In 1962, Tomas Kjellman's family bought a cottage in southern Sweden, knowing very well that the property was still occupied by another long-term resident. A eel nearly a century old lived in the property's well, The Local reports. Young Tomas and his family took to their slippery new friend, dubbing him Åle ("eel" in Swedish) and often introducing him to family friends that visited.
The Local explains how the eel came to find itself in a well:
In 1859 an 8-year-old Swede by the name of Samuel Nilsson threw the eel into the well. While the act may be reminiscent of children throwing strange objects into toilets in modern times, it was in fact common practice to throw an eel in your well.
Many towns didn't have public water systems until the 1960s, and eels ate the flies and other creepy crawlies, keeping the house's water supply clean.
Normally, the Local continues, eels live to be just seven years old or so. This one, however, refused to kick the bucket. Over the years, its eyes grew abnormally large—perhaps a reaction to the dark environment that it called home—and it started to gain notoriety in Sweden, where it was featured in children's books, a documentary, and several TV shows.
Now, however, Åle has finally succumbed to old age. When Tomas removed the lid from the well this August, the Local says, he found the eel floating belly up and partly decomposed. Its body will be picked up by scientists who hope to study the eel's ear bones to discover its exact age (a common method used for fishes). They also hope to find clues about how the eel managed to achieve such extreme longevity.
The Kjellman residence isn't entirely free of eels, however. Åle had a friend who lived with him in the well, though that eel "is 'only' believed to be 110," the Local reports.