In my book series (more on that here), the galaxy is inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, humans, and mythical creatures. The anthropomorphic animals are similar to Narnia's talking animals, except they are given an anthropomorphic design (their upper 2 limbs are made into arms with opposable thumbs, they stand on 2 legs, and they wear clothes). However, I've run into a bit of a problem: anthropomorphic snakes and eels.

How would these limbless creatures be able to move around anthropomorphically and be able to carry and manipulate objects? I don't want to just give them arms because that just makes them look weird and ruins the aesthetic.

PS, magic exists in this universe, but VERY few people have access to it, so magic is not a viable solution to this problem.

  • is magic avaible? – Sasha Sep 26 at 1:05
  • @Sasha magic exists but using it for this purpose violates this universe's incredibly complicated magic system. – The Weasel Sagas Sep 26 at 1:18
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    I feel the "straightforward" answer is "with their mouths". – Fattie Sep 27 at 1:24
  • There was a question that I can't find at the moment, about use of tongue-like appendages to allow limb-less intelligent beings to develop tools. – Nahshon paz Sep 27 at 10:58
up vote 29 down vote accepted

Prehensile tail.

kaa from Jungle book uses prehensile tail

http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/?p=2014

Here, Kaa from The Jungle Book demonstrates how it is done. The tail of these limbless creatures is used to grab, wrap, poke, tickle and all the other things one might do with a finger or tentacle.

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    "able to move around anthropomorphically and be able to carry and manipulate objects?" - I've never seen a snake drag anything around with it's tail. hold and manipulate, sure. But ... carry? – Mazura Sep 27 at 1:53

Well, snakes used to have four legs. This is, I believe, a skink, but you get the idea:

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Here's a fossil of a four legged snake from Brazil:

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So, holding things would really not be at issue if you decided to go this route.

A typical image of an anthropomorphic snake~person might look like this:

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But in the literature there are depictions of limbless snake~people:

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I would suspect the hair is such a mess because, well, there's no way this poor person can get it anywhere near a brush or comb!

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I rather suspect this one has a friend who's a hair dresser.

But these poor lasses lack the ability to manipulate objects! So, without further ado, kindly allow me to introduce . . .

Ophiunculla, an armless medusoid!

enter image description here

Nether regions of a serpent; upper stretches of her medusoid cousins, but in more snakey fashion, lacks limbs of any kind.

But unlike her medusoid cousins that have arms, Ophiunculla has practiced very hard learning how to control the snakelets that grow from her head. These, she has discovered, are able to reach out and grasp objects, manipulate them and singularly or collaboratively, quite literally do anything her two armed cousins can do with their hands!

As you can see, she's getting ready for her morning slither through the park. She's got her ophicomb in one snakelet, a stylus for jotting a quick geopoetical note in another snakelet, her cup of morning joe in a third snakelet, her mirror and favourite torc in a fourth & fifth.

I've noticed that for many animals, when they need to carry something they'll carry it in their mouths. I'm not sure if that goes well with the aesthetic.

If they're sufficiently technologically advanced they might use some kind of cybernetic implant that gives them short-range telekinesis. H

  • You could add Spore, a game, and the snake example from it as a reference. (or maybe even just dogs) In that game the creatures without any hand-like appendages will carry their tools in their mouths. – John Hamilton Sep 26 at 8:31
  • That cybernetic implant would probably have been built by a different species then. Which could add onto the world building part. – V. Sim Sep 27 at 1:11

Many options:

  • With their mouth
  • With their tail
  • with an special robotic exo-skeleton that have arms
  • Telepathically
  • my favorite: after conquer Earth (or a similar planet) and become our reptiles overlords (that I, for one, welcome) they can have a human minion walking by their sides carrying around whatever they want.

Could they have pouches on their torsos that allow them to carry things? These could be there via evolution, genetic engineering, surgery, or something less invasive. A mouth and/or a prehensile tail could put items in and out of the pouch. This would allow them to travel carrying an item with them. The manipulation of the item while they are still would still require the mouth/tail or something else.

  • Or some kind of... rack – pipe Sep 27 at 0:01

I agree with the mouth / tongue manipulation, but would like to add the magic system into this. You wrote:

"@Sasha magic exists but using it for this purpose violates this universe's incredibly complicated magic system."

Until you elaborate about this (partial?) restriction, here are some suggestions:

  • Use magic/snake-ish hypnosis to posses others, get them to do stuff for ya
  • Interface with one tool (can be magical or not) that controls other tools (e.g magical floating hand)
  • "communicate" with the items you want to control. Say that all things have a "soul" and a tiny bit of intelligence, and you can magically convince them to change/move
  • Magically control air/liquid pressure to move things
  • etc, etc. If Stephen Hawking can do it, so can you.

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