The Kraken

This enormous monster, peculiar to the Northern Seas, is scarcely a

fable, because huge Calamaries are not infrequently seen. Poor

Pontoppidan has often been considered a Danish Ananias, but there are

authentic accounts of these enormous Cuttle-fish; for instance, in 1854,

one was stranded at the Skag, in Jutland, which was cut in pieces by the

fishermen in order to be used as bait, and filled many wheelbarrows.

, either in 1860 or 1861, was stranded between Hillswick and

Scalloway, on the west of Scotland, and its tentacles were sixteen feet

long, the pedal arms about half as long, and its body seven feet. The

French ship Alecton, on 30th November 1861, between Madeira and

Teneriffe, slipped a rope with a running knot over an enormous calamary,

but only brought a portion on board, the body breaking off. It was

estimated at being sixteen to eighteen feet in length, without counting

its arms. The legend of its sinking ships and taking sailors from them

is common to many countries, even the Chinese and Japanese thus

depicting them.

Olaus Magnus gives us a graphic picture of a huge Polyp, thus seizing a

sailor, and dragging him from his ship in spite of all his efforts to

prevent him. On the next page is a huge calamary shown with a man in its

clutches. This is both in Gesner and Aldrovandus. But this terror to

mariners had its master in the Conger eel. Gesner, who has taken his

picture from some description of the World, introduces it as a

Sea-Serpent; but Aristotle says that "the Congers devour the Polypi,

which cannot adhere to them on account of the smoothness of their

surface." Magnus also speaks of the antipathy between the two.

According to Pliny, quoting Trebius Niger, the Polypus shows a fair

amount of cunning:--"Shell fish are destitute of sight, and, indeed, all

other sensations but those which warn them of hunger, and the approach

of danger. Hence it is that the Polypus lies in ambush till the fish

opens its shell, immediately upon which, it places within it a small

pebble, taking care, at the same time, to keep it from touching the body

of the animal, lest, by making some movement, it should chance to eject

it. Having made itself thus secure, it attacks its prey, and draws out

the flesh, while the other tries to contract itself, but all in vain, in

consequence of the separation of the shell, thus effected by the

insertion of the wedge.

"In addition to the above, the same author states that there is not an

animal in existence, that is more dangerous for its powers of destroying

a human being when in the water. Embracing his body, it counteracts his

struggles, and draws him under with its feelers and its numerous

suckers, when, as often is the case, it happens to make an attack upon

a shipwrecked mariner or a child. If, however, the animal is turned

over, it loses all its power; for when it is thrown upon its back, the

arms open of themselves.

"The other particulars which the same author has given, appear still

more closely to border upon the marvellous. At Carteia, in the preserves

there, a Polypus was in the habit of coming from the sea to the pickling

tubs that were left open, and devouring the fish laid in salt there--for

it is quite astonishing how eagerly all sea animals follow even the very

smell of salted condiments, so much so, that it is for this reason that

the fishermen take care to rub the inside of the wicker fish-kipes with

them.--At last, by its repeated thefts and immoderate depredations, it

drew down upon itself the wrath of the keepers of the works. Palisades

were placed before them, but these the Polypus managed to get over by

the aid of a tree, and was only caught at last by calling in the

assistance of trained dogs, which surrounded it at night, as it was

returning with its prey; upon which, the keepers, awakened by the noise,

were struck with alarm at the novelty of the sight presented.

"First of all, the size of the Polypus was enormous beyond all

conception: and then it was covered all over with dried brine, and

exhaled a most dreadful stench. Who could have expected to find a

Polypus there, or could have recognised it as such, under these

circumstances? They really thought that they were joining battle with

some monster, for at one instant, it would drive off the dogs by its

horrible fumes, and lash at them with the extremities of its feelers;

while at another, it would strike them with its stronger arms, giving

blows with so many clubs, as it were; and it was only with the greatest

difficulty that it could be dispatched with the aid of a considerable

number of three-pronged fish-spears. The head of this animal was shewn

to Lucullus; it was in size as large as a cask of fifteen amphorae

(about 135 gallons), and had a beard (iti tentaculae), to use the

expression of Trebius himself, which could hardly be encircled with both

arms, full of knots, like those upon a club, and thirty feet in length;

the suckers, or calicules, as large as an urn, resembled a basin in

shape, while the teeth again were of a corresponding largeness: its

remains, which were carefully preserved as a curiosity, weighed seven

hundred pounds."

Olaus Magnus says:--"On the Coasts of Norway there is a Polypus, or

creature with many feet, which hath a pipe on his back, whereby he puts

to Sea, and he moves that sometimes to the right, and sometimes to the

left. Moreover, with his Legs as it were by hollow places, dispersed

here and there, and by his Toothed Nippers, he fastneth on every living

Creature that comes near to him, that wants blood. Whatever he eats he

heaps up in the holes where he resides: Then he casts out the Skins,

having eaten the flesh, and hunts after fishes that swim to them: Also

he casts out the shels, and hard outsides of Crabs that remain. He

changeth his colour by the colour of the stone he sticks unto,

especially when he is frighted at the sight of his Enemy, the Conger. He

hath 4 great middle feet, in all 8; a little body, which the great feet

make amends for. He hath also some small feet that are shadowed and can

scarce be perceived. By these he sustains, moves, and defends himself,

and takes hold of what is from him: and he lies on his back upon the

stones, that he can scarce be gotten off, onlesse you put some stinking

smell to him."