*Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale* cover

Have any of the writers or artists stated why Shepherd Book is stepping on a snake on the cover of Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale? There is no snake in the graphic novel. Is it a allusion to Book overcoming adversity? It may be a reference to this Bible passage, but I doubt is as it doesn't really connect to the story:

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

3 Answers 3


Jesus or Mary crushing a snake with his/her foot is a fairly common theme in religious illustration in Western art. The snake generally represents evil, Satan, or people who talk at the theater.

I particularly like this one by Caravaggio: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_and_Child_with_St.Anne(Dei_Palafrenieri)

In-universe, Shepherd doesn't overtly belong to any specific Christian denomination; nevertheless, he is clearly Christian. And he is a good guy. My guess is that the snake is a nod on the illustrator's part to those two things. That way there is no need to do stuff like include a cross or have Shepherd cheesily battle evil. And it pleases art history nerds (which illustrators often are themselves).

  • I don't mind downvotes, but this one confuses me. Explain?
    – Misha R
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 10:27
  • That may well be true, but I fail to see how it answers the question asked. Does Book see himself as Jesus? What evil does the snake represent?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 10:29
  • @Richard The question asks why he is crushing a snake, and whether it is an allusion to overcoming adversity. The answer is yes - with an art history twist. How does that not answer the question?
    – Misha R
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 10:32
  • 1
    @MishaRosnach scifi.stackexchange.com/a/12641/51226
    – Rogue Jedi
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 16:16
  • 1
    @RogueJedi Thanks - I'll take it!
    – Misha R
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 16:44

Probably a reference to Exodus 4:1-5:

4 Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’”

2 So the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

He said, “A rod.”

3 And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail” (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), 5 “that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”

Moses was a shepherd, remember?

  • 1
    This doesn't seem to answer the question asked; "Have any of the writers or artists stated why Shepherd Book is stepping on a snake on the cover of Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale?". Unless you happen to be one of the writers or artists, obviously.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 21:28
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    Given that he seems to be a Christian, I think it's more likely be a reference to Luke 10:19 -- biblehub.com/luke/10-19.htm
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 21:42
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    None of which answers the question. The symbology is obvious. The choice of symbology isn't.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 22:30
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    @Richard - Short of a quote from the cover designer we can't answer definitively, but the meaning of the symbol seems fairly transparent--he's also shown throwing away pictures of scenes from his past that all involve violence and anger (including the scene of him garroting the original Derrial Book in order to steal his name), and since Luke 10:19 seems to be about the Christian faith allowing believers to overcome Satan, the symbol is presumably about his faith helping him to overcome the influence of his own violent past, or the parts of himself that led him to be that way in the past.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 19:34
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    @Hypnosifl - I don't disagree with any of that. That being said, none of this answers the fundamental question; "Have any of the writers or artists stated why Shepherd Book is stepping on a snake on the cover of Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale?"
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 19:57

It could also be a reference to St Patrick, who cast the snakes out of Ireland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick#St._Patrick_banishes_all_snakes_from_Ireland

Of course this is just speculation.

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