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Kraken vs. Cthulhu — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 28, 2024
Kraken is a legendary sea monster of giant size, while Cthulhu is a fictional cosmic entity created by H.P. Lovecraft.
Kraken vs. Cthulhu — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Kraken and Cthulhu


Key Differences

The Kraken is a mythical creature often depicted in folklore and literature as a massive octopus or squid, terrorizing sailors by dragging ships into the ocean's depths. Its origins can be traced back to Scandinavian folklore, where it was feared by many mariners in the North Atlantic. The creature is described as being so large that its body could be mistaken for an island. On the other hand, Cthulhu is a creation of 20th-century American writer H.P. Lovecraft, first introduced in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu." Cthulhu is part of Lovecraft's larger Cthulhu Mythos, described as a great ancient being of immense power, residing in the city of R'lyeh under the Pacific Ocean. Cthulhu is characterized by its octopus-like head, massive body, and long tentacles.
While the Kraken is rooted in maritime folklore and embodies the dangers of seafaring, Cthulhu represents the fear of the unknown and the cosmic insignificance of humanity. The Kraken's tales are warnings of the perils lurking in the uncharted waters, serving as a metaphor for nature's unpredictability and power. Cthulhu's lore delves into themes of cosmic horror, the limits of human understanding, and the dread of what lies beyond our world.
The Kraken's influence is seen in tales told by sailors and in various historical accounts, suggesting it may have been inspired by sightings of real giant squids, making it a creature rooted in some form of natural observation. Cthulhu, however, is purely a product of speculative fiction, embodying Lovecraft's philosophy of cosmicism—the idea that there is no divine presence in the universe and that humans are particularly insignificant in the grand scheme of cosmic reality.
Narratives involving the Kraken typically focus on its encounters with ships and the ocean's dangers, emphasizing its role as a sea monster of immense size and strength. Cthulhu's stories, while also featuring interactions with humans, are more concerned with the psychological effects and existential dread stemming from the revelation of its existence and the broader universe's mysteries.
The cultural impact of both figures extends beyond their original tales, influencing various media forms, including literature, film, and video games. The Kraken symbolizes the awe and fear of the ocean's depths, whereas Cthulhu has become an icon of Lovecraftian horror, representing the fear of the unknown and the allure of forbidden knowledge.

Comparison Chart


Scandinavian folklore
Created by H.P. Lovecraft


Sea monster
Cosmic entity


Giant octopus or squid
Octopus-like head, massive body, tentacles


Maritime dangers, nature's power
Cosmic horror, human insignificance


Possibly inspired by giant squids
Speculative fiction, cosmicism

Impact on Humans

Physical destruction of ships
Psychological effect, existential dread

Cultural Influence

Maritime lore, films, video games
Lovecraftian horror, diverse media adaptations

Compare with Definitions


Inspires various media adaptations.
The Kraken appears in numerous movies as a formidable antagonist.


Embodies cosmic horror and insignificance.
The revelation of Cthulhu's existence drives many to madness.


Mythical sea monster of giant size.
Sailors feared the Kraken for its ship-sinking prowess.


Has an octopus-like head and tentacles.
Cthulhu's visage is terrifying, with eyes that stare into the abyss of space.


Symbolizes the dangers of the sea.
Tales of the Kraken reminded sailors of the ocean's unpredictable nature.


Fictional cosmic entity created by H.P. Lovecraft.
Cthulhu is a central figure in the Cthulhu Mythos.


Originates from Scandinavian folklore.
The Kraken has been a part of Nordic tales for centuries.


Resides in the sunken city of R'lyeh.
Cthulhu waits dreaming in the depths of the Pacific.


Described as a massive octopus or squid.
The Kraken's tentacles were said to be large enough to embrace an entire ship.


Influences literature, film, and games.
Cthulhu's mythos has inspired a genre of horror focused on the cosmic unknown.


The kraken () is a legendary sea monster of gigantic size and cephalopod-like appearance in Scandinavian folklore. According to the Norse sagas, the kraken dwells off the coasts of Norway and Greenland and terrorizes nearby sailors.


Cthulhu is a fictional cosmic entity created by writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was first introduced in his short story "The Call of Cthulhu", published by the American pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928.


An enormous mythical sea monster said to appear off the coast of Norway.


A huge sea monster in Norwegian legend.


A fabulous Scandinavian sea monster, often represented as resembling an island, but sometimes as resembling an immense octopus.
To believe all that has been said of the sea serpent or kraken, would be credulity; to reject the possibility of their existence, would be presumption.
Like a kraken huge and black.

Common Curiosities

Who created Cthulhu?

Cthulhu was created by American writer H.P. Lovecraft in the early 20th century.

Could the Kraken be real?

While the Kraken is a myth, it may have been inspired by real sightings of giant squids by sailors.

What is the significance of Cthulhu's appearance?

Cthulhu's monstrous appearance symbolizes the utter alienness and incomprehensibility of the cosmic forces it represents.

What is the Kraken?

A legendary sea monster from Scandinavian folklore, often depicted as a giant octopus or squid.

What themes does Cthulhu represent?

Cthulhu represents themes of cosmic horror, the limits of human understanding, and the existential dread of what lies beyond our world.

Why does Cthulhu cause madness?

The sight or even the knowledge of Cthulhu's existence is said to be so alien and beyond human comprehension that it leads to madness.

How does the Kraken interact with humans?

The Kraken is said to attack ships and sailors, symbolizing the lethal unpredictability of the sea.

Has the Kraken appeared in popular culture?

Yes, the Kraken has been featured in various forms of media, including movies, books, and video games, often as a formidable sea monster.

Can the Kraken be considered a symbol of nature's power?

Yes, the Kraken can be seen as a symbol of the immense and often terrifying power of the natural world, particularly the sea.

How has Cthulhu influenced modern horror?

Cthulhu has become a central figure in the genre of cosmic horror, influencing countless writers, filmmakers, and game designers with its themes of existential dread and the unknown.

Where does Cthulhu reside?

Cthulhu is said to lie in a dormant state in the sunken city of R'lyeh, located in the Pacific Ocean.

What is the difference between the Kraken and Cthulhu?

The Kraken is a mythical sea monster rooted in folklore, while Cthulhu is a fictional cosmic entity from Lovecraft's speculative fiction, each representing different forms of human fear.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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