12 Monkeys TV Series Wiki

The Ouroboros Puzzle is an ancient artifact passed down and protected by many generations of individuals who appear to be connected to Primaries. The puzzle, once unlocked, reveals a clue that may lead to the breaking of the Great Cycle. The solution to the puzzle lies in a poem written by Marion Woods.


The exterior of the puzzle is designed into the shape of a snake eating its own tail, also known as an Ouroboros. The interior of the puzzle consists of seven painted dials with several images on each dial. Each image is representative of a person, place, or thing within Marion's poem. By turning each dial to align chronologically with the poem, the serpent's head unlocks from his tail. Stored within the snake's head is a piece of cloth with the words "Blackleaf May 11, 1852" printed on it.


Middle Ages[]

The origin of the Ouroboros Puzzle remains unknown. At an unspecified time in the Middle Ages, the puzzle was handed down from a man to a young Primary girl with instructions to keep it safe. She repeats the name "James Cole" as the puzzle is handed to her.


The puzzle resurfaces at an Ouroboros exhibition in Prague in 2018. Guided by her Primary visions, Jennifer Goines tracks the artifact down and steals it from the museum. She is pursued by Interpol Detective Bonham, who comes from a line of individuals sworn to protect the artifact.

The authorities track Jennifer down to a train station. Jennifer stages a daring escape by hurling herself in front of a train and into the arms of a splintering James Cole. Jennifer drops the artifact amid her escape and it falls into the possession of Bonham.

Jennifer arranges a meeting between herself, Bonham, and Cole. Once Cole sees the device, he remembers his mother's poem, as as a result, the solution to the puzzle. He unlocks the device and discovers the clue hidden within it.

Marion's Poem[]


James Cole's mother, Marion Woods, wrote a poem describing a snake that is cursed to chase its own tail. The imagery in the poem contains many metaphors about the Army of the 12 Monkeys and time travel. At some point, the poem was tucked into a copy of The Wizard of Oz. It was discovered there by James and Matthew Cole in 2015.

In 2018, after discovering the Ouroboros artifact, Cole remembered the story and was able to tie out each phase of the poem to one of the images on the puzzle.

Poem Text and Puzzle Solution[]

Puzzle Symbol Poem Text Meaning
Snake There once was a serpent who only traveled in one direction. Always forward, never backward. The serpent represents Time. It once traveled linearly, progressing from the past and steadily into the future.
Monkey Until one day, the serpent came upon a Demon. The Demon represents James Cole
Ouroboros The Demon cursed the serpent, driving him insane, causing him to eat his own tail. The Demon's curse is James Cole's time traveling. The serpent eating its own tail is representative of the timeline looping eternally.
Blank Tile The serpent was blind. The serpent's blindness represents Time's inability to stop the Jinn by itself.
Eye But a few, those who were seers, knew the serpent's true path, so they created a weapon. The seers are Primaries who are able to see all of the changes throughout time.
Sword A weapon to destroy the Demon. The weapon is a time machine stored in the middle ages that is intended to erase James Cole from existence in all time periods, the one act that would untangle the time loop.
Sword + Monkey They hid the weapon in the snake's den, where he waited for his madness to end.

But it never did. For the seers discovered that the only one who could wield the weapon was the Demon itself.

And so the serpent was doomed to circle in madness...forever.

The Primaries intended to erase James Cole. However, they soon realized that only James Cole had the power to erase himself and thus, the cycle continues forever.