Top 10 Scariest Mythological SEA MONSTERS
Our oceans are among the oldest features of Earth and tend to play a vital role in the antiquated mythologies of various cultures. Within these ancient and expansive bodies of water, civilizations tell tales of abominations that once ruled the seas, impossible Gods and monsters of yesteryear that helped compile this list of the ten scariest mythological sea monsters.
In connection with Charybdis, Scylla was the other half of the terror in the Strait of Messina. Eventually slain by Heracles, Scylla was described by Homer as a beast sporting 12 dangling feet and six heads, each with a terrifying row of teeth. Classical depictions were slightly less monstrous as she was often illustrated as a half-woman, half-serpentine sea goddess, complete with a fish tail and canine heads protruding from her waist. We did say slightly less monstrous… Before being destined to devour sailors, Scylla was once a stunning nymph adored by the sea god Glaucus but was turned into a beast in a fit of jealousy by the witch, Circe.
Religious history has wrought many legends, but the most monstrous may be that of Leviathan, which made appearances in the Book of Job, the Tanakh, and even in Christian and Jewish lore. Leviathan’s appearance and back-story differ from region to region, but one thing tends to remain constant – it was a serpentine beast that ruled the high seas. By the 17th century, the term “Leviathan” became synonymous with any large sea beast, including great whales such as Moby-Dick. Dubbed the “demon of envy” and the “tortuous serpent,” Leviathan was also said to be the physical incarnation of the Hellmouth, or the animal that swallows the damned for their Last Judgement.
Rooted in Greek mythology is Charybdis, which made appearances in The Odyssey and Aesop. This oversized sea-nuisance was believed to be a destroyer of Grecian ships as they trekked across the Strait of Messina. In later mythologies, Charybdis was the daughter of Poseidon and Gaia and partook in the feud against Zeus. While her size has never been detailed, Charybdis must have been large enough to entirely consume trade vessels but small enough to be able to live under a rock that would fit in the channel. Depicted as a toothed beast, Charybdis’ existence may have actually be rationalized by the existence of a whirlpool within the channel.
Sporting nine serpentine heads, this oversized water-dragon was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna in Greek mythology and hassled the marshes of Lerna. With one immortal head, the Hydra was free to reign over the land near Argos, taking what it wanted. Should one of its head be cut off, two would grow in its place, making dealing with the beast a chore. Enter Heracles, son of Zeus and Alcmene, who was tasked with destroying the Hydra as part of the 12 labors bestowed upon him to atone for murdering his children. With his nephew Iolaus, Heracles succeeded in killing the undying beast by severing each head, cauterizing the wound, and finally burying the immortal head under a rock.
Qalupalik may not have the size of other monstrosities on this list, but the Inuit mythology surrounding this humanoid is no bedtime story. Their scraggly long hair, greenish skin, and long, slender fingernails paint an unsettling picture, like a witch of the sea. Within the mythology, the Qalupalik was said to target disobedient children and take them away in their amauti, or a pouch customarily used by the Inuit to carry children. Like a sea-dwelling Krampus, the Qalupalik would take the children back to her lair underwater where they would remain forever. The haunting humming of this sea-witch was said to lure children away from their parents for an easy grab.
Though there is no clear description of this Finnish mythological sea beast, knowing what it looks like isn’t necessary to cower at the thought of it. Iku-Turso is described as “the bearded one,” “the ox of Tuoni,” “thousand-headed,” and “thousand-horned” and, according to the text The Birth of Nine Diseases, is believed to have fathered nine diseases with Loviatar. Among these are consumption, gout, rickets, scab, colic, and ulcer. Other versions of the mythology peg Iku-Turso as the Finnish God of War, which may explain the World War II Finnish submarine named after the sea atrocity.
The beast of Norse mythology, Jormungandr, is also known as the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent and inhabits the ocean surrounding Midgard. A child of Loki and Angrboda, Jormungandr was dispelled into the ocean by Odin and it was there that it grew massive enough to encircle the Earth. The serpent is of simple design, but its formidable size is impressive, making it a match even for its rival, the God of Thunder, Thor. Jormungandr is said to wrap around the world and grab hold of its own tail. When it lets go, Ragnarok, or a massive battle akin to the “Viking apocalypse,” is prophesied to begin, resulting in the deaths of Odin, Thor, Loki, and other major Norse deities.
In Mesopotamian mythology, Tiamat is described as the physical representation of the sea, making her the ultimate sea monster. As the goddess of salt water, Tiamat mated with Abzu, the god of fresh water, to reproduce and give life to the lesser gods. According to legend, Tiamat and Apsu intended to kill the lesser gods, but when intercepted by Ea and Marduk, the two were slaughtered. Marduk cut Tiamat in half and used her body to create the sky, the earth, and the clouds while her tears formed the Tigris and Euphrates. Originally depicted as a dragon or sea serpent, Tiamat’s popularized form as a multi-headed dragon spawned from Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970’s.
Technically a spirit from Japanese folklore, the Umibozu is still a mythological devil of the deep blue. The big-headed mischievous atrocity is said to capsize the ship of any brave soul that addresses the sea-dwelling creature. Other lore of the Umibozu paints it as a demonic entity, thought to be drowned priests that indiscriminately shipwrecked those that cross its path. Often depicted as serpentine with a cloudy body and a shaven, humanoid head, the Umibozu is said to appear on calm nights to wreak havoc on ships. If it doesn’t outright destroy a vessel, it demands a barrel from the crew, which it fills with water and dumps on the deck of the ship to sink it.
A classical creature first detailed in 12th century Norway, the Kraken has morphed into a variety of different on-screen and literary monstrosities. In The Natural History of Norway, Bishop of Bergen, Erik Ludvigsen Pontoppidan, described the Kraken as the largest sea monster in the world with a width of up to 1.5 miles or 2.4 km and starfish-like protuberances. Though the gruesome picture of a ship-sinking sea monster was diminished slightly in the 18th century when French scientist Pierre Denys de Montfort linked it to a large kracken octopus. Ultimately, it’s commonly agreed upon that the oversized Kraken was really just a giant squid terrorizing the Norwegian coast.