Happy new year to everyone in Eel Town! Starting this year off with a review of “The Pond”, by Danish author Carl Ewald (1856-1908). This is quite an old book but I hadn’t come across it before, it provides a humorous look at the ecology of a small pond and the interactions among living organisms. It’s out of copyright and you can download it from the Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg.
The characters include reed-warblers, a crayfish, a mussel, a water spider, a water lily and her neighbor, the spearwort, as well as various kinds of fish including a pike, carp and of course, a freshwater eel (Anguilla anguilla). They all live by Erasmus Darwin’s first law of nature — “eat, or be eaten!” (Phytologia, p. 505). The eel is perhaps the funniest character and has some of the best lines throughout the book.
I recommend this title to anyone with an interest in freshwater ecology, especially to new students of conservation biology and environmental science. I wish I’d had this book back when I took my first formal ecology course in 2003. In simple language, it shows that what appears to be a peaceful, tranquil setting is in fact a fiercely competitive arena. But this isn’t a bad thing. That competition is what drives natural selection, and indeed, the diversity of life on Earth.
As the eel says: “wriggle and twist!”
Note: I learned about Carl Ewald from Eel Town resident Jan Kappel, who posted about him on our Facebook group. There are even more eel references in his book Æventyr, but I am unable to find an English translation of this book.