Spiced rum lovers and fans of Pirates of the Carribbean will know of the Kraken - a giant octopus like creature that sprang from Norwegian legend to haunt the seas and our imaginations alike. Forget the White Whale, the Kraken has quite the seafaring following, and is a legend in it's own right.
The history of this notorious creature from the deep goes back to 1180, when an account written by King Sverre of Norway, that tells the tale that the Kraken dwells off the coasts of Norway and Greenland and terrorises the sailors. It was then highlighted again in a 13th century Icelandic saga called Orvar-Oddr, which is about two sea monsters, one of them supposedly the Kraken. Furthering from these tales, the Kraken immersed itself in taxonomic classification of living organisms in the 1735's edition of Systema Naturae, This classification, written by a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist by the name of Carolus Linneaus, classified the Kraken as a "cephalopod", meaning like most octopus and squid it is characterized by bilateral body symmetry, a prominent head, and a set of arms or tentacles (muscular hydrostats) modified from the primitive molluscan foot.
The legend became real soon afterwards. Back in the 18th century, Norwegian bishop Erik Pontoppidon insisted he has seen the Kraken first hand many times, saying “Our fisherman usually affirm that when they row out several miles that the Kraken is at the bottom of the sea.”
It was depicted that when the Kraken would appear, there would be bubbling on the ocean's surface and a scattering of marine life as the vanished from the area in a terrifying panic. Then a great black form would rise from the depths and the sailors would “see the monster come to surface. … Its back, which appears to be a mile and a half in circumference, looks, at first, like a number of small islands, surrounded with something which floats like sea-weeds; here and there a larger rising is observed like sandy banks; at last several bright points or horns appear, which grow thicker the higher they rise, and sometimes they stand up as high, and as large, as the masts of middle-sized vessels.”
The Kraken is said to cross ten warships side by side in length and had tentacles that could easily pull a ship into the ocean, but it's massive size would create such a whirlpool when it dove back down below that it could suck a whole fleet underwater.
Based on modern scientific findings and historians, we now know that the mythological Kraken is likely to have originated from the giant squid, which can reach up to 18 meters in length and has been rarely seen by humans as it lives in very deep waters. Real giant squid can grow up to 600 lbs and it is very likely that these were the creatures that ancient Icelandic sailors had been privy to see.
Nonetheless, the Kraken has cemented itself into popular culture, from the popular spiced rum brand, to comic books such as The Umbrella Academy, Captain Marvel, Aquaman, and even Wonder Woman. The Kraken was a primary feature in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dean Man's Chest, and At World's End, as well as the 2010 movie Clash of the Titans.