Chapter Five: The Kraken: Wherein we Confront the Most Terrifying Creature on Earth: Our Worst Fears Made Flesh, a 60-Foot-Long, Saucer-Eyed Monster of the Abyssal Depths.
Finally, the book gets interesting! The kraken, a pirate’s worst nightmare, turns out to be architeuthis, the giant squid. Monsters of the Sea admits that we know next to nothing about this elusive animal. However, because the giant squid has the largest eyes of any creature on Earth, it has been assumed that “Sight, more than any other sense, dominates the squid’s life” (Ellis 129). The giant squid can change color at will and has been referred to as the “devil fish.” Humankind obtained it’s first physical evidence of the existence of the giant squid in 1873 when “12-year-old Tom Piccot hacked off a 10-foot tentacle of a giant squid that attacked the boat” while he was sailing with his father in Conception Bay, Newfoundland (Ellis 131).
This chapter contains many delightful references to Greek mythology, and references ancient books such as “Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus” by Olaus Magnus. How could a book with that title not be awesome?! Speaking of books and their authors, the mention of cephalopods, lumpfish, and the giant cuttlefish, which some believe to be the kraken, reminded me of H.P. Lovecraft.
Ellis mentions a fisherman by the name of Theophilus Piccot, the father of the aforementioned 12-year-old boy. I don’t care if he was just a fisherman, that is one epic-sounding name. Finally, this chapter explains that references to the kraken/ giant squid are even found in children’s books, such as The Giant Squid of Chain Tickle.
Some interesting words from this chapter:
“Apocryphal” – of doubtful authorship or authenticity.
“Cephalopod” – any mollusk having tentacles attached to the head, including the cuttlefish, squid, and octopus.
“Teuthid” – an order of squid.
“Ell” – a unit of measure that is equal to approx. 45 inches.
“Fathom” – a unit of measure that is equal to approx. six feet.
“Cubit” – a unit of measure based on the length of a forearm that is equal to approx. 17-21 inches.
“Carmine” – a crimson or purplish-red color.