Thursday, October 7, 2010
October 7, 2010 : Kraken (Myth)
Kraken (pronounced /ˈkreɪkən/ or /ˈkrɑːkən/) are mythical sea monsters of gargantuan size, said to have dwelt off the coasts of Norway and Iceland. The sheer size and fearsome appearance attributed to the beasts have made them common ocean-dwelling monsters in various fictional works (see Kraken in popular culture). The legend may actually have originated from sightings of real giant squid that are variously estimated to grow to 13–15 m (40–50 ft) in length, including the tentacles. These creatures normally live at great depths, but have been sighted at the surface and have reportedly attacked ships.
Kraken may be derived from the Old Norse noun kraka "to drag under the water". In modern German, Krake (plural and declined singular: Kraken) means octopus, but can also refer to the legendary Kraken.
Even though the name kraken never appears in the Norse sagas, there are similar sea monsters, the hafgufa and lyngbakr, both described in Örvar-Odds saga as a giant spider-creature. The Norwegian text from c. 1250, Konungs skuggsjá. Carolus Linnaeus 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, 1752–3). 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).