Monday, 23 December 2013

The Mongolian Death Worm

So today, busily preparing to leave work so I can do nothing other stuff my face with chocolate over Christmas, I couldn't help but notice my colleague's reading matter...

Tom and Eels

If you can't read the title, this is a book called "EELS HOW TO CATCH THEM".  Tom also directed me to a charming website:

which mostly consists of photos like this:

Mmmmm tasty eel

and this:

O, my pretties.

Casting aside the question of why a seemingly ordinary young man might be reading about massive eels and how to catch them, I turned my thoughts to practical matters - do they have eels in Mongolia?  And could I eat them?

And they do, sort of, in the form of the Mongolian Death Worm (olgoi-khorkoi):


This picture is slightly misleading; they are actually "blood-red" in colour and look like a cow's intestine.  


In his book "On the Trail of Ancient Man"(1926), Roy Chapman Andrews (an American explorer, adventurer and naturalist who became the director of the American Museum of Natural History) cites Mongolian Prime Minister Damdinbazar who in 1922 described the worm:

"It is shaped like a sausage about two feet long, has no head nor leg and it is so poisonous that merely to touch it means instant death. It lives in the most desolate parts of the Gobi Desert…"

The worm is also a literary beast; J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit (1937) provides an early but fleeting reference - the perilous "wild Were-worms in the Last Desert."  

The worm has made many other appearances in various art forms, not least the iOS game "Super Mega Worm" and the 2010 SyFy television imaginatively called "Mongolian Death Worm".

Not sure it's tasty, though - Mongolians reckon it sprays venom and touching any part will cause instant death or tremendous pain.  So I won't be packing my chaffer grubs (plz refer back to

Ps. Death worms may not be real.