Imaginary field trip: the Ear Islands

Ransom Riggs

In his Inventorum Natura the first century Roman author and natural philosopher Pliny the Elder describes a small group of islands off the coast of Germany, whose bizarre inhabitants, the Auriti (or "All-Ears") have ears so abnormally large that they cover most of their bodies. This happens to be a very convenient thing for the All-Ears, who are fishermen, because their enormous aural appendages allow them to hear the location of fish under the waves.

While Pliny's account has since proven to be fiction, he's not the first to talk about such creatures. That distinction belongs to the authors of The Mahabharata, an Indian epic dating to around 500 B.C., which refers to a tribe of people known as "Men-Who-Sleep-In-Their-Ears." They essentially had a natural sleeping bag: by resting on their side they could use one ear as a pillow, and the other as a blanket. And they were forever taunted by schoolchildren, singing: "Do your ears flip-flop? Can you use them for a mop? Are they stringy at the bottom? Are they curly at the top? Can you use them for a swatter? Can you use them for a blotter? Do your ears flip-flop?"

Yes, children. Yes.