According to Scandinavian mythology, the Kraken is a giant sea creature generally described as an octopus or squid. Probably no legendary sea monster was as horrifying as this. A kraken would attack a ship by wrapping their arms around the hull and capsizing it, and the crew would drown or be eaten by the monster.

Tales of a huge, many armed, headed or horned sea creatures exist from ancient times.  Many cultures have legends of kraken-like monsters, which serve as evidence that this creature was based on something real. For example, in Greek folklore, it’s the Scylla, a monster with six heads. In later times,1555, Olaus Magnus wrote of a sea creature with "sharp and long horns round about, like a tree root up by the roots. They are ten or twelve cubits long, very black, and with huge eyes..."

Although the term kraken is first found in print in Systema Naturae (Carolus Linnaeus - 1735), stories about this monster seem to date back to twelfth century. According to some tales, the Kraken was so huge that its body could be mistaken for an island. It is first mentioned in the Örvar-Oddr saga (a 13th century Icelandic saga).

Around that time (circa 1250), another report about the Kraken was documented in the Norwegian scientific work Konungs skuggsja work. It said that only two existed because they could not reproduce and would need so much food that they could not survive. It goes on to describe the Kraken’s feeding habits, claiming that it would trap the surrounding fish by stretching its neck with a belch releasing food from its mouth. The fish would be lured by the food and would enter the Kraken’s mouth to feed. As a result, vast quantities of them would be trapped.

"…incontestably the largest Sea monster in the world, with a width of one and a half miles…. [with protuberances that] seem to be the creature's arms, and, it is said, if they were to lay hold of the largest man-of-war, they would pull it down to the bottom."

Wrote the Bishop of Bergen, Erik Ludvigsen Pontoppidan, in his The Natural History of Norway.

The Kraken was also mentioned in the first edition of Systema Naturae [1735], a taxonomic classification of living organisms by the Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist Carolus Linnaeus . He classified the Kraken as a cephalopod, designating the scientific name Microcosmus marinus. Although any mention to Kraken was omitted in later editions of the Systema Naturae, Linnaeus described it in his later work, Fauna Suecica [1746], as a "unique monster" that "is said to inhabit the seas of Norway, but I have not seen this animal."

Although the Kraken was usually described as a giant octopus or squid, it has also been described as a "crab-like" creature, which was believed to cause large whirlpools.

In his 1781 work “Min son på galejan” (My Son On the Galley), the Swedish author Jacob Wallenberg described what to do if encountering the Kraken:

"Gradually, the Kraken ascends to the surface, and when he is at ten to twelve fathoms, the boats had better move out of his vicinity, as he will shortly thereafter burst up, like a floating island, spurting water from his dreadful nostrils and making ring waves around him, which can reach many miles. Could anyone doubt that this is the Leviathan of Job?"

The Kraken was said to lie at the bottom of the sea and surface in search of food or when disturbed, probably by a large ship.


-Rafn, Carl Christian, ed. (1829). Örvar-Odds saga. Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda 2 (Copenhagen: Enni Poppsku). pp. 248–249.

-Linnaeus, Carolus. Fauna Suecica. Stockholm: Laurentius Salvus. 1746. p. 386.

-Pontoppidan, Erich: Det første Forsøg paa Norges naturlige Historie, Copenhagen: Berlingske Arvingers Bogtrykkerie, 1752.

-Borges, Jorge Luis. The book of imaginary beings. Random House, 2002.

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