When it comes to horrific creatures, few evoke as many nightmarish visions as the Kraken.
The Kraken sits at or near the top of the cryptozoological food chain. An enormous squid/octopus/Claymation gorilla-fish monster, it conjures images of sunken ships and decimated coastlines.
Like most legendary monsters, the Kraken’s origins run far into history. In fact, it may be one of the oldest around, thanks to its sea-faring ways.
To get all literary for a second, here’s the Etymology of the beasts name, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The English word kraken is taken from Norwegian. In Norwegian Kraken is the definite form of krake, a word designating an unhealthy animal or something twisted (cognate with the English crook and crank). In modern German, Krake (plural and declined singular: Kraken) means octopus, but can also refer to the legendary kraken.
Since the beginning of time, man has traveled and attempted to bend the sea to his will. So much of the Earth is water that the human race has been inextricably tied to the ocean since the very start. Food, travel, trade, all these came from the ocean.
Unlike land, however, the ocean was a frightening and often dangerous place full of unknown menaces. Early sailors and merchants would tell tales of gigantic sea monsters rising from the depths to attack ships and pull men to their watery doom. The Kraken is the granddaddy of these giant beasts. Images of it as a monstrous octopus could potentially mean that ships were attacked by giant squid (hooray cephalopods!) while at sea. Even modern sea-faring vessels have been known to have run in’s with aggressive giant squid, if they grow large enough.
The Kraken has been portrayed in a number of books and movies, with 1981’s Clash of The Titans, and its awful 2010 re-make (what were you thinking Ralph Fiennes?) being the most iconic. In 1981 the creature appears as a weird, giant sea-ape with four arms. Sort of like Goro from Mortal Kombat and Sea-Monkeys had terrible, oversized offspring. It lays waste to ancient Grecian architecture until Perseus finally turns it into stone using a Medusa head. Its new-millennium CGI form was more reptilian. Lots of tentacles, and a Godzilla-esque head. Oddly enough, the most popular incarnations are probably the farthest from early descriptions of the monster. More likely, the giant squid from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea is a more faithful interpretation of the Kraken as it was originally described.
Beyond its size and power, what makes the Kraken so scary is it foreign environment. Even today, much of the ocean remains a mystery, and human beings are far more vulnerable in the water than on land, since it’s an alien environment to us. We have little control over the sea or its inhabitants, and the idea of some massive creature lurking in the unknown black depths, waiting to strike, is horrifying.
It’s no wonder the Kraken has held its place in the pantheon of legendary monsters for so long. This enormous terror lurking just beneath the surface continues to swim amongst our deepest fears and capture our imaginations.
B.L. Daniels is a writer and lover of weird fiction. His short stories have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. He lives in New England with his wife, kids, and a couple of cats. The cats are currently helping him complete his next novel.
You can check out his blog, Suburban Syntax, or follow him on Instagram @bldauthor