The Legend of the Kraken

This morning Seattle announced that the newest NHL franchise team would be called Seattle Kraken.

Many people don’t even know what a Kraken is, so I thought I would give you a brief history of the mythical creature.

The ‘Kraken’ is a a legendary cephalopod-like (of the octopus/squid family) enormous sea monster in Scandinavian folklore. According to the Norse sagas, the creature dwells off the coasts of Norway and Greenland, terrorizing nearby sailors.

Over the years authors have suggested that the legend may have originated from sightings of giant squid that can grow up to 40-50ft in length (13-15m). The sheer size and fearsome stories of sightings of the Kraken have made it a common ocean-dwelling monster across various fictional works. The monster has also been the focus of many superstitious sailors passing the North Atlantic, especially those from the Nordic countries. Throughout the centuries the Kraken has been a staple part of sailor superstitions and myths being heavily linked to their ability of telling a tall tale.

The word itself is taken from the modern Scandinavian languages, originating from the Old Norse word Kraki. In both Norwegian and Swedish Kraken is the definite form of Krake, a word used for designating an unhealthy animal or something twisted (associated with the English words crook and crank). In modern German the word Krake means octopus, but it can also refer to the legendary monster. Kraken is also an old Norwegian word for octopus and a euphemism for whales in Swedish, it was used when the original word became a taboo as it was believed it could summon the creatures.

But why would a western U.S. hockey team want to name themselves after such a creature? Well I’m sure it’s pretty simple, the word/name strikes fear amongst the Nordic people and in recent years the city of Seattle has started embracing it’s routes, which come from the Nordic countries. The naming of the team is just the next step in locals getting in touch with their ancestry. In 2018 the Nordic Museum was moved to Ballard as part of a $45m relocation and expansion, bringing a very contemporary look to the old country traditions.

The Nordic Museum in the Ballard , Seattle

The museum’s community engagement director, Erik Pihl, cited in a 2018 article for Seattle Mag that the U.S. Census figures showed nearly 600,000 people in the state of Washington claim Nordic heritage (meaning a family member came from one of the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), with more than half of them identifying as Norwegian.

So whether the team decided on Kraken for the fear of the mythological creature, to honor their ancestors or a mixture of both, it will definitely be interesting to see hockey in Seattle and, more importantly, whether they can follow in the footsteps of the Vegas Golden Knights who made it all the way to Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season (they lost in Game 7 to the Washington Capitals).

The Seattle Kraken will become the 32nd National Hockey League team come the 2021/22 season, playing in the Pacific Division with the Arizona Coyotes moving over to the Central Division.

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