The Ocean has inspired mankind to tell stories from the dawn of day. It´s raw power, the countless creatures below surface that appeared alienlike to humans, as well as the Oceans key role in maintaining the existence for humans throughout history, - has created a great setting for storytelling.
In this “Editorial” We will explore some of these stories - and seek if there is any truth to these myths and tales, - as well as consider the possibility of an “open mind” towards folklore and it´s connection to reality - since this can be discussed to infinity.
Something fascinating about myths and folklore, is that many of these stories have been told almost at the exact same time different places around the world - despite the lack of ability to communicate cross the world at the time. For instance there has been told tales about fire breathers that flew and looked like giant reptiles, in the same era - both in Asia, Russia and South America… “Dragons” as we call them today in a popular term…
But is it also possible to find legends, folklore, about mythology creatures in the Oceans ? And what might be the possibility of these creatures from tales actual existence ? Have humans ever discovered at least one of these creatures from legends and folklore ?
Lets take a look at some of the mythology creatures and the folklore in which they occur.
To start with a creature many of us have heard of… Mermaids.
When thinking about mermaids, One might get the picture of a seductive woman lying on a rock, singing to sailors - providing them with fantasies they might have longed for at their time at sea… Others, might think about the luring sirenes - that uses their beauty to make these desperate men join them in the water, - though what the men would experience, was far from the affection they might have dreamt of, - since the sirenes would drown them, - and sometimes even eat them… And there are MANY different types of mermaids !
“If only I could find my skin once more,” she cried to her husband, “so that I might return to the sea now and then, to visit my sisters and my home beneath the waves. The lack of moisture here is withering me so. I shall be old before my time and I fear you will not love me by and by.” - The Selkie Bride (Scottish Folklore)
Stories about “Mermaids” - or “Servants of the Sea” - have existed all over the world - all the way from cold Scotland to hot Africa. Though their names as well as actions varies a lot.
In Scotland, “mermaids” are called “Selkies”. Selkies are seals, that are able to shed their skin and take human form. They are gentle, beautiful beings, that loves the Ocean beyond anything else. Legends about Selkies often ends tragically, since it mainly concerns Selkies being stolen and married on land. The Selkies normally looses their “sealskins” (there skins allows them to transform into seals and live in the Ocean) since their husbands normally hides the skin away. But many of the Selkie legends ends when the Selkie finds the Sealskin and runs off - returning to the ocean, leaving the human husbond and sometimes children behind on land.
Mermaid legends also exists in Japan, - though they are very different from the Scottish Selkies.
“Ningyo” is a fishlike - ugly - described creature, far from the "classic" sensual and deductive idea of a Mermaid. Some of the oldest written stories in Japan concerns the “Ningyo”. It is said, that the “Ningyo” holds the power of everlasting life, and the person that eats it shall live forever. Though the “Ningyo” also has powers to create disasters by casting spells and destroying lives if it feels threatened, or harmed. Some stories about the Ningyo has it, that naive fishermen would catch the grim looking creature, varying in size from a small child to a giant seal. Yet sometimes the fishermen had not thought though the supernatural powers the Ocean creature precessed - which ment their entire village was lost in a tsunami or horrible earthquake.
A final example is from Brazil, where they have a story about a type of mermaid called “Iara” translated, this means : “Lady of the Waters”.
This immortal mermaid is beautiful, dark skinned with gorgeous green eyes. Iara is said to mesmerize men, and tempt them to join her in her underwater world, to make love to her.
This, as it may seem, irresistible proposal, - has often been the justification for many mens disappearance - for instance with “accidents” in the Amazon River.
When looking at a geographical map - tales of Mermaids has accrued on almost all continents. Still, mermaids has not yet been “scientifically discovered” - But other mythology creatures have !
The story about a creature called the “Kraken” dates all the way back to 1000 AD - though the story has changed a lot over the Years. “Kraken” is a Norwegian word which means “unhealthy animal”.
And there has been many different tales concerning this “Unhealthy Animal”… Some of the first stories, concerns an almost entire island that sometimes appeared - other times vanished - though the smell was so severe, no man dared approach this land once seen. It was therefore said to be an animal, that was “unhealthy” and therefore smelled decaying.
Later - the more popular and well known tale of the “Kraken” was written by Erik Pontoppidan in 1752. He included this creature in the book he wrote called “The Natural History of Norway”, where he described the Kraken or “krabben” as a humongous animal that was able to pull down an entire ship along with it.
But it wasn't until 1802 the Kraken was described as the iconic “giant squid” we only much later came to know the true existence of.
A man named Pierre Denys de Montfort wrote about two fierce sea monsters in a book called “Historie Naturalle Générale et Particuliére des Mollusques”. One of these monsters, was said to be the Kraken, - and he was sure that this creature was a giant squid since he had collected old drawings from sailors and fishermen that claimed to have seen this monstrous creature attack their ships and try to make them sink…
A creature, resembling the tales and folklore about the “Kraken” dated back to 1000 AD was discovered in 1861 - The Giant Squid… Though not a fierce, ship attacking, man eating monster as the stories had claimed - but a deep sea animal, that can reach about 14 meters. Later, about 1925 a larger specie was discovered - “the colossal squid” - that can reach more than 15 meters ! The largest ever recorded colossal squid weighed about 500 kg !
So a mythology creature has been proven to exist in the ocean - though it lived in the dark parts of the ocean…
Another example is the Giant Oarfish.
In Japan, this special deep sea, silver shining fish with a fiery red dorsal fin, is the main character in an old legend. This legend is called "Ryugu no tsukai" in Japanese - translated “Messenger from the Sea God´s Palace”.
It is said, that when something catastrophic is about to happen - like for instance, an earthquake or a tsunami, the Oarfish would be sent by the Sea God to warn the people on land about the upcoming unfortunate events. As a helping sign, the Oarfish would beach themselves for people to find them and understand the warning.
What makes this an incredible tale is not really the “mythology creature” involved - since we are talking about a real fish stranding and therefore detailed descriptions from the dawn of this tale - but instead the possible truth to this myth on upcoming danger…
Scientists are denying a connection between the strandings of Oarfish and the link to earthquakes and tsunamis - but perhaps this will change ?…
Folklore, myths, tales and legends are interesting in many ways. But what makes them incredible - is their striking truth. "Truth" can be many different things - this "truth" can be the reflection upon the general works of the human mind - no matter if you live in Brazil or Scotland a projektion of a Mermaid occurs - the "truth" about reality and word of mouth as the legend of the Kraken - the, possible, scientific discovery of a connection between natural catastrophes and a deep sea fish - and so far on !…
These myths and tales explains to us who we are, who we have been and displays the general fascination humans project to the Ocean.
Myths, tales and fantasy creatures from the Ocean are still worth sharing and "diving into" since “In mari multa latent” translated “In the ocean many things are hidden.”
Less than 10% of the Ocean has been fully discovered, - and if We come to think about some of the creatures we have discovered, - like for instance the giant squid, - who knows what our ancestors my have encountered on their journeys at sea ? Perhaps something we will come to know of later on ?
By Blue Reporter, Naja Bertolt Jensen
If You are keen on knowing more about Ocean Myths and Folklore :
Macabre Mermaid Tales Pulled From The Darkest Depths Of The Sea
The Unexplained Mystery of the Sea Serpent
The natural history of Norway ... in two parts [bound together] / translated from the Danish original of the Right Revd Erich Pontoppidan 1755
Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology