to pass it off as misremembered history or superstition.


The core narrative of the myth is that within the depths of the Yalthar Jungle, specifically the Ascar Giss, the wild, overgrown heart of the jungle a group of creatures, referred to as the Serpents of Gissmaa dwell in ancient temples dedicated to long forgotten gods and goddesses. These creatures are rumoured to be humanoids, but with serpentine appendages and features, and they are said to capture other humanoids who dwell in the jungle who are then either sacrificed to their deities, or turned into hideous creatures who are then enslaved to their new masters.   Gissmaa themselves is said to have been one of these creatures, who rose to power and attempted to wage an all out war on the other humanoids of the Yalthar, hoping to enslave them all and bring the whole region under his control. The reputed period of fighting, which according to the myth nearly saw the native Yaltharmian people being wiped out saw countless abductions, killings and displacements, but then for some reason, the Serpents of Gissmaa retreated back into the depths of the Ascar Giss and were not seen again.   Though it has been so long that the tale, whether true or no has passed into myth, it still dwells in the collective memory of the Yaltharmians, who forever relate the tale in a cautionary manner, lest the Serpents of Gissmaa once again emerge from the depths of the jungle to wreak havoc.

Historical Basis

Since the more formal study of Yaltharmian ethnography and folklore began to be carried out by researchers from the Houses of Learning in the Empire of Turelion and the Imperial College of Arcanists, several tangible strands that shed some light on the origin of the myth of the Serpents of Gissmaa have been formally recorded.   Firstly, ancient ruins are known to exist all over the Yalthar Jungle and the Ascar Giss, the location of which in the Yalthar at least is deemed to be common knowledge amongst the Yaltharmian people, which adds some weight to the fact that there once was a large and advanced civilisation resident in the region at one time. Yaltharmian people avoid these ruins, claiming that going to such locations is dangerous and may lead to retaliation by the Serpents of Gissmaa, but Imperial scholars have attribute this superstition to the propagation of the myth, rather than there being anything actually dangerous about such places.   Secondly, scholars believe that the Serpents of Gissmaa themselves did actually exist, but instead of being supernatural beings, they are instead Yuan-Ti, who are such an uncommon sight in the Empire of Turelion and more widely across Kelbonnar that it is not surprising that their rather striking characteristics would make them the subject of fear and superstition. Despite the Yalthar Jungle being an ideal place of residence for Yuan-Ti, there are remarkably few Yuan-Ti definitively known to exist in Greltor Province, with those that are known to exist living in isolated settlements in the north of the region.   This, in combination that the Yuan-Ti known to exist and who have been contacted elsewhere in Kelbonnar having no knowledge of communities of their kin being resident in the Ascar Giss, has led scholars to hypothesise that the Serpents of Gissmaa themselves were a community of Yuan-ti, now long since vanished, who were involved in a racially motivated war against the early Yaltharmians, leading to the emergence of a scaremongering, mythologised tale about them. Incidents of disappearances reported by the Yaltharmians and linked to the myth are nowadays generally dismissed as being irrational by Imperial scholars.


Common knowledge of the myth is restricted mostly to the Yaltharmians people who are native to the area of the Yalthar Jungle and the Ascar Giss, though since the absorption of the area into the Empire of Turelion, settlers who have moved to Greltor Province from other areas of Kelbonnar are likely to have some knowledge of it as well. However, in terms of its reception, whilst the Yaltharmians treat the tale as being a deadly serious part of their oral history, settlers from elsewhere tend to regard the myth as a story to frighten children rather than being fact.
Related Ethnicities
Related Species
Related Locations

Cover image: by Chris Pyrah


Please Login in order to comment!