A short documentary on the Sargasso Sea. Jules Verne once described this area as a lake on the ocean, with almost no wind and currents that move in a circle. So, plastics go in, but they don’t go out. This film does not show any eels directly, but the Sargasso Sea is vital for conservation efforts as it is the only spawning ground of European and American eel.
In the province of Skane there was a custom:
into their deep black wells they put
small eels from the sea.
And these eels spend their lives
imprisoned in the wells’ deep blackness.
They keep the water crystal-clear and clean.
When sometimes the well-eel
is brought up in the bucket, white, frighteningly big,
blind, coiling in and out
of the riddles in its body, without knowledge,
everyone hurries to sink it back again.
Often I see myself
not just in the well-eel’s place
but as both eel and well.
Imprisoned in myself, and yet this self
is something else: I’m there.
I wash it with my wriggling,
muddy, white-bellied presence in the dark.
This came from a series of posts I made to the EelTown.org Facebook group during Christmastime, freshwater eels in movies, television, cartoons and video games. There are many more examples like these, but not every example has a convenient YouTube clip. I will work on posting more, but it will take some time to extract the clips with Adobe Premiere, plus I have to make sure I’m following the law re: “fair use”. If you have more clips to add, or additional information on any of these examples, please post a comment. This is the longest original article I’ve posted here yet, hope you enjoy!
Note: There are thousands of examples of other kinds of eels in media, especially marine eels (moray, conger, wolf, gulper and other eels), electric “eels” (which are actually knifefish), lampreys, etc. Since this site focuses on freshwater eels I am not including those, except for one example at the very end that I couldn’t resist. Also, quality varies from one video to the next, but this is unavoidable unless the copyright holders decide to post a higher quality version.
Eels in Film
Zlati Uhori (1979). Title literally translates to “Golden Eels”. There is a European eel (Anguilla anguilla) at about 42:10. According to IMDB, this was adapted from a novel about life in Czechoslovakia during WWII and made into a TV movie.
From 1984, here’s the “Dinner of Doom” scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It’s hard to see exactly what kind of eels these are, but since the cuisine is from India, it’s likely they’re supposed to be Indian mottled eels, Anguilla bengalensis bengalensis.
“Excuse me, could we have an eel?”. From the movie Withnail and I, 1987.
Eels mentioned in Rush Hour, 1998. See also this part where Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) finds out he is eating eel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAmeMF1b_jU. (Would have liked to organize these clips a bit better, but I don’t own the movie and these were the best I could find.)
The “Lake Scene” from Love Actually (2003). Although no eels are actually shown, it does include the dialogue: “There better not be eels in here!” “Don’t disturb the eels!”
“Why are there so many fish in France?”
From the TV movie Temple Grandin (2010). Eels are mentioned at the end and even included in Temple’s sketches.
Made in China is a Korean film released in 2014. According to the description on IMDB:”It’s David versus Goliath when a man, Chen, uncovers a corporate conspiracy involving eels tainted by mercury. As he sneaks into South Korea to investigate, Chen finds a connection with a woman named Mi.”
Eels in the film A Cure for Wellness (2017). No audio in this clip. Probably not good for people with a fear of drowning. I have not seen this movie and have no idea why this guy was locked in a tank with eels, but according to one reviewer, the eels are the best thing about this movie: http://www.horrorhomeroom.com/eels-best-thing-cure-wellness/. I’m told they show up in a few other scenes too, including one involving a bathtub, but thus far there are no clips of this on YouTube.
Eels in television
“Quick, Niles! Start killing eels!”
“The Innkeepers” episode of Frasier, originally airing on May 16th, 1995. This is not the full episode, just a series of clips, possibly for copyright reasons. Several mentions of eels, the chef’s specialty is Anguilla and a table full of restaurant critics want to try it. One of the funniest eel-related clips I’ve ever seen.
Friends. “The One with Unagi” episode, originally airing February 24th, 2000. (No eels are actually shown, but Phoebe is the one character who knows that unagi means freshwater eel). Only the first scene shows the discussion of the word, the rest of the clip is more about Ross’s false sense of situational awareness.
The “Wildboyz” go to New Zealand and discover some longfin eels at about 1:20 in. This episode originally aired on December 7th, 2003. The on-screen text shows the wrong name for New Zealand longfin eel, it should say Anguilla dieffenbachii but instead they put Anguilla reinhardtii, which is actually the scientific name for Australian longfin eel.
The clip purports to show an eel biting down on this man’s finger but there is no “death roll” by the eel, I would guess these fish are regularly fed at that location and only looking for a morsel of food, not to actually attack him.
“In this story, a fishing community lives near a lake and has depended on eels from time immemorial. A fishing corporation has gained a monopoly on the eels in the lake (probably a sound, not a lake). A local group of men are caught poaching eels and go on trial.” (H/T Paul Thompson for this description.)
Eels in Animation
Animated eels in The Water Babies 1978. (They first appear about 8 minutes in, I think their last appearance is at around 11 minutes.) Seems kind of dark for a kid’s movie, although I haven’t seen the entire film. Based on the art style and accents, these appear to be European eel (Anguilla anguilla).
From the show “Flint the Time Detective” (shown 2000-2001; based on the Japanese manga-turned-anime Jikū Tantei Genshi-kun (時空探偵ゲンシクン), Dino (the eel) and Mite (the frog) are the henchmen of Petra (right).
The “Dueling Eds” episode of Ed, Edd and Eddy. At 8:40 in, join Rolf with the eels of forgiveness. This was a rather bizarre show for kids, with this episode originally airing on December 14th 2001. Video is only 1/4 screen, presumably because the uploader does not hold the copyright.
Spongebob and Patrick play a game of “Eels and Escalators” (basically Chutes and Ladders). This episode originally aired on March 21st, 2003. In one episode Patrick says this is his favorite game, although in another episode he says it is Parcheesi.
An earlier episode of Spongebob (Your Shoe’s Untied, November 2nd, 2000) featured what appeared to be a yellow-stage Anguillid eel inside the Krusty Krab. Spongebob asks her for help in tying his shoes, but she says she is an eel and doesn’t wear shoes. (Photo only as I could not find a decent quality clip to share).
Eel pie on The Simpsons, from Treehouse of Horror XV, November 7th, 2004. Quality is not great, looks like someone filmed it off their TV. Eel pie references at 1:30 and 5:40 in, turns out this is Chief Wiggum’s favorite food.
Eels on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. If you’ve never seen this show before, it’s the kind of humor geared to appeal to teenage boys and will probably seem stupid/offensive to everyone else. This episode originally aired on December 13th, 2009. The eels show up near the end.
The Eel, The Weasel and the Vulture. This was a short film that premiered in NYC in 2017.
This was made in Germany for Christmas 2017, featuring many jokes on the word “aal” (German for eel). H/T Aquaflo Steinovic for posting this one.
Eels in Video Games
An eel is the end-level boss in stage two of the Commodore Amiga game Apidya, (C) Play Byte (1992). The artwork makes species identification ambiguous but the water lily (genus Nymphaea) confirms this is freshwater. Screenshot from a YouTube video by Ironclaw of longplays.org.
Starting in 1996, Nintendo has featured eels in their Mario games. It’s questionable what kind of eels these are however, because their appearance and behavior suggest a Moray eel and Nintendo has referred to this character as “Maw-ray” in some places. On the other hand, Nintendo has also called it Unagi (Japanese for freshwater eel, Anguilla japonica) so perhaps they have taken some creative license here. There’s a few other eel-like characters in the clip too, so decide for yourself what they represent.
American eel (Anguilla rostrata) are featured in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series. There are many games in this series, but it appears the eel first appeared in Dōbutsu no Mori (Animal Forest) for the N64 in 2001, (which was re-released as Animal Crossing for the Game Cube the same year) followed by Animal Crossing: Wild World (2005), Animal Crossing: City Folk (2008) and Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2012). It may appear in other games too, please post a comment if you know more.
Catching an American eel (Anguilla rostrata) in Rapala Pro Bass Fishing for the XBox 360, released September 28th, 2010 by Activision.
In 2015, Sega used eels to promote the game Alien: Isolation.
Eels in the video game Prey, (C) 2017 Arkane Studios. It takes place on an alien planet, but they are listed as being in the genus Anguilla at one point. (They are also available as sushi or in jellied form.) See a discussion about them on the Steam Community forums here and more gameplay footage here.
Here’s the Bay Watch “Eel Nino” episode (November 10th, 1997). This does not actually feature a freshwater eel, it looks more like a moray but is described as an electric eel (which, long time eel residents will recall, is not a true eel at all). But isn’t it worth it to see David Hasselhoff save people from a 20ft long, killer eel?
Posted by request, the book “Der Fischfang in der Lagune von Comacchio” (Fishing in the Comacchio lagoon). As Eel Town member Willem Dekker points out, many eel publications from 1890 reference this work.
Being published in 1880, this book is out of copyright and this copy is provided by Google Books.
As we get closer to the end of the year, I’d like to announce some of the upcoming plans for Eel Town in 2018. When I started this group nine months ago I had no idea it would generate this level of participation and discussion. (Seriously, I thought I’d be lucky to find 10 people who wanted to talk about eels online!) Thank you all so much for joining and sharing such great content every single week.
So, here’s some ideas I have, please post your feedback and let me know if you have other thoughts.
1) I’d like to incorporate Eel Town as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. This means we’ll need members and a board of directors, so if you’d like to be on this, please let me know what title you’d like to have. Becoming a non-profit means we’ll be able to apply for grants and create bigger projects, including helping to organize/fund conferences down the line.
2) I want to create an Eel Town newsletter. I’m thinking 8 pages (two 11×17″ sheets folded and stapled), to be sent out twice a year. This would be a place for anyone who wants to share short articles, pictures, artwork, poetry, upcoming events etc. Everyone is welcome to contribute. This will be printed and mailed out to members so you get a physical product beyond just Internet postings. (You will retain full copyright and ownership of any material you contribute and will be welcome to publish it anywhere else you like).
3) I’m starting a podcast on eel news. I have all the tools to do an audio version already, we can also do a YouTube show if anyone is willing to help out with minor editing and on-screen graphics. One of the goals of this is going to be to interview different people in the eel community each episode. Feel free to nominate yourself or someone else to be a part of this.
There will be one other announcement in early 2018 as well, stay tuned