It’s fascinating to me how many mystical animals live in our world right along with people. The tardigrade is one of these mystical animals. Tardigrades, also known as water bears or moss piglets, are small, mighty, resilient critters. They are able to live up to 30 years without food and water, as well as survive in diversely extreme conditions, in both space and the farthest depths of the oceans. With a life span of 60 years, these diminutive beings slow down their metabolism to nearly undetectable levels. Though they can endure 150 degrees Celsius, their ruin is exposure to extremely hot water for long periods of time, 104 degrees Fahrenheit for 48 hours.

 Tardigrades are extremely weird and interesting. There are stories among the fae that they are mystical creatures, who became stuck in the human world when they slowed down so significantly that they missed escaping to the protection of the veil. With the oldest remains being around 900 million years old, this might be true.

Researchers consider them worth studying because they can withstand stresses that would end most other organisms. Seemingly able to live in the frozen vacuums of space and with exposure to radiation makes them heavily studied for space exploration.

 At only about .05 inches they are tiny, microscopic beings with a “open hemocoel” cavity body (no heart, lungs, or veins), and without complex systems, gas and nutrition can move in out and around efficiently. There are over 900 known species that can be found on every continent on Earth. All tardigrades have small black eyes that are unable to see colors. Their four pairs of stubby legs have three pair located in front below their body and the last pair sticks out behind them.

 Tardigrades seems to be able to survive nearly anything, from boiling, baling, deep-freezing, crushing, dehydration, and even squeezed in a small space and blasted into space.

Such amazing creatures are a lower life form associated with mystical beings that can also be found in our physical world. They are not sophisticated or high functioning as are most mystical beings. However, their ability to survive in extremely difficult conditions and having existed for millions of years is because of their connection with the mystical. They are intelligent enough to adapt and change so well they can survive radiation, extreme cold and hot, and live without food and water for several years. It hasn’t hurt their survival either that they are favored by the fae.

 They are quite remarkable, since they are found everywhere, can pause their biological clock, survive in the harshest atmospheres, are able to repair from space radiation, are nearly invisible, lay spiked eggs, and are affectionate. Though they are nearly impossible to see, about the size of a speck of pollen, they respond to being petted. Even without a heart they show an awareness of being touched and move in to be pet again.

 Their mystical story tells of a misguided and unfavorable origin. Unlike most mystical creatures, they were not created from one who held joy and honor in their heart. A young, inexperienced, and envious wizard student wanted to create a perfect gift to capture the heart of a love interest who was a pixie. Since she – the love interest – lived near the water’s edge, he decided the creature should be comfortable in both water and on land and small enough to be held by the sweet pixie.

 His attention during lessons was less than mindful. Rather, he allowed his thoughts to wander, thinking of conquering the maiden as his own. While only half paying attention, he decided to create a perfect gift the beautiful pixie maiden, who would then have no choice but to declare love him forever.

Sadly, this lack of attention meant when he conjured up a creature from a speck of dust, it was a blunder. When intent is less than honorable, results become lacking. First, his use of dust meant it lacked an ability for intelligence. Dust, having no heart or digestive system, limited its perceived value. It’s size, about that of pollen, was much smaller than desired and again showed his limited skill. And the overall misguided attempt, with its misshapen body, head, legs, and eyes, gave the creature an unappealing look. He quickly discarded his failure and when he was unable to destroy it, blamed the creature on another.

His master wizards knew the truth. Kindly, they decided it was unjust to blame and banish or destroy the innocent creature. United, they gave the tiny being as much ability as its tiny form could hold. They gave him abilities to survive through extremes. Though he had a small brain, the wizards gave him resilience to be able to adapt, adjust, and evolve in response to his survival needs.

The wizards believed even without a heart; love could be the creature’s guide. Maybe not full, heartfelt love, but rather a simpler wish for connection with other beings. So the wizards gave him affection that responded favorably to touch.

The tiny creature, even with very limited sight, sensed his deficiency of visual appeal. So for long periods of time, he’d hide deep within the seas, without much food. He used his mighty skill to go deep within until he had adapted his need to constantly feed.

Then, one extremely hot day, the pixie maiden came to the seashore. She waded deep within the receding water to enjoy a moment of cooling joy. Though the tiny creature thought himself invisible, he was not to the maiden’s clever eye. She reached out and touched the small little thing. As it responded to her touch, a bond was formed. She named the creature Tardigrade in honor of its great, slow, quiet good nature.

The days passed and their bond grew. All too soon it was harvesting time. The pixie maiden needed to leave Tardigrade. That same day, the young, angry, misguided wizard watched as the maiden showed the affection to his cursed creature that he had expected for himself. The young wizard took Tardigrade away and threw him unto the hot, dry earth, thinking the creature would finally shrivel.

Rather than shrivel, he multiplied. But times were changing. Demands were made to separate the worlds with a veil meant to keep each safe.

Far away from all but their kind, the tardigrades were not included in the seclusion of the veil. Both the maiden and the grand wizards noticed the tardigrades’ absence. But the tiny creatures were comfortable in the place they lived, both near the seas and of course on the land, and did not want to leave. By grand decree, the great wizards granted them special status as both mystical and in physical form in the human world.

Should you encounter one of these tiny special beings, give them a pet from me.

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