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The Kraken: an analysis



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    Introduction – The collection of poetry that the world has seen is storage of the creations of the different states and stages of a man’s mind, and there are times when the poem captures and freezes the myths and its leading man so that the world has a way of remembering some of the details of the past. Such was the case of Sir Alfred Tennyson and his popular poem The Kraken. Written in 1830, The Kraken is among the earliest works of Tennyson. Tennyson was not the first one to come up with the name and the character since this is a particularly popular myth in Norway and Scandinavia about a monstrous sea creature that destroys ships and kills people and feeds on smaller sea animals.

    Thesis – Indeed, Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote the poem The Kraken to create a monster that will symbolize all that is haunting, disturbing and potentially scary and ugly things that people believe will come to haunt their lives sooner or later, like a bothering thought that a person wants to shake off, like a frightening phantom which cannot be extinguished or conquered by human, mortal strength, in fear of entering the subconscious and triggering a nightmare – asleep or awake. The Kraken became one of literature’s many different faces for nightmare and fear transcending different plateaus including psychological, emotional, social and spiritual levels, and Tennyson proved that he was both the creator and conqueror of such monster throughout the poem.

    And why not? The origin of the Kraken persona is that of fear, helplessness, monstrosity and death. It was the favorite villain of seafarers even before and long after Tennyson’s time, and while many artists made their own rendition of the Kraken – as the hundred-foot long oversized squid/octopus that devours on ships sailing to sea – Tennyson made his own contribution to the growing literature about the Kraken by using a particular literary style to encapsulate the essence of fear and dread that surrounds the Kraken. Some men spend their lives battling and erasing the memories of evil. while some, like Tennyson, make sure that people separated by generations are nonetheless equally reminded of the presence of evil – real or imagined.

    Supporting ideas – The Kraken is always about evil, about the evil that always threatens to usurp the existing status quo of peace and relative harmonious relationship, and Tennyson’s poem provided key proofs about how he delegated his character in the southern region of the human imagination that greatly supports its devilish personality. In the first two lines of the poem, Tennyson refers to the place of abode of the Kraken as somewhere found ‘ below the thunders of the upper deep / Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea’. The idea of ‘below’ and ‘deep’ are both consistently synonymous with death and evil – when people refer to hell they often think that it is something found under the plateau where humans live while about it is the heaven, the representation of good and new life / resurrection/ incarnation. The word ‘deep’ is synonymous to the idea of death or dying (i.e. when people die and are buried, their graves are ‘below’ and ‘deep’). The first two lines automatically set the tone and ambience necessary to establish the character Tennyson is trying to paint the picture of.

    The very rationale for the supposed essence of the poem `The Kraken’ is the maintenance of the natural order of things. In the pursuit to create a balance, there are creators and perpetrators of the belief in a benevolent god and the serene angels as there are those who lace bed time stories and bar room fables with images of wanton destruction and an un-godly rage, like the Kraken. Tennyson, knowingly or not, is a tool for that balance, and it was through this particular work of his that literature was never a one sided painting of only what is beautiful – there is also a footnote to what is grim, ominous, quiet and lethal. There are poems of hope as Tennyson’s The Kraken is a poem of fear. It was about the Kraken’s shadowy sides, its giant fins and its green skin.

    The Kraken: Character analysis – The role of the Kraken in past and contemporary literature as well as its social role is portrayed via the character it opted to vividly illustrate through words. Many societies and different countries have their own take of the Kraken as a character, but despite these differences, Tennyson’s The Kraken served as the universal semantic representation of the idea that takes different shapes in every individual’s mind, yet possess the same similar ethos.

    The Kraken: literary device and technique – Tennyson used several different literary styles, devices and techniques in the creation of his 15-line poem. Tennyson utilized symbolism, incluing and even imagery. As was discussed earlier in the paper, the Kraken is both a mythological sea monster that is believed to be seen by some as it is a mere representation of a particular idea that creates a feeling to a man similar to what the real Kraken can do if the creature was even real in the first place.

    The Kraken symbolizes something. more importantly, it represents many different things for many individual readers who decode the poem and strip it of its several different layers, that is why it has captured the imagination of many different individuals living in different places and timeline with very slim odds that they have all communicated with each other to create a uniform idea of the Kraken. Brittan (2003) shared the same understanding about the symbolisms and the poem The Kraken all in all (not just focused on the Kraken character altogether).

    According to Brittan, ” even Tennyson’s poem The Kraken (1830) manages, by the use of a single phrase from the Book of Revelation (“the latter fire”) to use a new understanding of science – in particular of geological time – to make mythological creatures refer back to an essentially Christian view of the unity of all things in nature ” (pg 172).

    At some point the symbolism of the Kraken and the author runs parallel. The Kraken, besides the more popular renditions of its known symbolisms, also symbolizes popularity by being remembered by the people on what it has done and can do. Tennyson’s writing of the Kraken may even be a symbolism of Tennyson’s aching to be recognized. While Tennyson was ‘considered by some to be the greatest poet of the Victorian period’, Tennyson was no prodigy. He made his way from becoming an unknown literary writer to becoming a popular poet:

    ‘He attended Cambridge, but was forced to leave in 1831 due to family and financial difficulties. Returning home, he continued to write verse, his early volumes in the 1830s receiving generally adverse criticism. Persevering, however, he developed and refined his technique, gaining stature throughout the 1840s, and achieved full critical recognition with the publication of In Memoriam in 1850, at which time he was appointed poet laureate ” (Negri, 1999, pg 1).

    There was also evidence of the use of incluing and imagery in the poem – Tennyson was close to describing an imaginary world with what he was trying to pass of as reality in light of the discussion in the poetry about the lifestyle and behavior of an imaginary character. And to push the ‘imagined’ world and characters closer to the sense of reality of the readers, the author also resorted to making the poem vivid with details about this particular sea monster – about the darkness that surrounds the monster, about the diet of the Kraken as well as its other behavior and temperament. Even without seeing a picture or drawing of a Kraken as how people would believe it to look like, there is no doubt that the reader of the poem is close to sketching one inside her/his head by the time he/she finished reading the poem.

    Giving Life to The Kraken – The Kraken is a mythical sea monster believed to have lived somewhere in Norway and inhabited the Norwegian coasts. It is not ascertained whether or not Tennyson saw the Kraken himself, or if even Tennyson believed that the sea monster existed in the first place. But what Tennyson managed to do, through the poem, was to use a literary device like the poem to immortalize a mythological sea beast by endowing the description of the sea monster with physical characteristics that point to the mythical sea creature’s supposed mystique, power, size and enormity.

    Killing The Kraken – But while Tennyson was indeed successful in bringing to life the monster Kraken, he was equally powerful in cutting off the head of the monster and killing it in front of the eyes of the readers. With just one line in his poem, he took all of the monster’s meanness, savagery -every fierce characteristic of the sea monster – and made the monster no more than a whiff of imagination that cannot even hurt a child in his sleep. All Tennyson needed was to say that the Kraken will rise from under the sea where he lives and upon surfacing on the water meet its death in the last line, ” In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die .”

    This is representative of the status of the Kraken in the minds of the people and their imagination – in the deep recesses of the mind / imagination of the people, the Kraken is alive, but when it is brought out (or surfaced from the sea), it will lose its life once it is proven that no such monster really thrived and existed in real life.

    Conclusion – It is difficult to ascertain whether The Kraken was bigger than the author or if the poem is bigger than the local myths. But the only thing sure is that the poem of Tennyson is more than just the chronicling of the sea beast believed to be real and alive by many individuals – it is used by Tennyson as well as other critics and analyst of poetry as a vehicle to tell something else via the poems innate ability to represent many different things and ideas. The Kraken always triggers that feeling / thinking of fear, wonderment, mystery, raw rage and uncontrollable powers, of the continuing proof that the life on earth rears very complex life forms that continue to become more and more complex and diverse as time goes on. it is the representation of the extent of man’s imagination as well as his skill for telling the truth through works of fiction and ideas that are stored largely in the avenue of human imagination.

    The Kraken: an analysis. (2017, Apr 13). Retrieved from

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