X is for Xolotl

I don’t know a whole lot about Xolotl, but I appreciate his getting me out of a jam. I had no idea that there was a cryptid/monster whose name started with an “X,” let alone such a cool one. Luckily, Nisse knew (thanks, Uptown Cheetah), so here we are.

Apparently, Xolotl was a Mesoamerican deity, the twin brother of Quetzalcoatl. Typically, he was represented as a skeleton, a dog-headed man, or a strange creature with backwards hands and feet (which I drew reluctantly, figuring everyone would think I screwed them up). That all sounded monstrous enough for my purposes, so I worked out something combining those last couple options.

Xolotl lends his name to a breed of dog: the Xoloitzcuintle, or Mexican Hairless. This is a pretty crazy looking dog. It has glossy black skin that looks blue when the light hits it right, just like black hair does in “Rex Morgan MD” and other inscrutable, unfunny newspaper cartoons about square jawed professionals. It’s also got crazy crenellation on its ears. I guess they also come Zebra-style. Not to mix mythologies, but this dog is totally what I imagine Anubis looking like. Also, funnily, this dog is often mistaken for Chupacabras in Texas and other US states, where it is very rare.* Anyway, I based my design pretty heavily on this dog.

In my drawing, Xolotl is dragging the sun below the water for the night. This was supposed to be one of his duties, and I thought it was a pretty poetic (and logical) premodern assumption about where the sun goes at night. Also, it let me have some fun with designing gradients and light effects, which I love to do. I don’t really like “real” gradients, but I do like my chunky, “hand-made” ones.

I figured, as long as I was setting this in a Mexican lake, I would have to include Axoltols, one of my favorite animals. These guys have to get their name from Xolotl too, but I haven’t ever read that anywhere. Axolotls are a type of neotenic salamander. Basically “neotenic” means immature/unable to mature or transform. Virtually all Axoltols have a thyroid condition that prevents them from developing lungs and becoming semi-terrestrial. As a result, they stay larva-like for their whole lives. What this means, though, is that they stay really plastic. They don’t scar and they can regrow lost or damaged tails and limbs very quickly and can even sprout extra ones! They can also regrow vital organs, including structures in the brain. They also take transplants really readily, totally assimilating new eyes, hearts, and again, even brain parts. Also, they’re kind of cute and definitely interesting looking. You can see that I based one of the creatures in my header on one.

How has no one based a science fiction story on these guys? There should so be a story where some mad scientist combines human and Axolotl DNA to make super-resilient soldiers or something and the world has to deal with the consequences. Maybe, in a dystopian future, the rich take “Axoltol injections” to stay young forever while the poor are relegated to brief lives of ceaseless toil. A stylized Axoltol would make a great logo for a sinister bio-medical corporation. Also, the Axoltol could be a great super villain — he’s scrawny he lives in a cave, but he heals really quickly etc. This is someone the Mockingbird will fight whenever he gets around to fighting. I guess I’ll put this on the list of projects that take seconds to conceive and years to develop (if they ever do). The neotenic projects, I guess.

*For more on this, see me.

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One Response to “X is for Xolotl”

  1. I LOVE your drawing, it really looks like a Xolo and I love that you included some axolotls :)
    I’m the owner of the Zebra-style Xolo, they don’t really come in that color, she was painted with baby powder for Halloween :)

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