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Artist's rendition.
GroupingLegendary creature
Sub groupingReptiles, limbed
Similar creaturesIrizima, Mokele-mbembe
Other name(s)Great Snake of the Orange River[1]
CountrySouth Africa, Dahomey
HabitatCaves, swamps, freshwater

The Grootslang or Grote Slang (Afrikaans and Dutch for "big snake") is a legendary creature that is reputed to dwell in a deep cave in the Richtersveld, South Africa.[3]


According to legend, the Grootslang is a primordial creature as old as the world itself. Tales state that gods (who were new to the crafting of things) made a terrible mistake in the Grootslang's creation, and gave it tremendous strength, cunning, and intellect. Realizing their mistake, the gods split the Grootslang into separate creatures and thus created the first elephants and the first snakes. But one of the original Grootslangs escaped, and from this first sire all other Grootslangs were born. It is claimed to devour elephants by luring them into its cave. The cave is known as the "Wonder Hole" or the "Bottomless Pit". Supposedly, it connects to the sea, which is 64 kilometres (40 mi) away. According to local legend, the cave is filled with diamonds.[4] The Grootslang is also said to live in warm rivers and lakes.[5]

In Benin, it is said to be a huge elephant-like creature with a serpent's tail. Also according to the tale, Grootslangs covet gems, particularly diamonds, and despite the creatures' lust for cruelty, victims can often bargain for their freedom by offering a Grootslang enough precious gems. While searching for treasure in the richtersveld of South Africa in 1917, English businessman Peter Grayson disappeared after members of his party were attacked and injured by lions, prompting legends that the Grootslang had killed him thereof.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

  • A Grootslang was featured in The Secret Saturdays episode "Something in the Water". It is depicted as a four-tusked green-skinned elephant with ram-like horns and a spiked snake-like tail. The Saturdays had to relocate a Grootslang away from settlements by baiting it with a large piece of pork.
  • A Grootslang was featured in the Lumberjanes vol. 3 as a creature creating a massive snow storm threatening the camp.


  1. ^ Green, Lawrence George (1980). Secret Africa. Howard Timmins. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-86978-079-4.
  2. ^ Dicey, William (2004). Borderline. Kwela Books. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-7957-0189-4.
  3. ^ Rose, Carol (2001). Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 156. ISBN 0-393-32211-4. Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  4. ^ White, Jon Ewbank Manchip (1969). The land God made in anger: reflections on a journey through South West Africa. Rand McNally. p. 300.
  5. ^ Staff writer (17 March 1975). Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. Reader's Digest. p. 430. ISBN 978-0276000805.
  6. ^ Floyd, Rendall (September 20, 1998). "Disappearances feed Grootslang legend". The Augusta Chronicle. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011.