Mythical Sea Creatures
Mythical creatures of the sea have captured human imaginations for thousands and thousands of years.
If you're not certain whether you'd be able to differentiate your Kraken from your Leviathan, there's no need to dive deep into stormy waters to find out.
We're here to uncover the 13 most enthralling sea monsters that span across the cultures.
13 Fantastic Sea Monsters
Our mythical sea creatures list will unveil the most famous sea monsters, from ancient Greek mythology to the many currently seen in popular culture today. Let's dip our toes in and see what lurks.
Mermaids are the most beautiful mythical sea creatures known for luring unwary sailors to their deaths on rocky shores using their lovely and enchanting songs.
These half-human creatures have the upper body of a woman, are half fish from the waist down, and are the most famous mythical sea monsters of our time.
Also known as sirens, the origin of the mermaids is thought to come from Greek mythology.
While stories of sea nymphs or Nereids come from Greece, similar half-fish entities have also emerged from stories all over the world including Welsh mythology, Celtic folklore, and Hindu mythology.
To continue reading about mermaids, see our are mermaid real article.
The Sea Bishop is also widely referred to as the Bishop Fish. According to sea monster legends, it was presented to the King of Poland after being caught. The King showed the Sea Bishop to a few Catholic bishops, then when the sea creature was eventually released back into the ocean, it blessed itself with the sign of the cross.
The Sea Bishop or Bishop Fish is said to look like a Catholic Bishop. And there are similar stories of fish bearing resemblance to religious figures.
Near Denmark, the sea monk was once believed to be a merman whose upper body was indistinguishable from a monk's. However, this species is now believed to be an angelshark.
The Sea Bishop appears in the Historiae animalium by Conrad Gesner and other historical works.
It has also been associated with the Apkallu, the half-fish half-human sages from Mesopotamian mythology.
A sea spirit from Japanese mythology, the myths surrounding this sea monster have terrified many Japanese sailors.
The Umibōzu is a large, shadowy sea monster with a human-like form. This sea spirit appears in a calm sea and then quickly stirs up the waters resulting in the ships breaking into pieces. Sometimes it will demand an offering from the ship and if the ship complies with the demand, the sea spirit may spare it.
To ensure the best possible chance of escape from this sea monster, Japanese mythology says it should be given a bottomless barrel. The bottomless barrel confuses the sea monster and gives the ship enough time to sail away before the sea monster realizes that it has indeed been tricked.
Cipactli is a sea monster from Aztec mythology. The sea monster is a part crocodile, fish, and frog creature that is constantly hungry featuring additional mouths on each body joint.
Two Aztec deities made the Earth using the body of the Cipactli after one of them, Tezcatlipoca used his own foot as bait.
In other Aztec stories, Cipactli is an actual deity that is called Tlaltecuhtli or the Earth Monster.
Originating from Norse and Celtic mythology, the Selkie are powerful creatures that look like humans when they are on dry land but then change into seals when they go into the water.
There are various tales of humans taking Selkie partners and other encounters, from Scotland, Iceland, Ireland, and the Faroe Islands with some overlap and similarities with the North American Chinook legends as well as Inuit mythology.
The sea monster known as the Shen or clam- monster, is from Chinese mythology. It is a large shellfish or clam, or possibly a dragon that can shapeshift.
The Shen sea monster creates illusions and mirages and appears in various Chinese legends.
Not all sea monsters are from ancient folklore and mythology.
A terrifying sea monster, the Terrible Dogfish is a fictional creature created by the author Carlo Collodi in his book called "The Adventures of Pinocchio".
In the original 1883 tale, this famous creation is described as huge, 500 feet in length with a mouth lined with rows of sharp teeth, large enough to consume a train.
The Terrible Dogfish swallows Pinocchio's father, Geppetto but he survives the ordeal and is rescued by his son.
In the much later Disney cartoon film made in the 1940s, the Terrible Dogfish appears in the form of a gruesome-looking sperm whale called Monstro, although not the original shark-like dogfish, still a pretty scary sea monster.
Cthulhu is a famous creation by the horror author H. P. Lovecraft.
This sea monster is a human caricature with dragon and octopus features.
It has tentacles and octopus parts on its face and has the wings of a dragon.
In Lovecraft's story "The Call of Cthulu", the sea monster lives in the ocean in a sunken city called R'lyeh where it lays dormant, however, if it wakes it will wreak havoc.
Midgard Serpent, also known as the World Serpent and Jörmungandr is a giant mythical sea creature from Norse mythology.
The Midgard Serpent is long enough to wrap round the Earth's surface and still be able to hold on to its own tail with its mouth.
In Norse mythology, it is the offspring of the giantess Angrboda and the Norse god Loki.
When it drops hold of its tail the start of Ragnarok (the apocalypse) is marked.
During Ragnarok, the Norse god Thor endures his final battle with the Midgard Serpent. He is successful in slaying the mighty serpent but the venom from the sea creature causes him to fall dead.
The Midgard Serpent is not the only famous sea serpent as reports of sightings of such creatures (on a smaller scale than the World Serpent) have happened all through history. The most scientific explanation for these giant ocean monsters is that they are actually real oceanic animals such as sperm whales or basking sharks.
Originating from Jewish mythology, the Leviathan is a large sea serpent with several heads. In the afterlife, it is thought to eat the damned as it lives close to Hellmouth (opening to Hell).
The Leviathan is certainly one of the oldest of the large sea monsters.
This sea creature makes an appearance in the Old Testament and has also been described as a water reptile, sea dragon, and a giant crocodile.
These days the name Leviathan is often used when describing any kinds of sea creatures that are particularly large in size, not just the famed sea serpent of legend.
One of the most famous sea monsters, the Kraken, is a giant octopus or squid. It's from Norse mythology and its name means "twisted animal" in Norwegian.
The giant squid attacks ships with its long tentacles, breaking them apart.
The Kraken is often thought to be from Greek mythology, as a Kraken killed using Medusa's head was featured in the famous movie "Clash of the Titans".
In this reimagining, this sea monster has more of a human form unlike the giant squid of the original Norse legends. This large sea monster has been a popular villain in many stories and films over the years, more recently appearing in its original giant squid form in a "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.
Water spirits from Slavic mythology, Vodyanoy take the shape of an old man with the facial features of a frog. They are green in color as they are covered with algae and moss from living in the water.
These water spirits are generally calm but if they become angered they can wreak havoc, destroying houses by the water and drowning people.
According to Slavic mythology, if they became extremely angry they would sometimes drag a human to their aquatic home and enslave them forever.
Scylla and Charybdis
These two monsters are described in Homer's Odyssey.
These Greek mythology sea monsters live on either side of the rocky shore of the Strait of Messina which is found between Calabria and Sicily.
Charybdis is depicted as a whirlpool whilst Scylla is a six-headed sea monster sometimes shown with dog heads sprouting from a woman's body and a dragon-like tail.
In some stories, Scylla was once a beautiful ocean nymph that was changed into the famed sea monster of Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, sailors choose which of the two monsters to deal with, either encounter having a less than optimal outcome. The six-headed sea monster might take a couple of sailors but the whirlpool could destroy the whole ship.
From Greek mythology to popular culture, we've noted the 13 most famous sea monsters. It is thought that nearly all sea monster stories have originated from sightings of real oceanic creatures.
Sea giants such as sperm whales may have been misidentified over the years. It is easy to see why encountering an animal as massive as the 60 foot long giant squid (while not quite as large as the Kraken) could inspire these tales.
While we do have rational explanations to calm our fears, 71% of the surface of the Earth is water, while only around 20% of the ocean floor has actually been explored. So who are we to say what's really lurking under the deep blue?