The Kraken of Scandinavian lore was a horned sea monster so huge that it was sometimes mistaken for a group of islands by unsuspecting sailors who ventured far from shore (the back of a fully grown Kraken was about one and a half miles long). But when curious mariners drew near, the islands might erupt into a mass of multiple heads, horns, and waving tentacles that could grasp and sink even the largest of ships. When the Kraken attacked a ship, it was said it wrapped its long arms able to to reach as high as the top of a sailing ship's tallest mast around the hull and capsized it. It was also said that when the Kraken submerged, it could suck down a vessel just by the whirlpool (known as the Skagarag) it created.
Probably the first recorded mention of the Kraken is in Homer's Odyssey, when Odysseus has to pass Scylla's lair. The creature was also mentioned in 1555 by a Swede named Olaus Magnus, who wrote a book about the history of the Scandinavian nations. In it he described this strange monster, which seems to have been a giant squid or octopus or cuttlefish.
Bishop Henrik Pontopiddian of Bergen, Norway, stated that the Kraken was the largest creature on earth, and its back was about a mile and a half in circumference. He wrote in 1752 (A Natural History of Norway) that floating islands that appeared and disappeared suddenly in the northern seas were certainly krakens. The Bishop of Midaros found a Kraken on the shore. Thinking it to be a rock, he set up an altar on its back and celebrated Mass. The creature waited respectfully until the bishop had finished and then quietly slipped into the sea and vanished.
Modern skeptics tend to dismiss the Kraken, saying that witnesses had probably been confused by sightings of giant squids. The Kraken was also known to discharge an inky liquid that blackened and poisoned the waters a characteristic that, like its tentacles, hints the creature to be a monster-size version of the real-life giant squid. But in the vast depths of the sea, who knows? Perhaps as the poet Tennyson wrote:
"Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth..."
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Sources: Article is scheduled to be reviewed.
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