For many centuries, seafarers and explorers have feared monsters that live deep under the sea. One of the most terrifying of these monsters is the Kraken.


Quick Facts about the Kraken

  • Some people believed that there was more than one kraken.
  • Many also believed that the creatures were real, including scientists and zoologists. They were included in a number of pieces of scientific literature during the 18th and 19th centuries.

What does the Kraken look like?

The Kraken is a giant octupus or squid. It is said to be so large that it is capable of wrapping its tentacles around ships and crushing or sinking them.

There are no exact estimates on how big it is. Descriptions range from ‘bigger than a ship’, to ‘the size of several ships’, to over a mile long.


Where does the legend of the Kraken come from?

The legend of this sea monster comes from the Old Norse culture. The Norse, who are also commonly referred to as Vikings, were a civilization that lived in and explored Scandinavia around the 9th and 10th centuries. Their civilization was heavily dependent on seafaring and sailing. They would often raid and plunder coastal villages.

North Sea Map
© Sergey Mikhaylov

Because of this heavy dependence on sailing, they likely witnessed a number of things that would have led them to the idea of the Kraken. Giant whirlpools referred to as maelstrom, are common in Scandinavia, and were once thought to be related to the movements of the creature. Tentacles or pieces of tentacles from giant squid would have washed onto shore periodically. And without advanced technology, it would have been difficult to tell if a large shadow underwater was that of a whale, a school of fish or something far more sinister.

The first appearance of the Kraken in literature occurred around 1250 AD, in a work titled Konungs skuggsjá, which translates to “King’s Mirror”. It was written by an unknown author who had traveled to Greenland, and was writing about the climate, nature and wildlife there. The work is far more scientific than mythological in tone, but since then, there have been a number of pieces of literature that have ‘documented’ the existence of the creature.

The Kraken in Writing, Movies and Music

  • “Release the Kraken” has become a popular saying in culture. It comes from the movie “Clash of the Titans”, released in 2010.
  • One famous appearance of the creature occurs in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”.