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Beware the Kraken

In the lead up to the release of our ‘Beware the Kraken’ tee, we have put together some brief history of the legendary sea monster, to inspire and enlighten those for when they next wear their SACANTICS tee. We hope you enjoy.

The Kraken is a legendary octopus/squid-like sea monster of gigantic size in Scandinavian folklore, sent to prey on unwary ships and mariners - the subject of myth and legend that circulated for centuries on the Seven Seas amongst Pirates.

This was a fearsome creature with many tentacles, that could reach to the top of a ship’s mainmast and without any great effort capsize a fully-rigged vessel, sending any man down to Davy Jone’s locker. Not to mention, huge suckers on its tentacles strong enough to pull the flesh clean away from a sailor’s face. The Kraken is a creatures who’s very name was enough to strike fear and terror into any pirate’s heart and soul.

According to the Norse sagas, the Kraken dwelled off the coasts of Norway and Greenland, terrorising nearby sailors. Authors over the years have suggested that the legend may have originated from sightings of giant squids that grow to 13-15 meters (40-50 feet) in length.

In both Norwegian and Swedish, ‘Kraken’ is the definite form of ‘krake’, a word designating an unhealthy animal or something twisted. In modern German, ‘Krake’ means ‘Octopus’, but can also refer to the legendary Kraken. ‘Kraken' is also an old Norwegian word for octopus and an old euphemism in Swedish for whales used when the original word became taboo as it was believed it could summon the creatures.

After returning from Greenland, the unknown author of the old Norwegian natural history work ‘Konungs Skuggsja', described in detail the physical characteristics and feeding behaviour of these beasts. The narrator proposed there must be only two in existence, stemming from the observation that the beasts have always been sighted in the same parts of the Greenland seas:

“There is a fish that is still unmentioned, which it is scarcely advisable to speak about on account of its size, because it will seem to most people incredible. There are only a very few who can speak upon it clearly, because it is seldom near land nor appears where it may be seen by fisherman, and I suppose there are not many of this sort of fish in the sea. Most often in our tongue we call it “Hafgufa” (Kraken). Nor can I conclusively speak about its length in ells, because the times he has shown before men, he has appeared more like land than like a fish.”

In the late 13th Century version of the old Icelandic saga, ‘Orvar-Odor’, there is an inserted episode of a journey bound for Helluland (Baffin Island) which takes the protagonists through the Greenland sea. Here they spot two gigantic sea-monsters called ‘Hafgufa’ (‘Sea Mist’) and ‘Lyngbakr’ (‘Heather-Back’) - the ‘Hafgufa' is believed to be a reference to the Kraken:

“Now I will tell you that there are two sea-monsters. One is called the Hafuga (Sea- Mist), another Lyngbakr (Heather-Back). The Lyngbakr is the largest whale in the world, but the Hafgufa is the largest monster in the sea. It is the nature of this creature to swallow men and ships, and even whales and everything else within reach. It stays submerged for days, then rears its head and nostrils above surface and stays that way at least until the change of tide. Now, that sound we just sailed through was the space between its jaws, and its nostrils and lower jaw were those rocks that appeared in the sea. While the Lyngbakr was the island we saw sinking down.”

The legendary sea monster, ‘The Kraken’, which closely resembled a giant squid, said to be the length of 10 ships, was a ‘Leviathan’. Interestingly, ‘Leviathan’ is a sea monster referred to in the Tanakh and the Bible. In Demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper. The word Leviathan has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature. And during the Age of Piracy one of the East India Trading Company naval warships was named ‘The Leviathan’, whilst the Norse even believed the Kraken would rise to the surface at the end of the world…

So there you are, just a few things to wet your SACANTICAL appetite when next time you pull on your SACANTICS 'Beware the Kraken' tee.

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