top of page

Ocean Legends and Myths

Myths, Legends, and Folklore


The ocean is a vast and mysterious realm that has fascinated humans for centuries. It is home to countless creatures, some of which have inspired legends and myths that still captivate our imagination. One of the most well-known ocean legends is the story of Atlantis, the lost civilization that supposedly sank into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. According to Plato, who wrote about Atlantis in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, Atlantis was a powerful and advanced society that conquered many lands, but was eventually punished for its hubris and corruption. The exact location and nature of Atlantis have been debated by scholars and adventurers for millennia, and some believe that it may still exist somewhere beneath the waves. Plato described Atlantis as an island larger than Libya and Asia Minor put together, located in the Atlantic just beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which are generally assumed to mean the Strait of Gibraltar. He also depicted Atlantis as having a complex layout of concentric islands separated by wide moats and linked by a canal that penetrated to the center. The soil was rich, the engineers technically accomplished, the architecture extravagant with baths, harbor installations, and barracks. The central plain outside the city had canals and a magnificent irrigation system. Atlantis had kings and a civil administration, as well as an organized military. Their rituals matched Athens for bull-baiting, sacrifice, and prayer. However, Plato also claimed that Atlantis waged an unprovoked imperialistic war on the remainder of Asia and Europe. When Atlantis attacked, Athens showed its excellence as the leader of the Greeks, the much smaller city-state the only power to stand against Atlantis. Alone, Athens triumphed over the invading Atlantean forces, defeating the enemy, preventing the free from being enslaved, and freeing those who had been enslaved. After the battle, there were violent earthquakes and floods, and Atlantis sank into the sea, and all the Athenian warriors were swallowed up by the earth. Another popular ocean legend is the legend of mermaids, the half-human, half-fish beings that are said to inhabit the seas. Mermaids have been depicted in various ways throughout history, from beautiful and benevolent sirens that lure sailors with their enchanting songs, to monstrous and malevolent creatures that drag men to their doom. Mermaids have also been associated with magic, love, and fertility in some cultures, and have inspired many works of art and literature. The word mermaid comes from the Old English mere (sea) and maid (girl or young woman). The earliest known mermaid stories date back to ancient Assyria, where Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover. Mermaids are also featured in Greek mythology, such as the sirens who tried to seduce Odysseus with their music in Homer's Odyssey, or Thessalonike who became a mermaid after Alexander's death according to legend. In European folklore, mermaids were often regarded as unlucky omens or dangerous temptresses who would drown men or lure them into their underwater kingdoms. Some stories also told of mermaids who could marry humans or bear their children if they acquired a human soul through love or baptism. In other cultures, such as Africa, Asia, and Oceania, mermaids were seen as benevolent spirits who could grant wishes or help fishermen with their catch. A third ocean legend is the legend of the kraken, the gigantic squid-like monster that terrorizes sailors and ships. The kraken is believed to originate from Norse mythology, where it was described as a huge beast that could devour whales and create whirlpools with its tentacles. The kraken has also appeared in other sources, such as Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, where it was portrayed as a formidable adversary for Captain Nemo and his submarine. The word kraken comes from the Old Norse kraki, meaning twisted or crooked. The earliest written reference to the kraken dates back to 1180 AD in an Icelandic saga where it is mentioned as a sea monster that dwells near Norway. In later Scandinavian folklore, the kraken was said to be so large that its body could be mistaken for an island. It was also believed that it would sometimes surface near ships to feed on fish or human flesh. Some legends also claimed that it would spew out water from its mouth or nostrils to create storms or mists that would disorient sailors. The kraken was often feared as a sign of impending doom or disaster, but some stories also told of brave heroes who managed to slay or escape the beast. These are just some of the many ocean legends that have shaped our perception and appreciation of the marine world. The ocean is a source of wonder and mystery, and its legends reflect our curiosity and fascination with its secrets.

bottom of page