Friday, August 6, 2010


We now move from a creature of magic and purity... to one of horrible watery death. The Kraken! The Kraken is a large sea monster said to live in the cold waters of the North Sea. Though it is from Scandinavian areas, the Kraken does not appear in Norse mythology (though other similar sea beasts do show up there). Other mythologies are rife with tales of sea creatures, including those of Scylla and Ceto from the Greek tradition, however, these tend to be more fish/serpent like. But we'll get to appearances later.

Sea Monster (Kraken?) Attacking Ship
Pierre Denys de Montfort, ca. 1810
Krakens share something in common with the Unicorns... they both have some base in actual, natural history. The term "Kraken" appears in several scientific texts, including Erik Pontoppidan's 1755 Natural History of Norway, and again in Linnaeus's first edition of Systema Naturae. In Systema, the Kraken is classified as a cephalopod, though this information was removed from later editions. Interestingly, Linnaeus was not all that far off, since a major inspiration for the Kraken was most likely the Giant Squid. Though earlier Krakens sometimes had crab-like qualities, since the 18th century the Kraken has often been depicted as a large squid or octopus, especially so after the 19th century confirmation of Giant Squids.

So where is the watery death I had so previously mentioned? Stories have been passed along for hundreds of years about creatures so long that they resembled islands. The Kraken was said to be so large that it could wrap its tentacles around an entire ship and crush and capsize it. Of course the largest squids and octopuses ever found would not be capable of doing such things, but the myth and allure of the Kraken lives on. The Kraken has influenced poetry, books, and movies, and with the fishing up of new and more bizarre sea creatures, the legend and the questions of "what is really down there?" won't be going away any time soon.

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