The Kraken is an enormous sea monster in Norwegian sea folklore, which would sometimes attack ships and feed upon the sailors. It was said to be capable of dragging down the largest ships and when submerging could suck down a vessel by the whirlpool it created. It is described as part octopus and part crab, occasionally as a giant squid or cuttlefish.
Aka : Krabben, Sciu-Crak, Hafgufe
Kraken is the definite article form of krake, a Norwegian word designating an unhealthy animal, or something twisted. Cognate with the English crook and crank. In modern German, Krake (plural: Kraken) means octopus, but can also refer to the legendary Kraken (Terrell, 1999).
It is described as part octopus and part crab, occasionally as a giant squid or cuttlefish. Probably no legendary sea monster was as horrifying as the Kraken, a giant sea monster. According to stories this huge, many armed, creature looked like an island when motionless and could reach as high as the top of a sailing ship's main mast with its arms deployed. When the Kraken attacked a ship, it wrapped its arms around the hull and capsize it. The crew would drown or be eaten by the monster. Kraken where mostly noticed in the seas of Scandinavia. Fishermen said that huge amounts of fishs gravitate around Kraken and the boat that succeeds to fish around the monster without awaking it will take more than possible to carry aboard.
Although the name kraken never appears in the Norse sagas, there are similar sea monsters, the hafgufa and lyngbakr, both described in Örvar-Odds saga and the Norwegian Konungs skuggsjá aka Speculum Regale, the "King's Mirror". The text describes a massive sea creature as large as an island. It is rarely seen by seamen and fishermen, and it is speculated that there are only one or two in the world.
The Kraken eats by opening its massive mouth, belches up smaller fish, and eats the larger fish which come to feed upon them.Carl von Linné included kraken as cephalopods with the scientific name Microcosmus in the first edition of his "Systema Naturae" (1735), a taxonomic classification of living organisms, but excluded the animal in later editions. Kraken were also extensively described by Erik Pontoppidan, bishop of Bergen, in his "Natural History of Norway" (Copenhagen, 1752).
Early accounts, including Pontoppidan's, describe the kraken as an animal "the size of a floating island" whose real danger for sailors was not the creature itself, but the whirlpool it created after quickly descending back into the ocean. However, Pontoppidan also described the destructive potential of the giant beast: "It is said that if it grabbed the largest warship, it could manage to pull it down to the bottom of the ocean" (Sjögren, 1980). Kraken were always distinct from sea serpents, also common in Scandinavian lore (Jörmungandr for instance). A representative early description is given by the Swede Jacob Wallenberg in his book Min son på galejan ("My son on the galley") from 1781:
… 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 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 fathoms, 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 of Book of Job?
According to Pontoppidan, Norwegian fishermen often took the risk of trying to fish over kraken, since the catch was so good. If a fisherman had an unusually good catch, they used to say to each other, "You must have fished on Kraken." Pontoppidan also claimed that the monster was sometimes mistaken for an island, and that some maps that included islands that were only sometimes visible were actually indicating kraken. Pontoppidan also proposed that a young specimen of the monster once died and was washed ashore at Alstahaug (Bengt Sjögren, 1980).
Since the late 18th century, kraken have been depicted in a number of ways, primarily as large octopus-like creatures, and it has often been alleged that Pontoppidan's kraken might have been based on sailors' observations of the giant squid. In the earliest descriptions, however, the creatures were more crab- than octopus-like, and generally possessed traits that are associated with large whales rather than with giant squid. Some traits of kraken resemble undersea volcanic activity occurring in the Iceland region, including bubbles of water; sudden, dangerous currents; and appearance of new islets.
In 1802, the French malacologist Pierre Denys de Montfort recognized the existence of two kinds of giant octopus in Histoire Naturelle Générale et Particulière des Mollusques, an encyclopedic description of mollusks. Montfort claimed that the first type, the kraken octopus, had been described by Norwegian sailors and American whalers, as well as ancient writers such as Pliny the Elder. The much larger second type, the gigantic octopus|colossal octopus (depicted in the above image), was reported to have attacked a sailing vessel from Saint-Malo, off the coast of Angola.
Montfort later dared more sensational claims. He proposed that ten British warships that had mysteriously disappeared one night in 1782 must have been attacked and sunk by giant octopuses. Unfortunately for Montfort, the British knew what had happened to the ships, resulting in a disgraceful revelation for Montfort. Denys de Montfort's career never recovered and he died starving and poor in Paris around 1820 (Sjögren, 1980). In defense of Denys de Montfort, it should be noted that many of his sources for the "kraken octopus" probably described the very real giant squid, proven to exist in 1857.
On at least three occasions in the thirties they attacked a ship. While the squids got the worst of these encounters when they slid into the ship's propellers, the fact that they attacked at all shows that it is possible for these creatures to mistake a vessel for a whale.
Theories and analysis
Theories about origin and existence
The Kraken of legend is probably what we know today as the giant squid or cephalopod. Though they are considerably less then a mile and a half across, they are large enough to wrestle with a sperm whale.
The Kraken by Lord Alfred Lord Tennyson
In 1830, possibly aware of Denys de Montfort's work, Alfred Tennyson, Baron Tennyson published his popular poem "The Kraken" (essentially an irregular sonnet), which disseminated Kraken in English forever fixed with its superfluous the.
Tennyson's description apparently influenced Jules Verne's imagined lair of the famous giant squid in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea from 1870. Verne also makes numerous references to Kraken and Erik Pontopiddan in the novel.
According to Philip A. Shreffer in The Lovecraft Companion, it is safe to suppose that Tennyson's portrayal of Kraken also influenced the 20th century horror writer H. P. Lovecraft in his description of the octopus-headed monster-god Cthulhu, which is currently trapped at the bottom of the ocean, until strange æons shall bring about its return to the surface; and which in his short story The Call of Cthulhu is encountered by a Norwegian sailor.
A Tolkien Bestiary by David Day proposes that the Watcher in the Water in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring was based on Kraken, though it seems unlikely that Tolkien would have placed the Kraken in fresh water. This view has been further contested by those who note that the tentacles of Tolkien's monster are nowhere described as octopus-like, though "The Watcher" does suggest a single creature.
In the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001 film version by Peter Jackson, the Watcher is clearly more similar to our modern view of Kraken.
The book The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham details an almost apocalyptic scenario in which the massive sea creature is the main cause. Although it is made clear in the book that the 'Kraken' of the story is in actual fact a process of invasion by ocean-dwelling aliens, it is still clear that the Kraken is the basis for these aliens and Wyndham's fictional narrator quotes Tennyson's poem in the preface. Presumably for this reason Wyndham has been cited as having based the story on the poem.
The Kraken also appears in Russell Hoban's novel The Medusa Frequency (1987, The Atlantic Monthly Press, New York
In the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, the kraken is part of House Greyjoy's coat of arms, and the Greyjoys are themselves sometimes referred to as "krakens" by association.
Kraken also appeared in the Erevis Cale trilogy in the Forgotten Realms setting. The third book, Midnight's Mask, depicts it as an octopus several times the size of a full sized dragon and an intelligent life form.
In Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley are discussing the coming apocalypse while very drunk. Aziraphale mentions Kraken in this scene, paraphrasing Tennyson, stating that it will rise at the end when the seas boil. Later, Kraken does in fact rise underneath a whaling research ship.
In Tamora Pierce's Wild Magic, there is a Kraken that lives in the Copper Isles.
In Eva Ibbotson's "Island of the Aunts" the Kraken is pictured as a sort of friendly squid who can speak several languages
Jerry Oltion's Star Trek novel The Captain's Table: Where Sea Meets Sky features large "space-whale" type creatures called Krakens.
In some of the Xanth books by Piers Anthony, the Kraken is portrayed as a mammoth marine plant with extremely long, tentacle-like leaves. And, rather than being unique, it is a fairly common species.
Kraken also appears in popular Svarog series fiction books by russian author A.A.Bushkov. The Kraken also appears in a Fighting Fantasy book, Demons of the Deep.
Arthur C. Clarke's 1986 novel Songs of Distant Earth is set on an ocean bound planet Thalassa, which features a Volcano named Kraken. The volcano eruption being such an important event in the planet's history, the inhabitants also use the name as when swearing.
The Kraken appears in the book "A Triumph of Souls" by Alan Dean Foster. In return for receiving a pot of coffee from the crew of the ship Gromsketter, it helps the ship cut several days off of its trip across the ocean by dragging it behind it on its own crossing.
In Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin, blue and gray kraken are two of the creatures Haviland Tuf delivers to the world of Namor from his ecologically-equipped seedship.
Cinema and television
A sci fi channel original movie premiered on September 23, 2006 called "Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep."
In the anime, Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac) Poseidon - one of Poseidon's marine generals is Isaac of the Kraken, his scale (armor) however resembles a mantaray and not a real kraken. The scale was granted to Isaac for being as the kraken, fearless, aggressive and dangerous.
An alleged Kraken appeared in the episode titled "The Night of the Kraken" of the 1960's television series The Wild Wild West. Secret Service Agent James West eventually determined that what he (and the dwellers of a Portuguese-American fishing village) had taken for a Kraken tentacle was an artificial construct and a weapon of murder, which the renegade crew of an undersea laboratory used to keep people away from the waters above the lab.
In the 1981 film Clash of the Titans, "Kraken" is given as the name of the creature that is sent to kill Andromeda. In fact this monster, slain by Perseus, was typically referred to as a "Ceto|ketos" by the ancient Greeks, a word that is best translated by the English phrase "sea monster", and in fact gave its name to 'cetacean'. The ketos has no historic connection with Kraken.
In the Nickelodeon cartoon "Catscratch", Gordon battles the Kraken in order to gain a full size tail.
In the Fairly OddParents episode called "Something's Fishy", King Greg and the rest of the Atlanteans owned a lot of Kraken to use to eat Cosmo and Wanda, the "accursed one", who sunk their city in an attempt to make it cleaner.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, there are Duel Monsters that use the name Kraken in their title like Fiend Kraken and Fire Kraken.
The Kraken was referenced in the Neptunati episode of Sealab 2021 on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
The Krakken (here spelled with two Ks) in Ben 10 is a territorial creature that lives in a lake. It appears in the episode "The Krakken" which its eggs were being stolen by a poacher. In American Dragon: Jake Long, Kraken are depicted as giant fishmen when Jake and Spud (disguised as Huntsclan Academy students) ended up having to fight one as punishment for demolishing the potions class.
Also, in Walt Disney's Atlantis: Milo's Return, the Kraken appears as one of the mystical creatures mistaken to be from Kida's home, Atlantis. As they search for the Leviathans, drones of war created by her father to protect Atlantis, they stumble into a little (probably) Norwegian village under the hypnotic powers of the Kraken, a demon-octopus that gave the town life in exchange for the soul of one man, making him immortal, and took over the town. The monster attempts to lure Milo and Co. over the edge of a cliff, and is destroyed by the submersables.
A Kraken is a monster in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It is summoned by Davy Jones to destroy the ships carrying people he wants to kill, most notably Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner.
Kraken, either alone or as a collective of "krakens" (the Norwegian plural, which is never used, would be kraker), has appeared in many games, particularly computer and video games. In the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, the kraken is a colossal, intelligent, evil creature that dwells deep underwater. In the Eberron campaign setting for D&D, the kraken is the heraldic beast of the dragonmarked Dragonmarked House Lyrandar.
The Kraken also appears as one of the bosses in the 1998 SEGA arcade game The Ocean Hunter. Each level of the game featured a boss based on a different giant beast of the sea. The Kraken is the first one fought.
The collectible card game Magic: The Gathering associates Kraken with blue magic, which is associated with water, and they have appeared on many such cards. Most of them are cephalopods, though the artwork of the card "Tidal Kraken" depicts a bipedal sea beast with four arms that resembles the one from Clash of the Titans. The blue life-generating artifact is the Kraken's Eye. Up until the Ice Age expansion set, the largest creature was the Leviathan; it was then superseded by the Polar Kraken, which with the release of the 'lost 3rd set of the Ice Age block Coldsnap, has been superseded by the Jokulmorder, a creature resembling a cross between an Orca whale and a large worm.
The Kraken is a mandatory boss in the Xbox and PC game, Fable (video game)|Fable. Once the game's protagonists saves his mother he is forced to duel a kraken (it is implied that there are many kraken however there is only one available to fight per game). The Kraken's head and tentacles are the only body parts shown and because there is no descriptive record of the Kraken in the game, the rest of the creature is left to the players imagination. While its tentacles do follow the original design of the Kraken, its head is furry and almost wolf like, with large insect like eyes.
Kraken appear in NetHack. They are worth more experience than Death.
In the collectable toy game Monster in My Pocket, the Kraken was one of the most powerful and rarest monsters in the original serie. He appears only briefly in the comicbook, his arm around Triton. In the video game, he is the stage 3 boss, lving in a sewer. In the game, he extends only two arms at a time, but is significantly larger, even in his reduced state, than the other monsters.
In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Kraken is the name of the second Tyranid hive fleet that invaded the Milky Way and the Imperium
In the PC MMO game, Puzzle Pirates, one does not encounter a Kraken itself, but Kraken's Blood is one of the items featured in the game, used as a dye.
In the PC game Age of Mythology the Kraken is an aquatic myth unit that can be summoned by the Norse civilization.
Computer and video games