Giant eel

From NetHackWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A giant eel, ;, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. It is an oviparous sea monster that can hide within pools of water, and has a bite attack and a touch attack that can cause instadeath by drowning if you are near any pool of water.


Giant eels are not randomly generated, but are commonly generated in swamps. Normally-placed giant eels are always generated hostile, and will be asleep 45 of the time unless you have the Amulet of Yendor.[1]

Giant eels also populate several moats and other watery areas in several parts of the dungeon at level creation:

  • Three giant eels are placed in the moat of the Archeologist quest home level.[2]
  • Three giant eels are placed in the river of the Barbarian quest home level.[3]
  • One giant eel is placed in the river of the Tourist quest home level.[4]
  • Three giant eels are placed in the large pond of the Wizard quest home level.[5]
  • Four giant eels are placed in the moat of Fort Ludios.[6]
  • Three of four maps for Medusa's Island contain giant eels in the sea: the first version has three giant eels, and the third and fourth versions have two giant eels each.[7][8][9]
  • Four giant eels are placed in the moat of the Castle.[10]
  • Two giant eels are placed in the moat at the bottom level of the Wizard's Tower, and four more are placed in the moat of the topmost level.[11][12]
  • Eight giant eels are placed within the Plane of Water.[13]


Giant eels are often the first monsters most players encounter that can drown them, providing a rude awakening for the unprepared. They also have an AC of -1, making them hard to hit without a reliable weapon. While giant eels are somewhat slow and most characters will have speed and a solid weapon by the time they encounter one, they should still be wary of engaging it in melee: if one manages to wrap itself around you, there may only be a couple of actions left to get free before it successfully drowns you. While improving AC can make it harder for giant eels to hit you in the first place, this should not be relied on, and even more seasoned players with well-armored characters can be dragged to a quick and ignoble death underwater.

When traversing near or across large bodies of water, be attentive and keep an eye out - telepathy and warning can reliably detect any eels lurking within. There are multiple methods to free yourself from a giant eel or else prevent it grabbing you at all: A non-cursed oilskin cloak or greased outer body armor is the most reliable way of preventing the giant eel from getting a hold, though grease can wear off. You can also take advantage of the eel's 0 MR score by scaring it off, which will usually always succeed and forces it to let go if it has grabbed you. Bugles, tooled horns, expensive cameras and even engraving Elbereth will suffice depending on the situation.

Giant eels are best dispatched at a distance before they can get close enough to you, and most wands and spells that hit can immobilize or hinder the eel enough for you to escape or neutralize it. A wand of cold or cone of cold will strand the eel above water, causing it to become scared; a wand or spell of sleep will completely immobilize it and cause it to let go if it has grabbed you. A wand of teleportation can reliably warp away a giant eel holding you, even on non-teleport levels. Most levitation sources such as the ring or potion will cause an eel holding you to let go when used - however, levitation boots in particular take two actions to put on, which may prove unreliable if you are burdened.

Giant eels are especially dangerous on the Plane of Water, where you cannot engrave and have less room to maneuver away from them. Most methods of keeping them away are still viable, such as wands of teleportation and instruments, but some methods such as the wand of cold and cone of cold spell are rendered unusable. Most players sidestep the risk of drowning on the Plane to begin with by using a blessed scroll of genocide to wipe out all ; upon entering the level.


The giant eel appears in Hack for PDP-11, a variant of Jay Fenlason's Hack - while not included in the initial bestiary for Hack 1.0, it does appear in Hack 1.0.2, which credits PDP-11 Hack's creators Michiel Huisjes and Fred de Wilde for inspiring both the monster and the swamp special room.


Eels are ray-finned fish belonging to the order Anguilliformes, and are typically predators. Notably large species of eels include: the giant mottled eel (or marbled eel), the giant moray eel, the slender giant moray, and the European conger.

The term "eel" is also used for other orders of eel-shaped fish, such as electric eels, spiny eels, swamp eels, and deep-sea spiny eels that evolved their body shapes independently from "true" eels. Eels live both in salt and fresh water, and some species migrate from fresh water down into the sea to spawn and fertilize eggs. Various types of eel appear in Dungeons & Dragons, including the giant eel: the 1st Edition Monster Manual describes giant eels as typically of the moray type, with a nasty temper and teeth to match, and they are rarely found in freshwater areas.

Encyclopedia entry

The behaviour of eels in fresh water extends the air of
mystery surrounding them. They move freely into muddy, silty
bottoms of lakes, lying buried in the daylight hours in summer.
[...] Eels are voracious carnivores, feeding mainly at
night and consuming a wide variety of fishes and invertebrate
creatures. Contrary to earlier thinking, eels seek living
rather than dead creatures and are not habitual eaters of

[ Freshwater Fishes of Canada, by Scott and Crossman ]



In UnNetHack, the "watcher in the water" random vaults may contain a giant eel within its pools if generated at dungeon level 3 or lower.