|Image Courtesy: Pirates of the Caribean|
Ah, the Kraken, recently re-made infamous by the Pirates Of the Caribbean franchise... but how much do you really know about this mythical sea monster? Other than the fact it looks something like a terrifyingly toothy butthole?
Allow me to enlighten you...
Name: Kraken, also known as Krabben, Skykraken.
Origin: Scandinavian Folklore
Description: enormous cephalopod / squid like, with mulitiple tentacles extending from the side of its body.
See also: Leviathan (see blog post here), Fastitocalon, Aspidochlone, Hafgufa
Cryptid status: active.
So what is the history?
The first possible mention of the Kraken appears to be in the 13th Century Icelandic Saga of Örvar-Oddr. In this text two immense sea creatures known as Hafgufa and Lyngbakr are described. Researchers believe the Hafgufa may well be the earliest known reference to the Kraken.
The next mention of the beast appears to be in a Norwegian text describing the same Hafgufa as before, but it was not until Carolus Linneaus (an early taxonomist) classified the creature as a cephalopod that that the term Kraken came to popular use. The word krake (plural kraken) in Norwegian and Swedish means something like something twisted or unhealthy animal. In modern German, the word means octopus.
So what about the ship-eating myths?
Well in Scandinavian traditions, the kraken has a taste for human flesh, so targeted boats. Its preferred mode of attack was to encircle passing ships with its enormous body, and then create a whirlpool so that no-one and nothing could escape its attack. Legend has it that its hunger for man-flesh was so great that it would easily consume an entire fishing fleet in one sitting (or should that be swimming?).
Interestingly it was believed that the amber that regularly washed up on the shores of the North Sea was in fact Kraken shit... (that pretty amber pendant isn't looking so great right now is it?)
When at rest the Kraken is said to float on the surface of the ocean. There are several myths in which the dried skin of the beast could be mistaken for an island. Legends state that many sailors lost their lives mistaking the slumbering kraken for an island. The sailors would go ashore, light a fire for their tea and upset the mighty beast, and end up being dinner themselves.
Despite the Kraken being a terrifying creature, it is said that large schools of fish would seek harbour around it, and that if you were willing to risk it, you could get a great catch of fish by setting nets around its vicinity.
So what is the Kraken really?
It is most likely a species of giant squid. The largest giant squid ever recorded was 13 metres in length (43feet) long, and they are found all over the world in deep oceans. There are no modern documented giant squid attacks on boats, however squid attacks on humans can, and do happen. Increasing numbers of the Humboldt (or Red Devil squid) in places such as the Sea of Cortez have resulted in an increased number of squid attacks, which can be rather violent - as shown in the video.
Image Courtesy Smithsonian Ocean Portal
As anyone who regularly visits my blog would know I am a massive fan of "making myths real" so (much so that I did a series of blogs you can read, here, here and here...) and so I was delighted to receive an email from Christopher Stoll who is in the process of making a mythical creatures compendium... complete *swoon with joy* with anatomical pictures.
He has done some amazing pics, and one of those is of the Kraken.
Christopher's book will explore all kinds of awesome mythical creatures and will be a book I'll be waiting with baited breath for. I've left this post a little to late to help him out on KickStarter, but if you're a die hard mythology / cryptid fan like me, your support to his project would be much appreciated I'm certain. You can check him out HERE.
On that note... enjoy your weekend!