Variations: Eiturgedda, Vatna-gedda, Loch Pike, Poisonous Pike
A number of Icelandic fishes are extremely toxic, but the Vatnagedda or “loch-pike” is probably the deadliest of all. Despite its name, it looks less like a pike and more like a small furry flounder, golden in color (although blue variants have been reported). They are also known as Eiturgedda, or “poisonous pike”.
The poison of the vatnagedda is found in its flesh and skin. Merely touching it is enough to cause death. The corrosive toxins can dissolve organic and inorganic matter alike, and eat through layers of clothing. Even ghosts are not immune to vatnagedda poison. The presence of a dead vatnagedda is enough to scare off any evil spirit, and vatnagedda fat will cure pain caused by ghosts and sorcery.
Vatnageddas live at the bottom of murky lakes. They hate light, which is said to kill them, and so are only seen at the surface before storms and in fog. To catch one, the hook must be baited with gold. Anglers must wear gloves made of human skin, or multiple layers of skate-skin; even then, handling the fish will result in rashes and inflammation.
The main problem after landing a vatnagedda is holding on to it, as its poison will eventually destroy any material around it. One specimen that had been wrapped in two horse-skins melted its way underground and vanished into the earth. Wrapping it in the caul of a child, followed by the caul of a calf, is the only known way to transport a vatnagedda.
Jon Arnason tells of a sorcerer who aided a farmer and his son. Some evil spirit was visiting their home, and its repeated hauntings were driving the young daughter to madness. The sorcerer, wearing human-skin gloves and armed with a hook baited with gold, captured a vatnagedda from Gedduvatn (Pike Lake). The dead fish was placed in a bottle, wrapped in multiple layers of sheepskins and leather, and loaded onto a pack-horse for the journey home. By the time the sorcerer returned, the horse had developed a hairless, sunken patch on its back where the vatnagedda had been, and it was debilitated for the rest of its life. The vatnagedda was buried under the threshold of the house, and the ghost never returned. The girl made a full recovery.
Davidsson, O. (1900) The Folk-lore of Icelandic Fishes. The Scottish Review, October, pp. 312-332.
Hlidberg, J. B. and Aegisson, S.; McQueen, F. J. M. and Kjartansson, R., trans. (2011) Meeting with Monsters. JPV utgafa, Reykjavik.