The Kraken Re-released

“Release the Kraken!” That’s the famous line from Clash of the Titans, both the 2010 and 1981 versions. Too bad there’s no Kraken in Greek mythology. Clash of the Titans is loosely based on the legend of Perseus, who slew a creature called Cetus – a sea monster, which may have been a whale, a sea serpent or other large beast. In fact, the latin word for whale is cetus and was taken from this myth. A constellation, Cetus, represents a sea monster or a whale.

Both Titans movies portray the Kraken as a creature with a scaly body, defined head and torso, big teeth and multiple limbs. Kraken 1981 has four arms with hands. Kraken 2010 has tentacles and possibly claws. (there's something familiar about that face however – am I the only person who sees a definite resemblance between Kraken 2010 and the Rancor Monster from Star Wars?)

The Kraken has also appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, destroying ships and attempting to munch on Jack Sparrow. Here it looks a lot like a giant squid, except that instead of a beak, it has a circular mouth with multiple rows of pointed teeth – like the Sarlacc, the sand pit monster from Star Wars. (Yup, two entirely different movies seem to have borrowed heavily from Return of the Jedi in order to create a Kraken.) In 2006, the SciFi channel released Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep, in which the legendary creature was a giant octopus guarding a treasure.

No stranger to pop culture, the Kraken has quite a literary history too. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne modeled his giant octopus after stories of the Kraken. Verne was also inspired by a Lord Alford Tennyson poem: The Kraken (1830).

Historically, however, the Kraken comes to us from tales of Norwegian sailors and fishermen in the twelfth century. It’s not a creature of Norse mythology, although it was thought to be a minion of Aegir, god of the sea. The name itself, Kraken, comes from krake, a Scandinavian word for an unhealthy animal, or something twisted. Bishop Erik Pontopiddan wrote about the Kraken in his 1752 book, The Natural History of Norway. It is thought that Pontopiddan based his detailed accounts on sailors’ tales of giant squid. Nor was he the first to write about the animal.

For centuries, the Kraken was considered by the scientific world to be merely a creature of folklore, or to use one of today’s terms, a cryptid. Cryptids are creatures whose existence is not proven. This can include animals thought to be extinct or animals for which no evidence exists outside of legend. Yet. (I wrote a blog on the subject of cryptids at http://waypastnormal.blogspot.com/2009/02/day-of-cryptids.html )

Today, however, the Kraken is officially off the cryptid list. Unlike many other famous monsters, it has a basis in reality. Anyone watching programs like Nat Geo and the Science Channel has no doubt heard that giant squid really do exist – science fiction has become science fact. In 2007, a 33-foot specimen weighing over 1,000 pounds was caught off the coast of New Zealand. Its “beach ball” sized eyes are the largest in the animal kingdom ever studied. However, its beak was considerably smaller than those found in the stomachs of some sperm whales (whose favorite food is calamari apparently), showing that there are much bigger specimens of this squid in the ocean. A specimen about 46 feet long was recently filmed in the deep ocean by a team of Japanese scientists.

So the Kraken – aka The Giant Squid – exists. Here’s what we don’t know: how many other creatures are out there that simply haven’t been discovered yet by science? For instance, did you know that the gorilla was unknown to the Western world until 1847 when someone finally found a skull? Sure, there had been stories for centuries, but nobody believed them. Suddenly, tales and sightings of the Sasquatch seem a little less far-fetched. With ever-improving technology and instant communications, it seems only a matter of time before we discover new – and old – creatures that share the planet with us.

Your turn – what do you think? What legendary creature do you think might be “discovered” in the future? Is there an animal that you wish was real?

Dani Harper
http://www.daniharper.com/


About the picture – in 1990, Canada issued a set of four stamps celebrating these legendary creatures: The Kraken, the Loup-Garou (werewolf), Bigfoot and Ogopogo (lake monster). So far, only one of the creatures has been proven to exist.