Serpents on a Carriage
October 13, 2016 • Los Angeles
The 2006 film Snakes on a Plane has been called an instant cult classic. I knew there was something special about it when I saw it in a theater near UCLA, and half the audience were hissing at the screen before the curtain even went up. But there might be more to the magic than meets the eye. Recently I came across a little-known story by Jane Austen, written in 1816, titled “Serpents on a Carriage.” The plucky heroine and her protégé from a crummier family are passengers on a stagecoach racing across the moors late at night. There are some other passengers but of primary interest to our protagonist is the swarthy, brooding, yet totally hot coachman. Somehow a crate of dangerous snakes in the cargo compartment breaks open, and the creatures infiltrate the passenger cabin; high drama ensues. Much like the airliner in the beloved film, the carriage can’t just stop in the middle of the moors because—bandits!
It’s an inspirational story, and I’m glad someone made it into a film. Even Samuel L. Jackson’s famous line saw its genesis in the words of Austen’s heroine: “One tires of these vexing snakes on this irksome carriage.”