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Olm, sweet Olm

Happy 2024 and welcome to my first official newsletter! Unless you have read my book, Ebby the Magnificent, Tails of an Elusive Baby Bunny, you may not know what an olm is. Known by their scientific name, proteus, or colloquially as a “human fish,” an olm is an aquatic salamander found only in a few limestone caves of the Dinaric Alps in Central and Southeastern Europe—including specifically Croatia (which I refer to as the Land of Stones in Ebby). Limestone (or "karst" as it is known in geologic terms) is dynamic because it is impacted dramatically by water, creating vast underground networks of caves. That's where the olms live.


The first writing mentioning olms occurred in 1689 after floods washed some out of their habitat in underground caves. The people who found them thought they were baby dragons. Local mythology grew around these occasional flood events that dragons lived underground. In the 1800s, scientists discovered olms living in a Slovenian cave called Postojna, and started researching them.


The Postojna cave is an hour's drive from our house in Croatia. I had not seen an actual living olm until 2023, long after I had finished writing Ebby. Seeing one in person (in salamander??) was every bit as exciting as seeing the Big Five in Africa (elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, rhino, and lion). I was in absolute awe—giddy even. They are delicate and vulnerable.


I read what I could find out about olms before including them in my book and added many of these details in my story. I wanted Ebby to have extraordinary adventures, which would trigger the reader's imagination and take them places they had never considered going. Many who read my book may assume I have made them up. Trust me when I say they are real and the details in my painting of Solomon below are accurate. Some of the more incredible facts about olms are:

1.   They can live to be 100 years old.

2.   They can go without eating or moving for 10 years.

3.   They are aquatic—living almost entirely underwater.

4.   They have adapted to living in total darkness.

5.   They are blind but have developed extraordinary senses of smell and hearing.


Olms are phenomenal creatures—and yet they are unknown to most people outside the area they live. I included olms in Ebby to teach the world about them. Ebby may be the only book of fiction to include an olm as a character, especially one like Solomon.


Olms are just one tiny reason Ebby the Magnificent is not your typical storybook. For more information about olms, you can visit the Postojna Cave Park website, Or better yet, go visit them!

Happy reading and hoppy adventures!

J. W. Julian

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