Kraken Myths and Legends of Ancient Sea Monsters

June 28, 2023 (Last updated on: July 19, 2023)
A giant sea monster Kraken is attacking the ships

In natural history, the Kraken is a legendary sea monster that has captured the imagination of people for centuries. But what is a Kraken? Often depicted as a giant squid or octopus-like creature with long tentacles, the Kraken is a mythical beast in many tales of sea mischief and epic battles.

In this article, we’ll explore the world of the Kraken, from its origins in mythology to its depiction in popular culture.

The Giant Squid: Nature’s Real-Life Kraken

While the Kraken may be a mythological creature, the giant squid is a real animal in the world’s oceans. With its huge eyes and long tentacles, the giant squid is often compared to the Kraken monster of legend.

Many legends about the Kraken were believed to be inspired by sightings of other squid species, including the giant squid.

Giant squids are one of the most enormous creatures in the ocean, with some individuals growing up to 43 feet in length. They live at depths of up to 3000 feet and are thought to feed on smaller squid, fish, and crustaceans. Despite their size, they are elusive creatures rarely seen by humans. The first images of a live giant squid were captured in 2004.

Origins of the Kraken Myth

“Kraken” comes from the German word “Krake,” which means octopus. The Kraken myth originates in the northern peoples of Europe, particularly in Norway. In the 16th century, the legend of the Kraken attacking ships was first mentioned in Olaus Magnus’ “Carta Marina,” a beguiling map of the waters surrounding Norway.

According to this legend, the Kraken was a sea serpent with starfish-type protuberances and large horns on its head.

Over time, the legend of the Kraken evolved, with some tales describing it as a giant octopus or squid-like creature that could attack ships. In Norse legend, the creature’s arms were said to be so long that they could lay hold of a ship and pull it under the water. The Kraken became a symbol of the dangers of the ocean and the power of nature.

The Kraken in Literature and Art

The Kraken has been depicted in many works of literature and art throughout history. Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” mentions the Kraken as a giant cephalopod that could attack ships.

In Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” the crew of a French ship encounters a giant squid. The Kraken has also been featured in many movies, television shows, and video games, further cementing its place in popular culture.

The Kraken has been depicted in many different ways in literature and art. Some depictions show it as a giant squid with long tentacles, while others show it as a monstrous octopus with many arms. In some stories, the Kraken is depicted as able to disguise itself as an island, luring ships to their doom.

The Kraken as a Sea Monster

The Kraken is just one of the many sea monsters found in mythology. Other legendary sea monsters include the sea bishop, the sea monk, and the sea serpent.

The Kraken is often depicted as the most powerful of these sea creatures, with six heads and many arms that it can use to attack ships and other fish.

In some tales, the Kraken is said to be capable of creating whirlpools or other natural disasters. It is also often associated with the idea of the unknown and the dangers of the deep sea.

For sailors who spent weeks or months at sea, the Kraken represented the unknown dangers that lurked beneath the water’s surface.

The Gigantic Kraken: Fact or Fiction?

Many people believe that sightings of the giant squid inspired the Kraken myth. While the giant squid is a real animal, there is no evidence to suggest that it can grow to the enormous size of the Kraken.

However, there have been reports of Kraken attacks throughout history, including one legendary Kraken that reportedly took on an entire ship’s crew.

Some reports of Kraken attacks describe a much larger creature than any known squid species. These reports are difficult to verify, but they have captured the imagination of people for centuries.

Some scientists speculate that the Kraken myth may be based on sightings of colossal squid, another species of giant squid that lives in the waters around Antarctica.

Famous Kraken Encounters and Sightings

One of the most famous Kraken encounters occurred in 1180 when a creature with giant tentacles attacked a Norwegian fishing boat.

In the early 1900s, a sperm whale was found with scars believed to have been caused by a Kraken. There have also been reports of Kraken attacks on other sea creatures, including a giant lobster reportedly killed by a Kraken.

In 1848, Norwegian sailors claimed to have seen a massive creature attacking a ship. The creature had long tentacles and was described as large as an island. However, whether this sighting was a genuine Kraken attack or simply a tall tale is unclear.

Despite these reports, no concrete evidence suggests that the Kraken is a real animal. However, the oceans are full of mysterious creatures, and new species may be discovered.

The Reality of Giant Squids and Other Sea Monsters

Although the Kraken may be a myth, many real-life sea monsters exist in the natural world. The ocean’s depths are home to many fascinating creatures, from giant octopuses to colossal octopuses.

These creatures have adapted to life in a harsh and unforgiving environment, using their unique abilities to hunt and survive.

Studying these creatures is an important part of natural history, helping us understand the ocean’s mysteries. Scientists have discovered many new species recently, including the giant squid and the colossal squid. Despite technological advances, the ocean remains a vast and largely unexplored frontier.

Kraken in Pop Culture

The Kraken continues to be a popular subject in popular culture. It has been featured in countless movies, television shows, comic books, and video games. The Kraken’s popularity is a testament to people’s fascination with sea monsters and the ocean’s mysterious depths.

One of the most famous depictions of the Kraken is in the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” In this movie, the Kraken is depicted as a massive creature with tentacles that can destroy entire ships.

The Kraken has also been featured in video games such as “Sea of Thieves,” where players can battle the creature for treasure and glory.


The legend of the Kraken may be a myth, but it has captured our imagination for centuries. From the earliest maps and legends of the creature’s arms attacking ships to modern-day depictions in popular culture, the Kraken remains one of the most beguiling creatures of the deep.

While there is no evidence to suggest that the Kraken is a real animal, the natural history of Norway and other parts of the world continue to reveal new and fascinating creatures that once seemed impossible.

Whether we are captivated by the idea of a monstrous sea creature capable of wreaking havoc on ships or fascinated by the ocean’s mysteries, the Kraken will continue to be a symbol of the unknown and the power of nature as we continue to explore the depths of the ocean, who knows what other secrets we may uncover about the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Kraken a squid or octopus?

The Kraken is a legendary sea monster that has been the subject of many myths and legends throughout history. Its physical appearance has been described in different ways, but most commonly, it is depicted as a giant octopus or squid-like creature.

However, the exact nature of the Kraken is still debated among scholars and experts. While some believe it to be a real animal that may have existed in the past, others argue that it is purely mythical.

What does the name Kraken mean?

The name “Kraken” is believed to have originated from the Norwegian language, where it means “an unhealthy animal” or “something twisted.” The word has also been associated with other meanings, such as “Krake,” which refers to a type of crab, and “krækja,” which means “a twisted or deformed creature.”

The name has become synonymous with the legendary sea monster that terrorizes sailors and ships.

Did the Kraken exist?

No concrete evidence suggests that the Kraken ever existed as a real animal. However, several accounts of sea monsters throughout history may have inspired the legend of the Kraken. Some experts believe these sightings were of rare giant squids or octopuses that can grow up to 40 feet in length.

What is the story of Kraken?

The story of the Kraken varies depending on the culture and time period in which it was told. However, it is most commonly associated with Norse mythology, where it was said to dwell off the coast of Norway and Greenland.

According to legend, the Kraken was a gigantic sea monster that could devour entire ships and crews with its enormous tentacles. Sailors feared encountering the beast and often offered sacrifices to appease it.

Was the Kraken a squid or octopus?

As mentioned earlier, the exact nature of the Kraken is still debated among experts. While most depictions of the creature show it as a giant octopus or squid, some believe it may have been based on other sea creatures, such as whales or crocodiles. Due to the lack of concrete evidence, it is impossible to say what the Kraken may have looked like.

Who is Kraken in Greek Mythology?

In Greek mythology, there is no specific character or creature named Kraken. However, several sea monsters are similar to the Kraken in size and ferocity. For example, Scylla was a sea monster with multiple heads and tentacles that would attack passing ships.

Charybdis was another sea monster that created whirlpools and sucked in ships. These legends may have inspired the Kraken myth in later cultures.