My Favorite Cryptid
A cryptid is an animal which is featured in folklore but
is not accepted by Science. I have had a lifelong fascination
with cryptids, and hope that one day I will live to see one
discovered and classified. It is possible that such animals
exist, especially in the oceans of the world (think of the
coelacanth, for example, a large fish which became "extinct"
with the dinosaurs...until one was caught in the 20th Century).
But my favorite cryptid is not Nessie or Bigfoot. It is an
alleged Alpine lizard which goes by a bewildering variety
of names, the one most used outside of the Alps being "tatzelwurm".
It is said to be poisonous (or even to breathe poison in the
more extravagent descriptions) and at least one report, IIRC,
held that its skin was tough enough to break a pocket knife.
Neither characteristic would be unique in a lizard...gila
monsters have very tough hides and are poisonous, so perhaps
the tatzelwurm is a relative. It would be strange to have
a relative living on the other side of the world, but red
pandas are relatives of the raccoon and also live in the other
hemisphere. And a tough hide might allow the tatzelwurm to
retain the warmth of its body to a degree, which might help
in the cool weather of the Alps, as well as being protection.
It could also be an example of convergent evolution, or just "fluff".
It is described as being like a stubby snake, usually with
just forelimbs. This is not necessarily ridiculous...lizards have
lost their limbs at least twice (snakes and glass snakes).
And primitive snakes like the python retain vestigial hindlimbs
to help the males in...ahem..."it". There are admittedly problems
with this cryptid (as there are with all cryptids, almost by definition).
The "evidence" consists of two photographs, one of a live specimen
in the wild and one, quite recent, of a skeleton. Both are acknowleged
even by cryptozoologists as probable hoaxes. And its habitat is a long
settled and developed area, where unknown animals would have trouble
remaining undiscovered. But two reasons make me favor this cryptid
over its better known fellow cryptids:
The tatzelwurm is depicted as being only two to six feet long.
This seems strange for a legendary animal. If you are going to lie,
lie big. And even real animals tend to "get bigger" in the retelling
(just ask any hunter or fisherman about the one that got away).
You would think that some mythical creature would be more impressive
than that. In fact, I even once read a book on cryptids which
actually apologized for including such a "puny" monster!
In addition, small size would help the tatzelwurm stay
undiscovered. It would be more able to hide, and any carcass
would be quickly consumed or decayed. It would also have
an easier time maintaining a viable population in small
and undeveloped areas, unlike bigger cryptids which would
have problems obtaining sufficient food to survive in numbers
great enough to prevent inbreeding over many generations.
These include stollenworm, springwurm, daazelwurm, praatzelwurm
and bergstutzen. It has even crossed over into French as "arassas".
Again, this seems strange for a "fake" animal. If the animal were
some kind of popular myth, like dragons, you would think that
they would maintain their name across the whole language area,
with perhaps slightly different names for other languages. Same if
someone just made up a story and spread it around. But a bunch of
local names sounds more like an immigrant population entered an
area with a lot of somewhat localized "prime real estate"
(like the Alpine valleys), encountered an animal it had never
seen before, and each area coined its own name for it.
If the skeptics are wrong and the tatzelwurm is an actual creature,
it is obviously rare and probably getting rarer (it is interesting
that the further back you research stories about dragons and other
such monsters throughout Europe, the more they sound like tatzelwurms,
so maybe there is just a remnant population of a once more widely
distributed animal which dwindled as civilization grew).
I would certainly hope that a specimen is captured before it
becomes extinct, and thus truely nonexistant.
DRIZZLE DRAZZLE DRUZZLE DROME
TIME FOR THIS ONE TO COME HOME