Prelude: My mom called me roughly this time last year and said “Alexa, what is a kraken and why are all my kids obsessed with it. I can’t even spell it?!” I responded that cephalopods are cool and the ocean is the new frontier. She asked me to send her some info and I said “How about a short essay and a PowerPoint” – she’s a teacher, was in a middle school at the time, and I was sort of poking fun, but she took me up on the offer. I opted for an essay that would never pass in school , but would do the trick for her to have some insight. I sent her the following:
Since the late 18th century, kraken have been depicted in a number of ways, primarily as large octopus-like creatures, and it has often been alleged that Pontoppidan’s kraken might have been based on sailors’ observations of the giant squid.
The legend of the kraken continues to the present day, with numerous references existing in popular culture, including film, literature, television, video games and other miscellaneous examples (e.g. postage stamps, a rollercoaster ride, and a rum product).
Kraken appear in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and in the new version (2010) of Clash of the Titans (“RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!” – famous line from movie). These likely started the interest in Kraken. (Though, for me, it started with James Bond’s Octopussy- even though that’s an octopus and not a Kraken). And in the game Age of Empires: Age of Mythology (which, by the way, you bought for me). They’re also super-common in many video games because they’re mythological which makes them perfect for Sci-fi and fantasy games as threats.
Octopi in general are the coolest creature/threat of the deep. When it comes to “dangerous” creatures in the water, you really only get sharks and cephalopods; and sharks are old news and overplayed. Also, Cthulhu are human-like creatures with cephalopod-like faces that have recently become popular in various sci-fi and fantasy shows
“You see, octopuses are extremely intelligent. They’re the only invertebrates known to use tools, and they have exceptional short- and long-term memories. In the waters off Indonesia, the mimic octopus protects itself by imitating the shapes and colors of other sea creatures like the venomous sole and the lion fish. Sometimes octopuses can be trained, but they don’t always like it. One lab had to stop their behavioral experiments when one of their octopuses kept squirting water at them every time they approached the tank. And don’t forget Paul the psychic octopus, unquestionably the biggest international celebrity of 2010.
Octopuses are badasses. They’re the only cephalopod known to crawl out of the water to hunt. Fishermen have caught them crawling into boats to steal their catch; and once, some biologists filmed their octopus sneaking across the laboratory floor to steal a crab from a neighboring tank and carry it home for dinner. If you’re walking on the rocks near Australia or New Zealand, watch out you don’t step on a tiny blue-ringed octopus: its venomous bite can kill you.”
Further, octopi/kraken are easily drawn to be either cute or menacing- so everyone can relate ☺
There are youtube videos of octopi being put in a jar, and they open it from the inside. There are lots of videos bringing up the intelligence of octopi, which makes them interesting and exciting but that more dangerous. An intelligent, deadly, creature, potentially the size of a tall building, is a pretty terrifying (in a cool way) threat- like Godzilla, but cooler and to some, more realistic.
Also, steampunk (a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology) is making a comeback and so is mythology.
Many of the visualizations of steampunk have their origins with, among others, Walt Disney‘s film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), including the design of the story’s submarine the Nautilus, its interiors, and the crew’s underwater gear; and George Pal’s film The Time Machine (1960), with the design of the time machine itself. This theme is also carried over to Disney’s theme parks in the designs of The Mysterious Island section of Tokyo Disney Sea theme park and Disneyland Paris‘ Discoveryland area. Many Steampunk items include octopi and Kraken (ie, 20,000 leagues under the sea) so with the rise of Steampunk comes the rise of the Kraken/Cephalopods)
I would describe steampunk as the cross between the Victorian era and early machinery.
There’s also a $14 book called “Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid” that does a history of squid/kraken.
That’s everything I’ve got.
Hope this helps.
Love you ❤
She said thank you, and then told me she read it to her students and that they loved it. I found it in my GoogleDocs and figured I’d share. Hope you enjoyed!