Among the cavalcade of creatures Anthony faces in the Temptation is Aksar, described as “the python Aksar, sixty cubits long, who terrified Moses”. Thompson, drawing heavily from Flaubert, uses the basilisk of the Temptation for the appearance of Aksar, describing him as seventy cubits long, violet-colored, with a three-lobed crest and a single tooth in each jaw. He repeats Moses’ fear of Aksar, making him “the avatar of God’s red justice flaming far” and “the visible embodiment of all that is horrible, the incarnation of a desolation not merely physical, but of the soul.”
Flaubert derived Aksar from Bochart’s Hierozoicon. The original Aksar is far stranger than Flaubert leads us to believe.
Aksar is a monster of the apocalypse from Arabian legend. He is sixty cubits (almost 30 meters) long, and has the head of an ox, the eyes of a pig, the ears of an elephant, the antlers of a stag, the neck of an ostrich, the forequarters of a lion, the hindquarters of a cat, the tail of a ram, the legs of a camel, and the color of a leopard. There is no mention of any python characteristics.
God dragged Aksar out from his lair and brought him before Moses, who was greatly alarmed and requested the beast be removed from his sight. At the end of days, it is said Aksar will fly out with Moses’ staff, using it to mark people’s faces as “believers” or “unbelievers”.
There are some who say there is more than one of these creatures. Those people are hopefully mistaken.
Bochart, S. (1675) Hierozoicon. Johannis Davidis Zunneri, Frankfurt.
Flaubert, G. (1885) La Tentation de Saint Antoine. Quantin, Paris.
Seznec, J. (1943) Saint Antoine et les Monstres: Essai sur les Sources et la Signification du Fantastique de Flaubert. PMLA, Vol. 58, No. 1, pp. 195-222.
Thompson, J. W. (1921) The Lost Oracles: a Masque. W. M. Mill, Chicago.