Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Pure: The Untold Story of Chaz Elliott's Snakemen

Welcome to the Rodeo, vaquero. Now grab my wenis and come for a spin...

The Pure: The Untold Story of Chaz Elliott's Snakemen

This illustration from The Lost and the Damned supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd Edition shows a four-armed snakeman joining a legion of man-beasts on what appears to be a door-to-door charity cookie sale.

Back in the dawning of the Warhammer world, one man had a vision of a subterranean empire, a hollow realm where creatures part man and part snake burrowed and writhed in the dark, tainted earth beneath the frozen northern chaos wastes. That man was Chaz Elliott, and this is his story, the untold origin of the iconic, enigmatic Citadel snakemen sculpts that captured the imagination of many and generates discussion in places like FB and the Oldhammer forum to this day.

(Please note, the following is taken from my chat logs from a several month period and may be altered for convenience and legibility).

The snakemen as they appeared in the citadel catalogues in days of long ago. Chaz would not confirm or deny that the word 'Slintered' is actually a spelling error, and that it was meant to read 'Slingwad'.

CC: When the subject of your snakemen sculpts comes up on our forum, a common theme is one of discussing their origins - questions arise like what are their rules? What base size were they intended for? Are they just a different class of beastman? Can you please shed some light on how the snakemen came about?  

Chaz: Split off from the Slann - feckup breeding program - they went to the darkside and moved to the frozen north to build new underground breeding pits so they could return to Lustria and take it back from the alien overlords -- or something like that. Wanted a barbarian feel to them - like badass snakes that live in a cold climate cos they are dead ard. [They would use] Sigil magic - based around shards of the first hatching.

S'lararet Slintered Fang: Likes long walks on the beach, writing romantic poetry and swallowing live rodents.

CC: That's fascinating. Who pitched that idea?  

Chaz: Me. Never took off. Jez thought that they were too close to his style and told me to stop copying him - find some originality - and move my wrist more. Sage advice.

CC: Ooer...

Chaz: The discussion with Jez was amiable - he was a good teacher- his perspective was to set me on my own journey of discovery rather than slavish adulation - did me a favour - now I can sculpt in a myriad of different styles - always good to have a hero to inspire you - even better if they give you good advice. 

Saranth Elf Mangler: A patron of the Arts who regularly donates rare collectible pieces to charity auctions.

CC: Speaking of sculpting, the work you did on the snakemen has impressed a lot of people, and continues to do so after all these years. Looking at them closely you can see so many wonderful details; twisted faces in the armour, mysterious potions tucked away in pouches - at what stage of your sculpting career were you at when you made these snakemen?

Chaz: I think they were my 10-15th actual miniatures.

CC: What else had you done up till then?

Chaz: Most of the treasure piles, dungeon furniture range - then I think the Chaos battering ram - then the snakemen. I think that was the order - hard to remember.

CC: Is it true you taught Kev Adams how to sculpt?

Chaz: I gave him some tips when I went to see him in Cambridge - he was called 'Dog' - he pretty much taught himself - can't remember if I gave him his first bit of green putty?

CC: Why 'Dog'?

Chaz: Have to ask him - no idea - didn't ask as he was a tall spiky punk and I was a small headbanger - he want's to be called Dog - no worries?

CC: I can see how that wouldn't be a problem (makes a mental note to ask Kev why he was 'Dog').
Do you have a funny anecdote from those times you could share?

Chaz: Funny? Errr nope - insane - maybe. Kev used to coat all of his minis with diluted Humbrol matt white and an airbrush - barking - but brilliant.

CC: What other ideas were there for the snakeman range that you'd hoped to realise? 

Chaz: snakes riding large earth elemental wurms - digging and delving through the frozen north - encountering warpstone and mutating - battles between Natural Born and Warped Snakemen - that kind of pooh.

Higgat Dwarf Slicer: Works at a delicatessen, does not get visited much by Dominique Pinon. 

CC: Sounds awesome! You didn't happen to make any sketches did you? 

Chaz: I did - but lost the sketchbook some time ago - A friend took some photocopies as he was a figure frother -- but he passed away 5 yrs ago and his wife threw everything out -- had my ideas and sketches for Ogres in there too.

S'lon Life Smasher: Lead researcher at a global health institute. Owns an extensive butterfly collection.

CC: I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, and the art. Did you have a name for the snakemen?

Chaz: S'nethen -The Pure.

S'Sirron Fangthrane: A badass snake mutant with a halberd who likes to chop people up. What were you expecting?

So vaqueros, there you have it. The untold story of the snakemen finally dragged hissing from the depths of the frozen north to wreak havok on your minds and small mammals. It's a shame that the background for these scaly man-squamata never took off back then, but all is not lost, for this is where you, the Oldhammer enthusiast, come into it. Something small like a lack of rules, points cost and knowledge of appropriate base size is no deterrent for a wargamer like you. I have a dream, a dream that one day my poor little snakelings will have an army of their own, full of Pure ones, not having to share with smelly goat-men or fish-dudes or elephant-heads.

Some all-new snakeman sculpts by Tim Prow for the Antiquis Malleum line of Oldhammer inspired miniatures.

 In this dream, snakemen lords ride giant tunneling wurms into the heart of enemy formations, crushing and devouring all before them. Also in this dream, Mickey Mouse tried to sell me some bad hash and I went down the street with Denis Leary and Howard the Duck and we put some serious hurt on that little bugger, but then it turned out he was my mum and I was late for school because all my teeth kept falling out in the bathroom. 

Pictured: The Dread Maw from Forge World. Not pictured: Mickey Mouse getting a beat down. I should prioritize my pictures better.

But let's focus on the snakemen. I'm not saying that we should all abandon our previous ideas and utilisations of these fine models (i'm still planning to use mine as some Slaanesh followers at some point). I'm just saying that the background that Chaz came up with all those years ago has some real potential. Admit it, you know you want to see some snake-on-snake action. 

Ooh, yeah, that's it...

While his vision of the tunneling wurms was more along the lines of a beast with an omni-directional head with a twelve-piece jaw, each segment having a single eye on it (like the most nightmarish D12 you ever saw) and a whole lot more spines, I'm willing to take some artistic licence here. 
My challenge to the Oldhammer community at large is this: help me develop the S'nethen into the rich and exciting race they were meant to be. I want to see long winded discussions on unit types and earthwurm stats, and I want to see artwork, fluff and amazing model conversions and paint work. Show me the pride of your Natural Born hatchlings, show me the dark twisted forms of your 
Warped Ones... And i want it all 5 mins ago. Get on it, peeps!

"This snakeman has a sword on a stick" - Little Miss 4

"The good guy is fighting the snakeman" - Young Master 5

"Some snakemen. One is drinking a potion" - Little Miss 4

Big thanks to Chaz Elliott for putting up with my constant nagging for the last few months - your time is precious and I appreciate you spent a little on me!

- Captain Crooks


  1. A special character, a wurm cavalry trick-riding specialist known as "Lord Wenis" would deserve consideration I think. Perhaps the wurm should be called "Wenis" instead, I dont know. Putting the reptiles in space rather than in "The North" would tick more of my boxes, but it is definitely interesting to hear the inside story of also-rans like the snakemen.

    Good stuff Captain, keep it coming.

    1. Did you see the snake-thing that used to be in the Dark Eldar retinues? Not sure if OOP but you'd dig it :D thanks for stopping by!

    2. Yeah, the Sslyth is nice. I keep meaning to pick it up, now I have to. Lord Wenisss commandssss it.

    3. I want one too. Or do I want two? ;) Always let your wenis be your guide, i always say. Always.

  2. Thanks for the interview Captain. I never really gave much thought to the Snakemen minis.....mostly due to them not being visible to me when they were originally released.

    I always assumed that the illustrations where they were depicted were just another type of beastmen. Your right though, the background -even if a little sparce- sounds cool. Just needs some more work by people far more gifted than I to getting it living & breathing again.


    1. If you feel your talent for giant robots and machineries of destruction aren't enough to contribute to a polar-dwelling snake-race then the fault is the snakemen's, not yours. I see no reason why they couldn't ride to war on a giant warp-stone powered cold iron golems, since they already have giant burrowing wurms to mine out all the ore they could want. They are likely to have massive subterranean forges burning day and night if only to keep their caves warm enough for their cold-blooded residents to survive...

  3. Great post, nice to get a little info on the mysterious snakemen. Gives me a few ideas for my bunch.

    1. Make sure you share those ideas with us! I want to distill the products of your brain-juice and quaff the resulting mind-brew. Metaphorically speaking. *slurp*

  4. Very impressive post and would love to get in on the myth and lore of the S'nethen. Where you looking to do this Forum or FB or G+ ??? Always loved the snake people.

    1. The forum is probably the best place to collect it all together, as FB posts tend to disappear too far down the wall after a short time. I'll be mining every resource available though :) and the forum discussion has already begun :D

  5. There might be something wrong with me, but the most entertaining thing about this post (and it's a very interesting read), is the custom artwork you commissioned for it - so vibrant and unrestrained. Kudos to the artists - a real treat!

    1. Getting upstaged by small children is business as usual for me. They have a breadth of imagination coupled with a blissful disregard for convention that makes me envious. Also one of those snakemen is clearly fighting Wolverine which is just badass.

  6. Nice blog crooksey. Good job on finding this previously unexplored nugget!

  7. Wonderful post ! So glad you managed to answer the question that haunted me since I painted my snakemen. So cool to imagine there was so much more...
    Good job columbo now I have your wenis firmly in hand I won't let it go !

    1. In the next episode I'll be discovering the truth behind the legend of the Norse Skaven...

  8. A very interesting read- I laughed, I cried, I hurled.

    Congrats on the blog CC, I salute you.

    1. Thanks CvB, now I'll have no excuses not to document all our games as well :D coming up soon: the first Deathrace 40,000 battle report :D