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What is the description of the kraken in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, "The Kraken"?

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Jessica Gardner | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 14, 2013 at 4:14 PM via web

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What is the description of the kraken in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, "The Kraken"?

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 14, 2013 at 4:35 PM (Answer #1)

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The kraken is a mythical sea monster in the form of a large octopus.

Tennyson’s description of the kraken is almost sympathetic.  He spends less time on the physical description, and more on the theater in which the kraken lives.  Also, the kraken does not harm anyone in the poem—he simply rises and dies.

The kraken is described as being deep beneath a dark sea, normally found in an “ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep.”  He has “shadowy sides,” and sleeps deep down beneath the other sea creatures.

We get the impression that the kraken has always been down there, not waiting but more like hibernating.

There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep…

Sadly, when the fire raises him to the top the kraken will not emerge victorious.  He will simply rise and die.  It seems that sailors needn’t fear him after all!

This poem is a version of a sonnet.  A sonnet is often a love poem, and this is kind of a love poem to the legend of the kraken. The kraken can be seen as a metaphor.  Men’s fears are not always founded, and once brought to light they can easily die, leaving sad emptiness and not relief in thier place.

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