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I have been trying to identify a story I read in the late '70s. I think it was either written in the '30s or '40s or it was at least set in that period.

One of the main characters is a half-snake, half-human female ruler. She used some sort of magic or psychic ability to appear more appealing to humans. I remember the protagonist, who had come to like her, realizing her true form as she went to sleep, something her people did to pass the centuries.

I think the protagonist found the civilization in a valley, maybe in the Andes, by flying a plane into it. It was IIRC a technologically advanced civilization.

It has been many years, so I may have many of the details wrong, except I'm pretty sure about the snake lady and her true form appearing as she lost consciousness.

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    Hi, welcome to the site. Was this a short story? If so, did you read it in an anthology or a magazine? Dec 26, 2022 at 2:03
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    I think it was a novel but a shorter one. I'm not sure though. It was a while ago 😀
    – Marc
    Dec 26, 2022 at 3:57

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It may be you're remembering The Face in the Abyss (1931) by A. Merritt. It doesn't have the explorers arrive by plane, but most of the other details match.

The plot summary on Wikipedia says:

The novel concerns American mining engineer Nicholas Graydon. While searching for lost Inca treasure in South America, he encounters Suarra, handmaiden to the Snake Mother of Yu-Atlanchi. She leads Graydon to an abyss where Nimir, the Lord of Evil is imprisoned in a face of gold. While Graydon's companions are transformed by the face into globules of gold on account of their greed, he is saved by Suarra and the Snake Mother whom he joins in their struggle against Nimir.

The people of the secret valley are technologically advanced, having conquered death and possessing ray guns among other marvels:

gave him blinding glimpses of attainments in science as advanced over those he knew as Einstein's geometry over the Euclidean; conceptions of mind and matter and energy that dazed him.

And indeed a glamour passes from the Snake Mother as she falls into a regenerative sleep:

She thrust them from her, settled down on her cushions, and yawned. Her eyes closed, her head nodded once or twice; sleepily moved to find a better place.

But as Graydon turned to go, he thought that a change had begun to creep over her face—that its unearthly beauty was beginning to fade... like a veil dropping...

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  • That must be it! Thank you for the ID. Not sure why the story left an impression. Although, I suppose while plenty of others I read at the time, I remember the authors or titles for the most part. Thanks, David!
    – Marc
    Dec 27, 2022 at 5:55

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