READ IT TO ME (Download MP3 Version of Today’s Blog)My sister is struggling in her Ichthyology class. (It’s the study of fish.) She’s a graduate student most noted for her art and her love of botany. This “fish” class is out of her normal realm and she’s finding it a challenge.
Yesterday, I dropped by to see her on my way home from another appointment. She was cramming for a test that evening and we started talking about Hagfish. It was a discussion which I found delightful, disgusting and quite enlightening…
A little history on the Hagfish…
The eel skin wallet you may have seen, or even owned at some point, isn’t really made of eel — it’s made of Hagfish. They are long, slimy bottom feeders and scavengers. When I say slimy, I MEAN slimy — they produce up to 8 liters of slime in just a few minutes.
She showed me a photo of one in what she called “knotting behavior” — wherein the long, slimy thing wraps itself in a knot and works that knot down from its horrifying little head to the tip of its gross little tail to remove a thick layer of slime. My guess is it is so slimy it can’t even stand itself… which brings me to my “ah-ha” moment.
I’ve been working up characterizations for novel work lately, taking “markers” from this personality type and that type. Adding fiction in with some of the facts. Creating character types from creative evolutions based on the combination of two or three people I know or have known. And then the Hagfish description hits me. I know this person. Let me describe further…
The Hagfish isn’t a predator, it enters the carcass of dead fish through the mouth or anus or… Or some other orifice, I can’t remember now… and eats the dead animal from the inside out. The slime helps to protect it from caustic stomach contents in its dead victim. Although it won’t go after healthy fish, it will “slime to death” ill or weakened fish. Hmmmm…. the similarities strengthen.
So, although I won’t name the Hagfish I know… I’m sure many of you will be able to identify a Hagfish in your own life. Horrid little creatures, running around sliming things up for others, feeding on the weak, eating others from the inside out because their own layer of slime is so dense, so Omni-present, that no amount of natural acid can hurt them. They are the vermin of the fish world. They put the “ick” in Ichthyology.
Yep, I know him well… the Hagfish.
A photo from my online search: