The Kraken: Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Mysterious Sea Monster

The Kraken Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Mysterious Sea Monster

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, one of the most eminent poets of the Victorian era, is celebrated for his vivid imagery and evocative language. Among his many works, “The Kraken,” a sonnet first published in 1830 in his collection “Poems, Chiefly Lyrical,” stands out for its imaginative depiction of a mythical sea creature. This poem, though brief, plunges the reader into the depths of the ocean to explore themes of mystery, antiquity, and the unknown.

The Poem’s Structure and Style

“The Kraken” is written in the form of an irregular sonnet, which deviates from the traditional 14-line structure, ending with a longer, 15-line form. This unconventional structure reflects the untamed and ancient nature of the Kraken itself. Tennyson’s choice of language and rhythm conjures an otherworldly atmosphere, immersing the reader in the deep sea where the Kraken resides.

The poem opens with a description of the Kraken lying deep beneath the ocean, in a place untouched by sunlight. The imagery is rich and evocative, painting a picture of an ancient, sleeping giant surrounded by “shadowy sides” and “huge sponges of millennial growth and height.” This vivid portrayal emphasizes the creature’s antiquity and the mysterious environment it inhabits.

Themes of Antiquity and the Unknown

Tennyson’s Kraken is a symbol of the ancient and the unknown. The use of words like “ancient” and “millennial” underscores the creature’s timeless existence. The Kraken’s isolation in the depths of the ocean suggests a world that is far removed from human experience, a place where time moves differently and ancient secrets lie dormant.

This theme of the unknown is further emphasized by the creature’s perpetual sleep. The Kraken is described as lying “far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,” a place that is both physically and metaphorically distant from the world of humans. The Kraken’s slumber represents the mysteries of the natural world that are beyond human comprehension, untouched by the light of knowledge or understanding.

Symbolism and Interpretation

The Kraken in Tennyson’s poem can be seen as a metaphor for the subconscious mind or the hidden depths of the human psyche. Just as the Kraken lies dormant in the depths of the ocean, so too do our deepest fears, desires, and memories lie hidden beneath the surface of our conscious minds. The eventual awakening of the Kraken, described in the poem’s final lines, can be interpreted as a moment of revelation or catastrophe, when these hidden elements rise to the surface.

The poem also touches on themes of apocalypse and transformation. The Kraken is prophesied to awaken at the end of the world, rising to the surface and revealing itself to humanity before dying. This imagery suggests a moment of ultimate change, where the ancient and the unknown are finally brought to light, only to perish in the process. It reflects a Victorian fascination with both the end of the world and the revelation of hidden truths.

Tennyson’s Influence and Legacy

Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s ability to evoke such rich and layered meanings in a short poem is a testament to his skill as a poet. “The Kraken” remains a powerful example of his mastery of language and imagery, capturing the imagination of readers with its portrayal of an ancient, mysterious creature.

The poem has influenced various aspects of popular culture, particularly in the genre of science fiction and fantasy. The Kraken has become a popular figure in literature, film, and television, often depicted as a monstrous sea creature embodying the unknown and the terrifying aspects of the natural world.


“The Kraken” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is a compelling exploration of the mysterious and the ancient. Through its evocative language and rich imagery, the poem takes readers on a journey to the depths of the ocean, where a timeless creature lies in wait. Themes of antiquity, the unknown, and hidden depths resonate throughout the poem, inviting readers to reflect on the mysteries that lie beneath the surface of our world and within our own minds. As a work of literature, “The Kraken” continues to captivate and inspire, a testament to Tennyson’s enduring legacy as one of the great poets of the English language.

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