The Kraken: Sea Monster of Nordic Mythology

No monster, no creature is as frightening to sailors as the kraken.

Known for centuries, these mythological beings live deep in the ocean, from time to time catching a boat from which the helpless passengers can then do nothing.

With its gargantuan size, its almost magical powers and the hundreds of legends that surround it, the kraken is definitely an emblematic character of many folklores.

First appearing in Nordic culture, sailors from around the world quickly became aware of the actions of this terrible monster.

In short, today we will try to learn more about the place of this monster in various cultures and mythologies.

Contents :

What is a kraken?

Similar creatures in other mythologies

Do krakens really exist?

5 interesting facts about the kraken

The place of the kraken in classical European culture…

…and in more modern pop culture

For further

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Fractal drawing of a kraken tentacle.

What is a kraken?

Viking legends describe the kraken as an absolutely immense creature, whose tentacles easily enclose the largest of ships and whose single eyes are several meters in diameter.

Basically, our monster would look like a sort of octopus or giant squid (but really giant).

Some stories tell us how, while still ¾ submerged, the kraken exceeded the highest mast of the boats, how with a simple movement of its body, it produced immense waves and how its giant tentacles could break the hulls the strongest like breaking a twig.

Very clearly, the kraken is the largest of the monsters that inhabit the sea. Next to him, the blue whale would appear almost tiny.

In fact, our creature is so imposing that some sailors could have passed by without even noticing it... They would have actually confused its long, bumpy body with a strange slimy-looking island! (That tells you the size of the thing.)

In short, apart from its size, the kraken also stands out for its impressive number of arms. Some Viking sagas speak of several dozen, sometimes even several hundred. That last number is probably more allegorical than anything else, but you get the idea.

Very powerful, these arms are covered with an oily substance specific to octopuses that some say is toxic.

Depiction of a 17th century ship sailing with sea monsters alongside.

Similar creatures in other mythologies

The kraken is therefore a most impressive sea monster... for sailors from Northern Europe in any case.

Indeed, we only find its traces in Nordic mythology as well as that of neighboring peoples (such as the Irish, the Scottish or even the Normans).

However, other quite similar creatures exist in other mythologies, and in other, more distant seas.

These are precisely what we are going to talk about now.

Leviathan, sea monster from the Bible

The leviathan is similar to the kraken in many ways.

Both are known in the respective cultures (the Jewish for the first and the Viking for the second) as being the largest creature inhabiting the seas and, a fortiori, inhabiting the land.

However, these two sea monsters are not interchangeable!

Their messages and reasons for being are indeed radically different.

For the most skeptical (those who do not believe in its existence), the kraken will only serve as an allegory of the forces of the ocean and thus justify certain shipwrecks and catastrophes.

The leviathan will pursue a much more spiritual goal: present in the Bible (and more particularly in the Book of Job), it represents the power of the forces of chaos revolting against the Lord but also the small character of man in the face of other forces of creation.

Scylla, giant octopus from Greek legends

Greek mythology has an impressive variety and number of legendary creatures. The seas are not devoid of them.

As such, the most emblematic being is undoubtedly Scylla, a sea monster who once haunted the waters near the rock of Charybdis (another character from Greek mythology who goes hand in hand with Scylla).

This animal has nothing in common: with its dozens of arms, its six heads covered with horns and spikes and its titanic strength, it took a hero of the caliber of Ulysses to succeed in defeating it.

Although some versions of the legends speak of it as a sort of giant octopus (and therefore very close to the kraken), others see it more as an enormous crab, or sometimes even as a whale.

The akkorokamui, strange Japanese creature

The akkorokamui is a monster from Japanese mythology.

Quite little known in the West, it is nevertheless a main character in the folklore of Ainu (an ancient tribe which once populated the north of the archipelago).

Halfway between a woman and an octopus with bright red tentacles, the akkorokamui is rich in many mysterious powers.

Already, it seems to be able to emerge from any sea in the space of an instant. Testimonies tell us, for example, how it appeared in a bay in Korea, only to reappear a few minutes later along the coast of Taiwan.

The most interesting of its abilities, however, remains self-regeneration : when it loses one of its tentacles, it immediately grows back, and at exceptional speed.

It is undoubtedly this particularity which made him a very respected divinity in the Shinto tradition, his followers paying homage to him in the hope of also benefiting from his regenerative abilities.

Large sea squid, similar to the kraken.

Do krakens really exist?

There is no doubt: the Vikings were among the greatest navigators of all time.

Able to travel the world on their longships (some, for example, discovered America centuries before Christopher Columbus), they colonized most of the islands of northern Europe and created trade routes that were unimaginable at the time.

Despite an obvious advance in certain areas, the Vikings did not have the same scientific knowledge as us, and therefore could not explain all the phenomena they were confronted with by reason (and believe me, there are impressive phenomena there). a at sea).

According to modern researchers, the explanation for the existence of the kraken was precisely here.

You should know that the North Sea (where the Nordics sailed for centuries) is inhabited by a very special marine species: the giant squid.

With a length easily exceeding 13 meters including tentacles, these animals are nothing like those you can encounter on land. Imagine the impression that such a creature could make on a man for whom the greatest beast in existence was the deer...

When we also know that certain giant squid attacks have been recorded throughout history, we easily understand how the legend of the kraken came to be.

The comparison does not stop, and here is a list of some points in common between the northern kraken and our gigantic cephalopod:

  • As we said, these two giant animals are present in the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Both live in the depths but sometimes come to the surface, notably to hunt the schools of fish on which they feed.
  • They have an undeniable warrior character. For the kraken, there is probably no need to draw a picture. For the squid, know that if sperm whales are sometimes marked with scars, it is because of them and the toothed claws present on their tentacles.
  • Our two creatures are capable of spitting thick, muddy ink, the kind that turns water black and opaque.

Squid in an aquarium.

5 interesting facts about the kraken

We have drawn up a very serious picture of the kraken.

Now it's time to change all that with the discovery of 5 interesting, and somewhat lighter, facts about it.

A common ancestor with… the crab?

While many modern representations show the Kraken as a giant octopus (that's what we told you about it), the first traces show it more as a kind of crab.

It would perhaps have an ancestor like the crab...

Even if it's not very plausible, this idea is at least fun!

A completely real animal

Some have considered the kraken to be a completely real animal.

This was particularly the case of a zoologist known as Carl Von Linné who, in 1735 in his work “ Systema Naturae ”, presented our creature alongside the other organisms that populate the sea.

The real danger of the kraken

We could say that its terrible tentacles constitute its main threat... Well that wouldn't exactly be true.

Most legends relating kraken attacks warn us more about the whirlwinds; some compare them to real tidal waves, which it leaves in its wake when it plunges back into the depths.

Fish as a warning sign

The kraken feeds on fish. Obviously, they are afraid of him and will therefore try to flee him.

So, seeing a school of frightened fish swimming frantically towards the surface may be a sign that one of these giant cephalopods is approaching...

Not that dangerous

In the end, there are many testimonies of sailors having been confronted by a kraken in history.

Those of direct attacks, on the other hand, are much less so.

It seems that our creature is not so much a predator towards humans as a territorial animal which will only attack after having given several signs and threats.

Old European history books.

The place of the kraken in classical European culture…

A monster like the kraken cannot be left indifferent, that’s clear!

Its traces in classical literature, legends and folklore of the peoples of Europe are therefore very varied.

Here are some of the most interesting:

  • The Kraken was first described in 1180 by an author who must have already been respected during his lifetime, the King of Norway.
  • Our monster is also mentioned in the 13th century in an Icelandic book. Entitled “Orvar-Oddr”, this work constitutes a saga featuring a Nordic hero with
  • In 1555, an author named Olaus Magnus wrote about a sea creature that was "gigantic and had sharp horns." Specialists agree that it was a kraken.
  • In 1752, the bishop of Bergen published a book dedicated to the history and nature of Norway, in which he cited the kraken as being "the largest marine animal in the world, and by a long way."
  • As we told you earlier, the natural scientist Carl Von Linnaeus included the kraken in the list of ocean animals.
  • The same goes for French scientist Pierre Denys de Montfort who, in 1802, declared in his book “On the Natural History of Molluscs” that the existence of the kraken was indeed a reality.

Cinema studio with a clapboard.

…and in more modern pop culture

If it is found in many more or less serious scientific and historical documents, the kraken has also left its paw (or rather its tentacle) in more modern films and novels :

  • If our creature seems to have unleashed the passions of scientists of the past, this is a little less the case these days.
  • With the discovery of the giant squid, many legends fell silent and popular folklore gradually stopped talking about the kraken.
  • However, authors and filmmakers have not forgotten our sea monster, and continue to give it a special place in many works of fiction!
  • Here are some examples:
  • There is mention in the famous “Moby Dick” by Herman Melvill of a creature similar in every way to the kraken.
  • The same goes for the equally famous “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Vernes.
  • The Cthulhu, an antediluvian creature from the work of HP Lovecraft, shows many similarities, at least physical, with the kraken.
  • In the 1981 film “Clash of the Titans,” the heroes fight against Scylla, the Greek mythological creature we mentioned earlier in the article.
  • Another cult film, “Pirate of the Caribbean” is also the scene of a kraken which then serves as a pet for Davy Jones.

For further

Here are some interesting links that will help you explore the subject:

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.