Bringing Myths and Legends to Life...

The Kraken

The kraken may well be dead, poisoned by marine pollution. Those who have studied its history claim that it lives yet, but in the state of hibernation, sleeping, in the words of Tennyson, 'far ,far beneath the abysmal sea'.

The Kraken was described by the renowned naturalist Erik Pontoppidan, Bishop of Bergen, as 'the largest and most surprising of all the animal creation'. This was definitely not an exaggeration, for this immense beast was, or is, the largest animal of all time. Whether there is more then one Kraken, what is its gender, how long it lives and many other important questions remain unanswered, for the creature has not been sighted for more than a century.

Descriptions are sketchy, probably because the creature is too massive to make a proper observation (except from maybe the air), or because sailors who come across the Kraken are badly traumatized -- and rightly so! Although some accounts describe it as an enormous whale or turtle-like creature, the general consensus is that the Kraken is a tentacled, slimy monster up to 1 mile (1.6 km) in circumference.

On the very rare occasions that the Kraken makes its way to the surface from the ocean depths, it can easily mistaken for an island. Sailors of old would weigh anchor, 'go ashore' and light fires, which in turn would wake the slumbering titan at which point it would promptly submerge, creating in its wake an enormous whirlpool which sucked ship and crew down with it. Occasionally the kraken would drag down entire ships with its tentacles. The arms of the Kraken were said to be to reach as high as the top of a sailing ship's mast.

In myth and folklore the kraken has been linked with the biblical Leviathan, and the Norse 'world-serpant' Jormungandr.; but it is perhaps best remembered in the English-speaking world by Tennyson's epic poem The Kraken and John Wyndham's science-fiction novel The Kraken Wakes.



The Kraken
by Lord Alfred Lord Tennyson

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
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening open 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.


The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by Christopher E. Appel Perseus and Andromeda, 1611 Musée du Louvre, Paris Giant Kraken
by Quellion


Whereabouts of the Kraken?
On the whole the kraken restricts its range to northern waters, its favorite haunt being the waters off Scandinavia. Its said that it would likely reside in the Norwegian Deep, the trench that cuts into the continental shelf off the coast of Norway, but it has occasionally been sighted further a-field. Sailors in the waters off Scandinavia are used to monsters. They regularly report sea serpents, but the kraken is the most fantastic, and the most feared.

Numerous ships lost without a trace have been credited to the predations of the kraken, although much less in recent times. The North sea is one of the most heavily polluted stretches of water in the world, and it is possible that the pollution has driven the kraken deep into the open ocean or possibly even killed it. If it is still living, it may simply be dormant -- a hibernation of sorts if you will -- which will not last forever.

Some fear that continued oil and gas extraction in the North Sea might attract the kraken's wrath, and that retribution will follow. Although in certain legends they say there are only two Kraken in existence, and that these were born in the first creation and are destined to die only when the world itself finally perishes -- so I don't think any retribution will come about.


The Kraken has appeared in movies such as The Clash of the Titans As well as devouring ships whole, the kraken can be stealthy and cunning. Some say that the Marie Celeste, found intact but abandoned in mid-ocean, was attacked by the beast.



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