Kraken have been mentioned as early as the 12th century in Norway but in the 18th century paintings and illustrations of these mythical creatures have cropped up.
Kraken are most commonly depicted as a huge octopus or squid like creature. Personally I like the giant squid look better, hence why I drew the squid above and not the octopus style one. It’s up to personal preference though.
There are some variations of the kraken that aren’t what we are typically used to seeing however. Some of them had spikes on their tentacles, but in the earliest descriptions of the kraken they were said to be more crab like than anything else and were so large they were often mistaken for islands.
The modern octopus or squid style Kraken however, what we see in artworks and tattoos designs are almost always in the process of attacking a ship. This would probably be due to sailors stories of being attacked by the Kraken and living to tell the tale.
The question is, were these sailors just trying to act cool in front of their mates and say they survived a Kraken attack, or was there something more to the tales than meets the eye?
The sailors telling these stories may have actually seen a giant squid. A creature that we still know all too little about. It has been said that they are large enough to take on a whale and in the 1930’s there are a accounts of a giant squid attacking a ship. Now, these squid didn’t come off too well seeing as they inevitably got caught in the ships propellers and promptly sliced up, but it does show they are willing to attack ships, probably as they were mistakenly thinking they were attacking a whale.
So the stories of old may well have some truth to them. I mean who’s to say that hundreds of years ago there wasn’t giant squid that grew even larger than the few we have seen, that did in fact manage to break a few ships wooden hulls or capsize them and send the unfortunate sailors to their watery graves? Some of the ships back then were pretty small so I think it seems like a realistic theory.
As for meaning and symbolism, other than death and destruction there isn’t a lot there! I don’t think it matters though seeing as their story is good enough on its own.