The Kraken

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One of the most fearsome beast in mythology is the Kraken: a legendary sea monster that was said to have lived off the coast of Norway and Iceland. It often is depicted it a massive squid or octopus.

The legend of the Kraken began with two colossal sea monsters in the Greenland Sea called Hafgufa and Lyngbakr. These beasts described in Old Icelandic legend fed on whales, ships, and men. Later, these two monsters were suggested to be the same species due to similar physical appearance and feeding behaviors by a nameless author of an Old Norwegian scientific work. The creature was regarded by the Norse as the Kraken. Carl Linnaeus put the Kraken in the classification of cephalopods in his first edition of Systema Natura.

Erik Pontoppidan, bishop of Bergen, made many claims about the Kraken, such as that it was occasionally mistaken for an island. It is said that some fisherman risked fishing on the Kraken, and because the catch was bountiful, the saying “You must have fished on Kraken” was created. Pontoppidan also said that the Kraken could pull a man-of-war, a war ship, to the bottom of the ocean.

Alfred Tennyson wrote this irregular sonnet in 1830 about a gigantic creature that thrived at the bottom of the ocean:

Below the thunders of the upper deep;

Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,

His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep

The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee

About his shadowy sides; above him swell

Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;

And far away into the sickly light,

From many a wondrous grot and secret cell

Unnumber’d and enormous polypi

Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.

There hath he lain for ages, and will lie

Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,

Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;

Then once by man and angels to be seen,

In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Another reference to the Kraken in popular culture includes Jules Verne’s  Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea where a group of giant squid attack the submarine the Nautilus.


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