Fictional and real monsters from the deep

(ORDO NEWS) — The image of a giant clam has always excited the imagination of people. In the mythology of almost all coastal peoples there are such octopuses, cuttlefish and squids. Do they have a real prototype in nature?

The phenomenon of the sea troll

it means that the kraken rises, and then the fishermen stop fishing, take up the oars and swim away as quickly as possible. When the fishermen return to the shore with a rich catch, they say that they “fished on the kraken.”

But this is a dangerous business, because the kraken is great. “So the bishop of the city of Bergen, Eric Pontoppidan (1686-1774), wrote about the mysterious sea monster in his famous book” An attempt to describe the natural history of Norway “.

This is one of the most impressive stories about giant squids, but they have been known since antiquity. They were already mentioned by Pliny the Elder and described in detail by Scandinavian medieval legends.

However, the word kraken itself did not exist then. For example, in the Norwegian book of 1250 “King’s Mirror”, written to teach the future Norwegian king Magnus VI, or in the saga of Odda-Strela, a giant sea monster resembling a cephalopod is told. In both sources he is called hafgufa or lyngbakr.

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The name kraken first appears in the treatise “History of the Northern Peoples” by the famous Swedish cartographer Olaf Magnus (1490-1557), who created the first reliable map of Northern Europe, now known as Carta Marina.

Kraken is the definite form of krake (in Scandinavian languages, the definite article is added to the back of the word). It is believed that its original meaning was “curved, curved”.

In this case, the English words crook (hook) and crank (turn, bend) are related to him. The Norwegian word krake is also noted in the meaning of “undersized crooked tree”. In modern German, Krake (plural Kraken) means octopus.

We can offer a slightly different etymology of the word kraken, linking it with the Proto-Slavic word *kork (foot).

Bulgarian “krak” (leg), Macedonian “krak” (branch, offshoot, branch and leg), Slovenian krak (long leg), kraka (leg of a pig, ham), Serbian “krak” (oblong part of an object , branch, leg (long)), Polish krok (step), Russian dialect “korok” (thigh).

From the same root, the Russian words “ham” (meat from the leg of an animal) and “cuttlefish” are formed (the spelling of this word through “a” is a consequence of akania). True, in the Germanic languages, words related to the Proto-Slavic *kork were not found.

The above-mentioned Pontoppidan also gives the descriptive names of the animal anker-trold (anchor troll) and soe-trold (sea troll).

In the 16th – 17th centuries, the bodies of dead sea giants were thrown out on the shores of Denmark and Iceland a couple of times by the sea, which was reflected in the Icelandic chronicle of 1639: equal in length and thickness to a human, had seven tails, each two cubits long (1 m 20 cm), with growths similar to eyeballs with golden eyelids.

In addition to seven tails, there was another one above them, especially long – from four to five toises (4.95-5.50 m). In his body there were no bones or cartilage. ”

Most eyewitnesses of the kraken phenomenon mention the long tentacles (“horns”) of the animal, with which the monster can allegedly drag the ship to the bottom.

More than once, whalers found the imprints of suckers of a giant squid on the skin of the sperm whales they killed, which caused the emergence of stories about life-and-death battles between a whale and a cephalopod.

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A giant squid is attacking the ship. Engraving from Edgar Etherington’s Sea Monsters: Legends and Facts (1887)

Thanks to the popularity of the writings of Olaus Magnus and Pontoppidan, the Norwegian word “kraken” has found its way into many languages.

In 1802, the French zoologist Pierre Denis de Montfort wrote the book “General and Private Natural History of Mollusks”, where for the first time in scientific literature it was told how a giant octopus pulled a three-masted ship to the bottom.

The zoologist obtained information about giant cephalopods by interviewing whalers in Dunkirk. Later, Denis de Montfort put forward a hypothesis according to which krakens caused the death of a group of as many as ten ships in the Atlantic Ocean in 1782.

However, the giant squid known to Europeans has many relatives in the folklore of other regions of the globe.

Iku-Turso – Finnish nightmare

The species identity of the Finnish sea monster Iku-Turso (Tursas, Meritursas) is unclear. The word tursas in the old days was called a walrus, but now the Finns usually call it mursu.

The word meritursas, literally “sea Tursas”, is the name of an octopus, although the word mustekala or “ink fish” is more commonly used for this. In “Kalevala” his name is Tursas or Iku-Turso (“Eternal (ancient) Turso”).

Nothing definite can be said about the appearance of Iku-Turso, he is described by the epithets tuhatpää (“thousand-headed”) and tuhatsarvi (“thousand-horned”), as well as partalainen (“bearded”).

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Tursas (Meritursas, Turisas Iku-Turilas, Turso, Iku-Turso)

In “Kalevala” he is mentioned twice. For the first time, Iku-Turso rises from the depths of the sea and sets fire to a haystack standing on the shore, and places an acorn in the remaining ashes, from which a giant oak grows.

In another case, the mistress of the sinister northern country of Pohjola, having discovered that Väinemöinen had taken away the wonderful Sampo mill, conjures Iku-Turso to overtake and punish the kidnapper:

Iku-Turso, you son of the Elder! // Raise your head from the sea, // Raise the top of your head from the waves, // Overthrow the Kaleva’s husbands, // Drown the friends of the streams, // Let those evil heroes // Die in the depths of the ramparts; // Return Sampo to Pohjola, // Capturing him from that boat! (translated by L. P. Belsky)

However, Väinemöinen easily coped with Iku-Turso: he pulled him out of the water by his ears, severely scolded him and let him go, ordering him not to rise to the surface and disturb people until the end of time.

Some Finnish legends say that it was from Iku-Turso that the “air maiden” Ilmatar conceived Väinemönen (it is usually believed that he has no father). Given that Väinemöinen was born shortly after the creation of the world, then Iku-Turso turns out to be one of the oldest creatures.

In the writings of the Finnish bishop Mikael Agricola (1510-1557), among the pagan gods of Tavastia, a region in southern Finland, a certain Turisas is mentioned, who “brings victory in battle.” Some researchers suggest a connection between Iku-Turso and Turses – giants from Scandinavian mythology.

Thunderstorm of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk – Akkorokamui

The character of Ainu mythology Akkorokamui lives in the waters off the island of Hokkaido. It looks like a giant octopus or squid. It has been known since the 19th century and, according to legend, caught the eye of people not only on the island of Hokkaido, but also off the coast of Korea, China, and even off the island of Taiwan.

A typical legend about meeting him is contained in John Batchelor’s book “The Ainu and Their Folklore” (1901): three fishermen, catching swordfish, barely escaped when their boat was attacked by a huge sea monster with large bulging eyes.

It released a dark liquid with a very strong and unpleasant odor into the water. The legends about Akkorokamui say that it is bright red and resembles the reflection of the setting sun in the water. Its length reaches 120 meters. Due to its color and size, it is visible from afar.

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The Japanese included Akkorokamui among the Shinto deities – kami. After that, the monster’s temper improved somewhat, he began to give healing and knowledge to believers, but still he is a formidable octopus and terrible in anger, and it is impossible to escape from his tentacles.

Punishes Akkorokamui for violating ritual purity, therefore, before entering the temples dedicated to him, not only hands, but also feet should be washed.

There are Akkorokamui shrines not only in Hokkaido, but throughout Japan. Seafood is brought to him as offerings: fish, crabs, shellfish, and so on.

The fishermen hope that for such gifts he will send a good catch. Apparently, the ability of cephalopods to restore lost tentacles made Akkorokamui responsible for curing diseases of the hands and feet, including fractures.

Friend of cannibals – Te Veke-a-Muturangi

This giant squid took part in a historic event for the Maori people – the migration of their ancestors from the legendary ancestral home, the country of Hawaii, to New Zealand. According to the legends of some Maori tribes, a monstrous squid stole fish bait from a fisherman named Kupe.

Coupe chased after him. For a long time he sailed south across the ocean, until he saw unknown islands, to which he gave the name Aotearoa – “a long white cloud.” It is now the official Maori name for New Zealand.

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There are legends about a number of bays and straits off the coast of New Zealand that episodes of Kupe’s fight with a giant squid took place in them.

He overtook the squid Kupe in the strait separating the North and South Islands, where, after a long battle, he cut off his tentacles and killed him. And then he returned to Hawaii and told everyone about the beautiful country in the far south.

“Florida Monster” – Luska

The giant octopus of that name is the hero of the stories of the inhabitants of the Caribbean islands and one of the favorites of cryptozoologists, although not as popular as Nessie or Bigfoot.

Most often, news of meetings with him come from Andros Island in the Bahamas. Luska is described as an octopus with a length of 20 to 60 meters.

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Rumors about Lusk are fueled by periodic finds of glosters – large masses of organic matter thrown ashore by waves. Most often, globsters turn out to be fat masses from the decomposed bodies of dead whales or the corpses of giant sharks (Cetorhinus maximus), or very real giant squids, but not as big as the legendary Luska.

The famous gloster, discovered in 1896 on the coast of Florida near the city of St. Augustine, weighed, according to estimates, up to five tons.

It went down in history as the “monster from St. Augustine”, or “Florida monster”, and was mistaken by some researchers for the remains of an octopus and even managed to get the Latin name Octopus giganteus.

It seemed to enthusiasts that Luska’s reality had been confirmed. But scientists have found that the “Florida monster” was still a large piece of dead whale flesh.

This was done by analyzing the amino acid composition of the preserved samples and comparing the results with the amino acid composition of proteins from the mantles of cephalopods, fish meat, sharks and whales.

As a result, biochemists confirmed that the “Florida monster” and a number of other globsters are the remains of large warm-blooded vertebrates.

Victim of slander – Kanaloa

Kanaloa, having the appearance of a huge octopus or squid, was considered by the Hawaiians one of the ancient deities.

He is often mentioned in tandem with the god Cane, a participant in the creation of the world and man. For example, Kane was called during the construction of canoes, and Kanaloa during sailing; Kane ruled the constellations north of the zodiac and Kanaloa ruled the south.

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Octopus Kanaloa

There was nothing particularly malicious in Kanaloa, but in later legends he appears as a rebel defeated by other gods and thrown into the underworld as punishment. Kanaloa is beginning to be considered the god of evil, death and the underworld.

All this happened under the influence of early European missionaries, who, trying to find a foothold in the mythology of the Hawaiians for their preaching, “appointed” the gods Kane, Ku and Lono as an analogue of the Christian Trinity, and chose the role of Satan for Kanaloa.

Although the Hawaiians had a separate god of the underworld and death named Milu.

Nameless Eyak Octopus

The Eyak Indian people live in the southeastern part of Alaska, off the Pacific coast. Now there are only 428 of them.

The legend of the octopus was recorded on a tape recorder in 1965 by the famous linguist, specialist in endangered languages, Michael Krauss, according to Anna Harry, a representative of the Eyak people.

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It talks about a woman who was grabbed and dragged underwater by an octopus. Contrary to expectations, she did not drown, but became the wife of an octopus and settled with him in an underwater cave.

The octopus took care of his wife, brought her seals and fish, and even provided hot meals (“he cooked food like this: he would drag the seal and lay on it right on top, so the carcass was cooked”). They had two little octopuses.

Once the brothers of this woman, having gone on a sea hunt, met her when she was resting, sitting on a sea rock. They called her home, but she refused, but promised that her husband would catch various prey for them.

And after some time, a woman with children and an octopus husband completely moved to people. At the same time, the octopus acquired a human form.

The husband still went to the sea to hunt, but this time on a boat. One day he got into a fight with a whale and was killed by it. The woman then left her native village to live with the octopus sisters and soon died.

The grown children decided to avenge their father, found the whale, fought with it and killed it, and gave the carcass to their mother’s brothers. After that, they left the people.

What do zoologists say?

The truly scientific history of the giant squid can be traced back to 1857, when the outstanding Danish zoologist and botanist Japetus Smith Steenstrup (1813-1897) compiled the first description of the animal from a number of remains thrown out by the sea and gave it the Latin name Architeuthis dux.

On November 30, 1861, sailors from the French corvette Alekton, sailing near the Canary Islands, saw a giant octopus on the surface of the water. Its red body was about six meters long, and its eyes were the size of a cannonball.

Frightened by the myths about the kraken, the sailors fired cannons at the animal, and then tried to lift its body on board.

They did not succeed (the squid weighed, according to estimates, about two tons), but they managed to get a fragment of his body weighing about twenty kilograms, and the ship’s artist made a drawing of the animal.

These testimonies made a sensation in Europe. The French Academy of Sciences has recognized the existence of the giant squid.

Sailor encounters with the giant squid continued, and in the 1870s became even more frequent. Then the bodies of dead squids were found more than a hundred times (there are hypotheses that in these years there was an epidemic of some unknown disease among them).

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To date, eight species of the genus Architeuthis have been described. Although many details of their lives remain unknown, scientists have managed to find out a lot, and in the last decade even received several videos of giant squid in their natural environment.

Like all squids, they have ten tentacles, two of which – trapping tentacles – are longer than the others and are several times longer than the body of a squid. The maximum length of known specimens, taking into account the trapping tentacles, was 17.4 meters, and without them – a little more than six meters.

If the squid is measured along the length of the mantle, since it is determined by a rigid skeletal plate and does not depend on the state of the animal and external conditions, then up to five meters are obtained. And its weight reaches 275 kilograms.

The body color of the “archikalmar” is red. The largest suckers on the tentacles are up to six centimeters in diameter and are surrounded by a chitinous ring with sharp teeth (their traces are found on the skin of sperm whales).

By the way, giant squids really fight with sperm whales, but this is not a fight of two equal rivals, but desperate, but hopeless attempts of the squid to resist. The outcome of their fight is a foregone conclusion, and always in favor of the sperm whale.

Zoologists explained another legend associated with giant squids. It was said that the squid rises to the surface of the water, luring birds, and when they descend to feast on its body, it grabs a few with its tentacles and goes into the depths.

In fact, here, too, the squid does not win. It’s just that albatrosses do often find dead giant squids on the surface of the ocean and go down to them to eat.

In addition to the genus Architeuthis, there is the genus Mesonychoteuthis with a single species, the Antarctic giant squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni), which is also called the colossal squid.

If giant squid live in the temperate and subtropical waters of the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, then the colossal one lives only in the waters of the Southern Ocean, off the coast of Antarctica.

Its length is not as colossal as the name, and is comparable to a giant squid (mantle – up to 3 meters, with tentacles – 10 meters), but in terms of weight it really holds a record – up to 495 kilograms.

Most of the colossal squid that fell into the hands of scientists were removed from the stomachs of sperm whales when whale fishing was allowed.

Neither giant nor colossal squid pose a danger to people. The only species of squid known for its attacks on divers is much more modest in size. This is the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas). The length of his mantle is 1.9 meters, weight is up to 50 kilograms.

A number of attacks by these squids on divers at a depth of 100-200 meters are described. Sometimes they also disable deep sea cameras. But not a single person has yet died from their tentacles.

The largest octopuses are inferior in size to giant squids. The record individuals of the giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) were more than three meters long and weighed about half a centner, while their usual weight was about 30 kilograms.

This species lives in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the USA, Canada, the Aleutian and Commander Islands, Kamchatka, Sakhalin, the Kuriles, Korea and Japan. Its rich red color suggests that it was Enteroctopus dofleini that served as the prototype of Akkorokamui in Ainu mythology.

Another large species – the seven-legged octopus (Haliphron atlanticus) – can reach 75 kilograms with a length of 3.5 meters. Despite the Latin name, it can be found not only in the Atlantic, but also in the Pacific Ocean.

By the way, this octopus still has not seven, but eight legs, or rather tentacles, like the others. It’s just that one of them is greatly reduced and turned into an organ by which the male transfers the spermatophore to the mantle cavity of the female.

When there is no need for it, the eighth tentacle is hidden in a special cavity above the eye of the octopus.


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