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Kraken are legendary sea monster
Sea monster
Sea monsters are sea-dwelling mythical or legendary creatures, often believed to be of immense size.Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. They can be slimy or scaly and are often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water...

s of giant proportions said to have dwelt off the coasts of Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

In modern German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Krake (plural and declined
In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

 singular: Kraken) means octopus
The octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms...

 but can also refer to the legendary Kraken. In Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

, Kraken is the definite form of krake, a word that can refer to the legendary creature (can also mean "frail, poor being", or "crooked, withered tree").

Although fictional and the subject of myth, the legend of the Kraken continues to present day,, with numerous references existing in popular culture, including film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, video games and other miscellaneous examples (e.g. postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

s, a rollercoaster ride and a rum
Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane by-products such as molasses, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak barrels...



The Old Icelandic saga
Sagas, are stories in Old Norse about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, etc.Saga may also refer to:Business*Saga DAB radio, a British radio station*Saga Airlines, a Turkish airline*Saga Falabella, a department store chain in Peru...

 Örvar-Odds saga
Örvar-Oddr is a legendary hero about whom an anonymous Icelander wrote a fornaldarsaga in the latter part of the 13th century. Örvar-Odds saga, the Saga of Örvar-Odd, became very popular and contains old legends and songs...

referenced the massive heather
The Ericaceae, commonly known as the heath or heather family, is a group of mostly calcifuge flowering plants. The family is large, with roughly 4000 species spread across 126 genera, making it the 14th most speciose family of flowering plants...

-backed sea-monsters of the Greenland Sea
Greenland Sea
The Greenland Sea is a body of water that borders Greenland to the west, the Svalbard archipelago to the east, Fram Strait and the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Norwegian Sea and Iceland to the south. The Greenland Sea is often defined as part of the Arctic Ocean, sometimes as part of the...

 named Hafgufa
Hafgufa is the name of a massive sea monster reported to have existed in the Greenland Sea which was said to disguise itself as an island or pair of rocks rising from the sea...

 and Lyngbakr
Lyngbakr is the name of a massive whale-like sea monster reported in the Örvar-Odds saga to have existed in the Greenland Sea. According to the saga, Lyngbakr would bait seafarers by posing as a heather-covered island, and when a crew landed on his back, he sank into the sea, drowning the crew...

 that fed on whales, ships and men. After returning from Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

, the anonymous author of the Old Norwegian
Old Norwegian
Old Norwegian refers to a group of Old Norse dialects spoken and written in Norway in the Middle Ages. They bridged the dialect continuum from Old East Norse to Old West Norse.-Old Norwegian vs Common Norse:...

 scientific work Konungs skuggsjá
Konungs skuggsjá
Konungs skuggsjá is a Norwegian educational text from around 1250, an example of speculum literature that deals with politics and morality...

(c. 1250) described in detail
Species description
A species description or type description is a formal description of a newly discovered species, usually in the form of a scientific paper. Its purpose is to give a clear description of a new species of organism and explain how it differs from species which have been described previously, or are...

 the physical characteristics and feeding behavior of these two beasts and suggested the pair may possibly be the same animal, regarded by the Norse
Norse may refer to:In history:* Norsemen, the Scandinavian people before the Christianization of Scandinavia** Norse mythology** Norse paganism** Norse art** Norse activity in the British IslesIn language:...

 as the Kraken. The narrator proposed there must only be two krakens in existence, stemming from the observation that the beasts have always been sighted in the same parts of the Greenland Sea, and that each seemed incapable of reproduction as there was no increase in their numbers. Carolus Linnaeus
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 classified Kraken as cephalopod
A cephalopod is any member of the molluscan class Cephalopoda . These exclusively marine animals are characterized by bilateral body symmetry, a prominent head, and a set of arms or tentacles modified from the primitive molluscan foot...

s (designating the scientific name Microcosmus) in the first edition of his Systema Naturae
Systema Naturae
The book was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735...

(1735), a taxonomic classification of living organisms. The creature was excluded from later editions.

Kraken were also extensively described by Erik Pontoppidan
Erik Pontoppidan
Erik Pontoppidan was a Danish author, bishop, historian and antiquary, born in Aarhus August 24, 1698; died in Copenhagen December 20, 1764. He was educated in Fredericia , after which he was a private tutor in Norway, and then studied in Holland, and in London and Oxford, England...

, bishop of Bergen
Diocese of Bjørgvin
Bjørgvin Diocese is a diocese in the Church of Norway. It covers churches located in the counties of Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane. The cathedral city is Bergen. Bergen Cathedral, formerly the Church of Saint Olaf, serves as the seat of the presiding Bishop...

, in his "Natural History of Norway" (Copenhagen, 1752–3). Pontoppidan made several claims regarding Kraken, including the notion that the creature was sometimes mistaken for an island and the real danger to sailors was not the creature itself but rather the whirlpool
A whirlpool is a swirling body of water usually produced by ocean tides. The vast majority of whirlpools are not very powerful. More powerful ones are more properly termed maelstroms. Vortex is the proper term for any whirlpool that has a downdraft...

 left in its wake. Fishermen apparently also risked fishing "over Kraken", since the catch was plentiful (hence the saying "You must have fished on Kraken") and that a specimen of the monster, "perhaps a young and careless one", was washed ashore and died at Alstahaug
Alstahaug is a municipality in Nordland county, Norway. It is part of the Helgeland region. The administrative centre of the municipality is the town of Sandnessjøen....

 in 1680. Pontoppidan described the destructive potential of the giant beast: "It is said that if [the creature's arms] were to lay hold of the largest man-of-war, they would pull it down to the bottom".

Swede Jacob Wallenberg described the Kraken in the 1781 work Min son på galejan ("My son on the galley"):

... Kraken, also called the Crab-fish, which [according to the pilots of Norway] is not that huge, for heads and tails counted, he is no larger than our Öland
' is the second largest Swedish island and the smallest of the traditional provinces of Sweden. Öland has an area of 1,342 km² and is located in the Baltic Sea just off the coast of Småland. The island has 25,000 inhabitants, but during Swedish Midsummer it is visited by up to 500,000 people...

 is wide [i.e., less than 16 km] ... He stays at the sea floor, constantly surrounded by innumerable small fishes, who serve as his food and are fed by him in return: for his meal, (if I remember correctly what E. Pontoppidan writes,) lasts no longer than three months, and another three are then needed to digest it. His excrements nurture in the following an army of lesser fish, and for this reason, fishermen plumb after his resting place ... Gradually, Kraken ascends to the surface, and when he is at ten to twelve fathom
A fathom is a unit of length in the imperial and the U.S. customary systems, used especially for measuring the depth of water.There are 2 yards in an imperial or U.S. fathom...

s, the boats had better move out of his vicinity, as he will shortly thereafter burst up, like a floating island, spurting water from his dreadful nostrils and making ring waves around him, which can reach many miles. Could one doubt that this is the Leviathan
Leviathan , is a sea monster referred to in the Bible. In Demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper . The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature...

 of Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...


In 1803, the French malacologist Pierre Dénys de Montfort
Pierre Denys de Montfort
Pierre Denys de Montfort, also sometimes spelled "Pierre Dénys de Montfort", was a French naturalist, in particular a malacologist, remembered today for his pioneering inquiries into the existence of the giant squid Architeuthis, which was thought to be an old wives' tale, and for which he was...

 wrote the Histoire Naturelle Générale et Particulière des Mollusques, an encyclopedic description of mollusks. Montfort speculated that there were in fact two types of creatures: the first the kraken octopus as described by Norwegian sailors and American whalers, and a second larger version, the colossal octopus
Gigantic octopus
An unknown species of gigantic octopus has been hypothesised as a source of reports of sea monsters such as the lusca and the kraken as well as the source of some of the carcasses of unidentified origin known as globsters like the St. Augustine Monster. The species that the St...

, that was reported to have attacked a sailing vessel from Saint-Malo
Saint-Malo is a walled port city in Brittany in northwestern France on the English Channel. It is a sub-prefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine.-Demographics:The population can increase to up to 200,000 in the summer tourist season...

, off the coast of Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

. Montfort disgraced himself when he proposed that ten British warships (including the captured French ship of the line
Ship of the line
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

 Ville de Paris
French ship Ville de Paris (1764)
The Ville de Paris was a large three-decker French ship of the line that became famous as the flagship of the Comte de Grasse during the American Revolutionary War....

), that disappeared in 1782 must have been destroyed by a group of giant octopuses. The British, however, knew - courtesy of a survivor from the Ville de Paris - that the ships had been lost in a hurricane off the coast of Newfoundland in September, 1782.


Later versions of the legend may have originated from sightings of real giant squid
Giant squid
The giant squid is a deep-ocean dwelling squid in the family Architeuthidae, represented by as many as eight species...

, which are variously estimated to grow to 13 – in length (including tentacles). These creatures normally live at great depths, but have been sighted at the surface and have reportedly attacked ships.


In 1830 Alfred Tennyson
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, FRS was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular poets in the English language....

 published the irregular sonnet
A sonnet is one of several forms of poetry that originate in Europe, mainly Provence and Italy. A sonnet commonly has 14 lines. The term "sonnet" derives from the Occitan word sonet and the Italian word sonetto, both meaning "little song" or "little sound"...

 The Kraken, which described a massive creature that dwelled at the bottom of the sea:

See also

  • Colossal squid
    Colossal Squid
    The colossal squid , sometimes called the Antarctic or giant cranch squid, is believed to be the largest squid species in terms of mass. It is the only known member of the genus Mesonychoteuthis...

  • Cryptozoology
    Cryptozoology refers to the search for animals whose existence has not been proven...

  • Globster
    A globster, or blob, is an unidentified organic mass that washes up on the shoreline of an ocean or other body of water. The term was coined by Ivan T. Sanderson in 1962 to describe the Tasmanian carcass of 1960, which was said to have "no visible eyes, no defined head, and no apparent bone...

  • Lusca
    The lusca is a name given to a sea monster reported from the Caribbean. It has been suggested by cryptozoologists that the lusca is a gigantic octopus, far larger than the known giant octopuses of the genus Enteroctopus.-Sightings:...

External links