December 16 – Kraken
The kraken is a giant sea monster from Scandinavian folklore, said to plague sailors. Olaus Magnus, a Swedish author most well known for his Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (A Description of the Northern Peoples), described the kraken as a monstrous fish with sharp horns and a beard hanging down. Our 1567 edition of his work includes this woodcut illustration of the kraken complete with its sharp horns and beard.
His work informed Gesner’s, resulting in very similar depictions of the kraken (or bearded whale) as shown in this illustration from the Historiae animalium (1551-1558). A very similar image also features in the sea monster chart in Münster’s Cosmographia (1550) featured in the December 3 post.
Much later illustrations of this beast tended to be more squid-like, such as Denys Montfort’s octopus-like kraken in 1801.