photo & text by nacrowe
the EUROPEAN EEL in WESTERN CULTURE has long been a primordial symbol of all things opaque and subconscious. in fact, little was known about its basic life cycle until the early 20th century. SWEDISH author PATRIK SVENSSON in THE BOOK OF EELS: OUR ENDURING FASCINATION WITH THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CREATURE IN THE NATURAL WORLD (ECCO, 2019) provides a compelling narrative revolving around the cultural and historical symbolism of the EEL going back to ARISTOTLE and how its many remaining SECRETS may remain such with regards to mankind's current participation in global CLIMATE CHANGE. that and it intertwines with SVENSSON's own fond memories of fishing for EELS with his father along local waterways and streams as a child in SWEDEN.
at the crux of this narrative is the EUROPEAN EEL and its unique life story. in essence in transforms itself several times and travels thousands of miles from the SARGASSO SEA where it is believed to originate from to all over EUROPE (an area outside of BERMUDA marked by the convergence of several global currents and gulf streams) and back. where it lands in EUROPE is believed to be random, but its life span is contingent on the conditions of where its new home. some live for several decades while others more than a century before turning back, transforming itself for the last time and then home to the SARGASSO SEA to (we presume) mate and die. on this last return the EEL develops reproductive organs and dissolves its stomach, going for months without food and living off its fat reserves for the several thousand mile journey. its very much one of the most remarkable journeys of any animal i am aware of.
what is interesting is how SVENSSON utilizes this narrative to showcase a larger argument for what the EUROPEAN EEL represents to SOCIETY as its mystery has spurred thought and ingenuity for multiple millennia as its transformations (which were discovered in the modern era) defied all understood rules of LOGIC and NATURAL SCIENCE. the EEL itself become a unique and powerful symbol of THE UNKNOWABLE: that which is just beyond our grasp.
its just sad that its SECRETS will likely die along with it. yet another "EXTERNALITY" cause by a modern GLOBAL CAPITALIST MACHINE run amok that is destroying the planet. its all too depressing. THE BOOK OF EELS is a great book well worth checking out that really gets at the personal, natural and symbolic significance of this enduringly perplexing creature.