Mon
Aug 13 2012 10:00am

Sea Monsters From A to Z!

Welcome to Sea Monster Week on Tor.com! In honor of the launch of Shark Week over on the Discovery Channel, we’ve decided to dive into the world of some of our favorite creatures ever with articles, book excerpts and more.

But just what is a “sea monster” anyway? Well, we’ve given ourselves a pretty broad definition to work with. Here’s the Stubby the Rocket definition:

Sea Monster (noun): Any sufficiently awesome water-dwelling creature that we perceive as being monstrously cool.

So, with that in mind, prepare yourself for the greatest A-Z list of sea monsters ever compiled, just below the surface of this blog.

 

A

Abe Sapien (Hellboy): An icthyo sapien, transformed as the result of a strange ritual.

Aquaman (DC Comics): Sovereign of the sea who can breathe underwater and can communicate with sea creatures (either in their own language or telepathically—pretty cool either way).

Afanc (Welsh Mythology): A lake monster who is sort of like a crocodile, beaver or a dwarf.

Architeuthis (Real Life): A giant squid.

Aspidochelone (Medieval Bestiaries): A gargantuan whale or sea turtle that would trick sailors to landing on its back, then drown them. Snap.

 

Battletoads (Battletoads): Toads who do battle.

Beisht Kione (Irish Mythology): Fishermen are afraid of this thing. Its name means “The Beast With a Black Head.“

Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish (The Simpsons): A fish with three eyes, mutated by radiation.

Bloop (Real Life): Mysterious, extremely powerful, ultra-low frequency sound detected by NOAA. No one knows where it comes from. Probably a monster.

 

C

Capricorn (The Zodiac): A goat with a fish’s tail.

Carcharodon Megalodon (Prehistoric Times): A giant shark that lived in the Cenozoic Era.

Cetus (Greek mythology/constellation): Most of the sea monsters taken out by Heracles and Perseus were referred to as “Cetus,” which could mean an extraordinarily big fish, shark or sea monster.

Champ (Cryptozoology) The name given to the legendary lake monster which supposedly resides in Lake Champlain, located along the Vermont-New York-Canadian borders.

Charybdis (The Odyssey): Basically a giant whirlpool (or monster who causes massive whirlpools) designed to screw over Odysseus.

Chessie (Cryptozoology): Like Nessie, only in the Chesapeake Bay.

Clover (Cloverfield): A weird rip-off of Godzilla that stomps out of the ocean.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Creature from the Black Lagoon): A Gill-Man who only wants to be left alone.

Crocosaurus (Mega Shark Vs. Crocosaurus) A large, dinosaur-like crocodile.

Cthulhu (H.P. Lovecraft): One of the Great Old Ones. Part octopus, part human, part dragon, all badass. Watch out.

 

D

Dianoga Trash Monster (Star Wars): A thing with one eye that pokes out of trash pools but has lots of tentacles below the surface.

Dinoshark (Up From the Depths): Pretty much a shark who is from the Mesozoic Era and enjoys chomping and has a toothy dinosaur face.

The Dobhar-chú (Irish Folklore): Monstruous water hound—a dog/otter combo thing which some people claim to have actually seen.

The Terrible Dogfish (Le avventure di Pinocchio): In the book, the thing that swallows Pinocchio. Called “Monstro” in the Disney movie (where it’s more of a whale).

 

E

Elephant koi (Avatar: The Last Airbender): Giant fish that are fun to ride.

 

F

Fiji Mermaid (Real life): A sideshow creation consisting of the top half of monkey and the lower half of a fish.

 

G

Giganto (Marvel Comics): An enemy of The Fantastic Four.

Globster (Real Life/Cryptozoology): A combination of the words “glob” and “monster.” Weird organic masses that wash ashore and can’t be identified as the carcass of any known animal.

Godzilla/Gojira (Gojira, et. al): A prehistoric monster who was sleeping underwater until he was rudely awakened by nuclear testing.

Grindylows (English folklore) Best known for grabbing children from the edge of lakes and ponds; in the Harry Potter series, they appear as small, horned water demons.

Gunakadeit (Tlingit Myth): A sea monster who brought a starving village good luck and prosperity.

Gungans (Star Wars): Amphibian residents of the planet Naboo. Everyone is smarter than them.

 

H

Hippocamp (Greek Mythology): A sea horsie!

Hydra (Greek Mythology/Real Life): The Lernaean hydra was a many-headed, serpent-like beast killed by Heracles. Also a genus of tiny, predatory, fresh-water animals with regenerative abilities.

 

I

Iku-Turso (Finnish): Total jerk of a sea monster. Terrifying. Sometimes mentioned as the god of diseases and/or war in Finnish mythology.

 

J

Jaguar Shark (The Life Aquatic) Murder of Esteban. Enemy of Steve Zissou. It remembers you.

Jaws (Jaws): Though it doesn’t technically have a name, we call it Jaws. Smile, you son of a b*tch.

Jonah’s Whale (Bible): Big whale that likes to swallow dudes up.

Jörmungandr (Norse Mythology): AKA, the Midgard Serpent, offspring of Loki and Angrboða and archnemesis of Thor. When he lets go of his own tail the world will end.

 

K

Kappa (Japanese Folklore): A water sprite. Sometimes hairy.

Kelpie (Celtic Mythology): A water horse with ghostly trappings. Sometimes appears as a beautiful woman. Not to be trusted.

Koizilla (Avatar: the Last Airbender): At the end of season 1, Aang fuses with La, the Ocean Spirit to become Koizilla: the wrath of the ocean embodied in awesome fish-monster form.

Kraken (Greek Mythology. Also, real life.): Sometimes referred to as the giant squid. But also a thing released in Clash of the Titans. (Don’t release it!)

 

L

Land Shark (Saturday Night Live): A deadly creature that will get into your apartment and eat you no problem.

The Lady in the Lake (Arthurian legend): Strange woman best known for lying in ponds, distributing swords. Also, author Raymond Chandler’s drag name.

Leviathan (The Bible): The Original Biblical Sea Monster. Hangs out near the Hellmouth.

Lion Turtle (Avatar: the Last Airbender): Giant, ancient, looks like an island, gives pretty great advice.

The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen/Disney): The heroine of one of Andersen’s most beloved tales, the Little Mermaid falls in love with a human prince, and...well, the Disney version is much less complicated. Very big in Copenhagen.

Lobstrosity (The Dark Tower):  More like beach monsters than sea monsters, these things are scorpion/lobster mash-ups.

Loch Ness Monster (Real Life?/Cryptozoology):  A possible plesiosaur rumored to be living in the Loch Ness in Scotland. Often called “Nessie.” Dislikes American Idol.

Lusca (Real Life?): Caribbean sea monster. Associated with globsters. (Not with Johnny Depp).

 

M

Makara (Hindu Mythology): Any creature that is half land animal on top with the bottom half of an acquatic creature; so: person + seal, or wildebeest + whale. Makara!

Marsh-wiggle (Narnia Chronicles): Extremely private, pessimistic humanoid creatures that live in the marshes of Narnia. 

Mega Shark (Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus, Mega Shark Vs. Crocosaurus): A large Shark who is the sworn enemy of Giant Octopus, Crocosaurus and good taste.
 
Melusine (European Folklore): Female spirit who hangs out in springs and rivers. Kind of like a mermaid.
 
Merpeople (Folklore from All Over): People who live in the water. Often they have fish tails. 
 
Michael Phelps (Real Life?): Humanoid able to travel amazing speeds in the water. Resides only in human-constructed bodies of water. 

Moby Dick (Moby Dick): A misunderstood white whale who only wants to give Captain Ahab a love tap.

Mokèlé-Mbèmbé (Congo Legend): A water-based creature from the Congo River basin that some people believe to be a dinosaur.

Morgawr (Cryptozoology/Real Life?): Supposedly, this sea monster lives in Falmouth Bay in Cornwall.

 

N

Naiads (Greek Mythology): Nymphs who live in streams, wells, brooks and other small bodies of water. Generally nudists.

NTIs (The Abyss): The shiny underwater aliens (or “Non-terrestrial Intelligence”) encountered in The Abyss.

 

O

Ogopogo (Cryptozoology/Real Life?) A  monster living in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, CA. Has perhaps been around since the 19th century. Beautiful singing voice.

Orca (Orca): A killer whale on a vengeance-fueled rampage.

 

P

Piranhaconda (Piranhaconda): Exactly what it sounds like. A giant snake merged with a piranha. There were actually two of them in the movie.

Poseidon (Greek Mythology): Poseidon was very big in old Greece. Big time sea god. Went under the name Neptune when he was laying low.

Proteus (Greek Mythology): An early sea god. Homer called him the ”Old Man of the Sea.“ (But never “Papa.”)

 

Q

Qalupalik (Inuit Mythology): Lives in the sea. Green skin and long creepy fingernails.

 

R

The Rainbow Fish (Hinduism): This whale-sized fish ate Vishnu once. It’s scales were made of fire, ice, grass, and lightning.

Rhedosaurus, the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, “The Fog Horn”): A dinosaur who rises up out of the sea and trashes a lighthouse, in Bradbury’s story; in the film version, he pretty much trashes the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.

Rock Lobster (The B-52’s): Watch out for these guys. They hang out with sea robins, piranhas, narwhals and bikini whales.

Rusalka (Slavic Mythology): An underwater succubus demon. Bad news.

 

S

Saturnynians (Doctor Who): Fish from Space. Occasionally buxom.

Scylla (Greek Myth): Lived across the way from Charybdis. Had four eyes, six necks and twelve tentacle-legs, with a cat’s tale and a bunch of dog-heads around her waist. Not to be messed with.

Sea Hag (Popeye): A sea witch with a weird, unrequited crush on Popeye the Sailor.

Selkies (Irish, Icelandic, Faroese, and Scottish Folklore): Two for the price of one! Seals in the sea, humans on land. Whoa.

Sharktopus (Sharktopus): Genetically engineered half-shark, half-octopus. Has its own theme song. Is the best.

Sigmund (Sigmund and the Sea Monsters): Friendly sea monster shunned by his family for refusing to frighten humans, star of trippy, puppet-centric 70s TV show created by Sid and Marty Krofft.

Sirens (Greek Mythology, Starbucks Coffee): Sea-dwelling singers of deadly songs that lure sailors to their doom. Also, apparently a symbol of being overly-caffeinated. 

Snorks (Hanna-Barbera) Underwater knock-offs of The Smurfs. Hated by all. Do not, under any circumstances, “come swim with the Snorks.”

Supergator (Dinocroc Vs. Supergator): A gator who is super. Causes destruction.

 

T

Tiamat (Babylonian Mythology): Primordial ocean/chaos monster who created the cosmos by mating with the god of fresh water.

Tlanusi (Cherokee Legend): A giant, river-dwelling leech.

Triton (Greek Mythology): Poseidon’s son. (And the Little Mermaid’s dad).

 

U

Umibōzu (Japanese Legend, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers): If you talk to one of these guys, they’ll tip your ship over. Just for fun.

Unagi (Avatar: The Last Airbender): Gigantic carnivorous eel encountered by Team Avatar off Kyoshi Island; feeds on elephant koi and anything else that gets in its way.

Ursula the Sea Witch (Disney): Loves poor, unfortunate souls. Part person, part octopus. Steals voices/souls. Extremely sassy.

 

V

Vampire squid (Real life): A squid that just looks super scary, with red eyes and a “cloak” of webbing connecting its arms; its Latin name, “Vampyroteuthis infernalis,” literally means “vampire squid from Hell.”

 

W

Whales (Star) (Doctor Who): Poor creatures who travel through space and randomly have obnoxious humans build spaceships on their backs. 

Watcher in the Water (Lord of the Rings): In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and his companions are attacked by this tentacled creature, which lurks in the lake outside the mines of Moria.

X

Xenomorph (acquatic variety, Alien: Resurrection): Aliens that reproduce by implanting in humans and popping out of their chests. They are relentless underwater, like a toothy, acid-blooded Esther Williams.

 

Yacu-mama (South American Mythology): Giant water snake, lives in the Amazon. Will eat anything that gets close to it.

 

Z

Zin (West African Foklore:) Malevolent water spirits that live in the Niger River.

 

Okay, sea monster lovers: tell us what we’ve missed!

Georgi Markov Portfolio


Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com and wants you to know that it’s safe to go back in the water now.

42 comments
Azara microphylla
1. Azara
I was surprised to see the Beisht Kione listed as Irish, since the Irish language doesn't normally use the letter K. It turns out to be Manx, not Irish. Manx is close enough to Gaelic and Irish that the words look familiar but not quite right.

There seems to be some disagreement as to whether it's a beast with a black head, or the beast that lurks around the headland Kione Doo (Black Head).
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/isleofman/hi/things_to_do/newsid_8748000/8748165.stm
Charles Moore
2. Shadeofpoe
This article just proves how underrated and how much of a bad ass Aquaman really is. He could unleash this on us, and chooses not to. He is the real threat. This man is truly our world's true nuclear deterrent.
leilabrooklyn
4. leilabrooklyn
Awesome list! I'd propose an addition:

Ahuitzotl (Aztec mythology): A hairless underwater dog with a hand at the end of its long, monkey-like tail, the better to drown you with. Possibly based on the freakish-looking water possum.

http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/index.php?one=azt&two=fac&id=469&typ=reg
leilabrooklyn
5. SeanVivier
I'm pretty sure the kraken is Scandanavian.
Mordicai Knode
6. mordicai
3. Leila Walker/4. leilabrooklyn

One of the DnD 3e Monster Manuals had a pretty great Ahuitzotl picture, & even better, there was a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic meta-narrative where the bad guy was Ahuitzotl. Which was predictably awesome.

Also, my favorite water monster? Aboleths!
leilabrooklyn
7. StrongDreams
Kroll (Dr. Who), a tiny alien squid mutated to enormous size via contact with the Key to Time. Uses long tentacles to pull victims to a watery grave.

Otherwise, surprisingly few sea monsters in Dr. Who. Budgetary reasons, I guess.

Oh, and the Jaws shark is named Bruce.
James Whitehead
8. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
What? No love for Namor, the Sub-Mariner? For shame. ;-)

Also, I think Spielberg, et al named their shark "Bruce." That was why the great white in Finding Nemo was named Bruce.

Kato

PS - StongDreams@7 beat me to it.
Matthew B
9. MatthewB
"like a toothy, acid-blooded Esther Williams."

Nice one. The writer(s) were definitely in top form for this piece.
leilabrooklyn
10. Darth Bane
You missed the "big gooberfish" from Star Wars Episode 1, the Opee Sea Killer, who tried to devour the submersible used by Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Jar Jar Binks, and the Sando Aqua Monster, who later snacked on fresh Opee sushi.
Mary Decker
11. Ki
When I was a kid we had a copy of Brian Froud's Fairies with an illustration of Jenny Greenteeth that haunted me for years. I was strangely delighted to see her appear in Pratchett's The Wee Free Men--one of the old nemeses of my childhood, vanquished by a frying pan!

Recent favorite water monsters: the capaill uisce from Maggie Stiefvater's outstanding The Scorpio Races (kelpies without the shape-changing?). It's not quite the same boy-and-his-horse story when the horse is a bloodthirsty carnivore...
Irene Gallo
12. Irene
Ki,

Oh man, once you mentioned it, that Jenny Greenteeth leaped into my memory. Fantastic!
Mordicai Knode
13. mordicai
11. Ki

Oh yeah, I've heard about those books-- I keep meaning to read them!
Daniel Hoagland
14. danielrixy
A couple that spring to mind:

Asterite (Ecco the Dolphin) - Oldest creature on earth, looks like a strand of DNA. Pretty good at telepathy and time travel.

Cecaelia (Mythology) - this is what Ursula from "The Little Mermaid" is, half woman, half octopus, generally regarded as the ugly versions of mermaids.

Dakuwaqa (mythology) - Fijian shark god.

Davy Jones (Pirates of the Caribbean) - Tentacled, tragic sea captain with a crew of maritime mutants.

Deep Ones (Cthulu mythos) - From Lovecraft's "A Shadow over Innsmouth".

Rebmans (Chronicles of Amber) - Underwater citizens of Rebma, the first shadow of Amber.

And I'll throw in a second vote for Namor.
leilabrooklyn
15. sofrina
what is the difference between the Dianoga Trash Monster and a bezoar?
Bridget McGovern
16. BMcGovern
@sofrina Everything you'd ever want to know about the Dianoga but were afraid (or too grossed out) to ask, via Wookieepedia :)
leilabrooklyn
17. A.C. Wise
Wonderful list! I particularly like that Michael Phelps gets his own entry.

Another proposed addition: Sedna, goddess of the sea and marine creatures in Inuit mythology.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedna_(mythology)
leilabrooklyn
18. Janet M
The underwater panther Mishipeshu.
leilabrooklyn
19. Court
Yay Aquaman!

I laughed my ass off at Michael Phelps.
leilabrooklyn
20. XenaCatolica
Grendel, and Grendel's mother in "Beowulf"

they aren't given a name, but in the poem they are described as "shadugenga" which means "walker in darkness" (Note here poem only, no film/novel)
leilabrooklyn
21. sofrina
@16 - um, thank you. i should have known. apparently the Dianoga's mouth is on the bottom.
leilabrooklyn
22. EmmaPease
I should note that an early Lord of Lusignan supposedly married Melusine (until he peeked in on her when he shouldn't and found she was half serpent). Their descendants at a minimum include most of the royal families of Europe.
Liz J
23. Ellisande
@16 ha, I have always pictured the dianoga the same as the toy they mention in that article because I had the playset. The "real" thing is a bit scarier looking!

Odds that Syfy is taking notes on this page for future terrible/awesome movies?
Maitrey Deshpande
24. LittleWolf
Couple of additions:

Akhlut (Inuit Mythology): An Inuit God who is an orca in the sea and a wolf while on land. Usually seen patrolling beaches in both forms. (Can there be anything cooler?)

Kurmaraja (Hindu Mythology): The cosmic turtle on whose back the world rests.
Spin-offs include Great A'Tuin, the Giant Star Turtle from Disc-World and a similar World bearing turtle in Blizzard's Mist of Pandaria Warcraft expansion.
leilabrooklyn
25. George C
You left out a major one from Doctor Who...Sea Devils (cousins of the Silurians).
Mordicai Knode
26. mordicai
24. LittleWolf

Wait what?!?! Akhlut sounds sweet; so, so sweet.
leilabrooklyn
27. TheMadLibrarian
How 'bout Nanaue, the Hawaiian shark-god? Human when on land, becomes a giant badass shark in the water, and can be discovered by the large shark mouth on his back when in human form, usually hidden by a cape.
leilabrooklyn
28. J4y750n
Dagon, anyone?
leilabrooklyn
29. CFLynn224
How about Ebirah, Horror of the Deep? He fought Godzilla (and lost, but who doesn't?), and he had awesome/awesomely bad 60's surrfer music!
Greg Morrow
30. gpmorrow
Jarvis' sea monster, H. Beam Piper's Four-Day Planet.

If you can include Megalodon, then Kronosaurus, Elasmosaurus, Shonisaurus, Liopleurodon, etc.

Colossal squid.
Sara H
32. LadyBelaine
Grindylows are also an evil(?), aquatic race that have a part to play in China Mieville's book, The Scar.

Speaking of The Scar, no mention of the avanc (afanc, addanc), the behemoth water creature of welsh mythology that also has part to play. Part whale/part fish/part demon, it's friggin huge.

For that matter, while we are taking of evil aquatic races, seriously, no mention of the sahuagin? The wicked empire of fish-people from D&D and its related novels - they were darn-tootin' good fun in the Moonshae novels , invading the Pseudo British Isles mounted on walking sharks, armed with black magic and and legions zombies that were once drowned sailors.

Then again, I also always loved the acanthi, the space-faring race of sentient whales used as living spaceships by the evil Brood, Marvel Comics analog from the zenomorph aliens of Alien fame.

No list would be complete with a shout-out to Sebastian, a worrying, fretful crustacean with a fondness for red heads and prone to belting in Calypso!
Stephan Haberer
33. Stephan
How about "Medusa" as in "Children of Medusa"?
leilabrooklyn
34. SCUBA STEVE'S GIRLFRIEND
old gregggg!
leilabrooklyn
35. LittleBird
The Black Dragonfish (real life)
The Water Horse (The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep)

And a third vote for Namor. If you have Aquaman, you gotta have Namor.
Sky Thibedeau
36. SkylarkThibedeau
Everyone knows the Kraken is Defensive End Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers and Hogwarts.
leilabrooklyn
37. El Fitcho
You missed Z for Zoidberg!
erick sibert
38. lollygags
Bloop has been figured out, it was an icequake.

http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/acoustics/sounds/bloop.html

I think this little guy deserves to be on the list though. It's a parasite that essentially eats a fish's tongue and then replaces the tongue with itself.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/11/absurd-creature-of-the-week-the-parasite-that-eats-and-replaces-a-fishs-tongue/

Look up some pictures of it and tell me it's not monsterish!
leilabrooklyn
40. Gresil
My good sir/maam... i see no Ningen :(( why isn't it here! please update thank you :)
leilabrooklyn
42. Bob Watt
I didn't find the crossword answer for which I was looking (what can it be, if it's not in this lot?), but I had a great time. Then I had a great time with my wife (er, looking through the list again, that is).
leilabrooklyn
43. AMereRodent
On film, there's the composite ex-human monsterosity of Leviathan (1989).

William Hope Hodgson created some splendly wierd literary specimens - the hungry invertebrate sea-serpent of A Tropical Horror, and the even stranger entity of The Derelict. (Minds Eye Productions did a magnificent audio dramatization of the latter story.)
leilabrooklyn
44. Mark Clay
Surely the most terrifying sea creature of them all: Flipper!

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