March 11, 2016

Mythical K

        It’s time for some more fantasy poetry, so today you get another selection of mythical creatures and a bonus poem while we’re at it.  I don’t say it’s the finest poem ever written, but it’s got some evocative images, so go ahead and Unleash the Kraken!  (But first, Unleash the Kelpie!)

kelpie - a malevolent water spirit whose usual form is that of a black horse.  It can shapeshift to the form of a person, though sometimes retains its hooves in human form, and in equine form it can stretch long enough to hold as many people (often children) as it can lure onto its back.  It drowns its victims, of course.  (Scottish)

kappa - another water spirit, this one the size of a child, with scaly skin, webbed hands and feet, and a turtle beak and shell.  Its most interesting feature is the shallow bowl in the top of its head which must be kept filled with water at all times.  In fact, if you’re ever attacked by a kappa, your best defense is to try to trick it into spilling the water from its bowl, for example, by bowing deeply to it so that it bows back.  Kappas’ favorite food is cucumbers.  (Japanese)

kasa-obake - a tsukumogami in the form of a (usually) closed umbrella with one leg, one eye, and a long tongue.  They may haunt rainy forests or inhabit haunted houses, or even blow unwary people into the air, but are generally considered mischievous rather than truly evil.  (Japanese)

knucker - a water dragon that lives in a deep pool fed by underground springs on the Sussex plains.  These pools are called knucker holes and are clear, bottomless, and always the same temperature.  Knuckers are extremely venomous, and their behavior is generally that of a stereotypical medieval dragon, rampaging about devouring livestock and villagers, and getting themselves slain by brave knights and wily farmers.  (English)

kobold - another small humanoid of the dwarf or goblin type, there are three varieties of kobold: those who live in households like brownies, those who live on ships, and those who live in caves and mines.  Their appearance can vary; usually they’re invisible, but sometimes they can appear in the form of flame.  (German)

krampus - demonic companion/counterpart to Saint Nicholas, previous post here  (German)

kraken - There has been much confusion over the nature of the kraken, which was originally described in Scandinavian accounts as something like a whale or crab, but is now usually understood to be a giant cephalopod.  It has also been conflated with the leviathan, as in this 1830 irregular sonnet by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
            Below the thunders of the upper deep;
            Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
            His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
            The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
            About his shadowy sides; above him swell
            Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
            And far away into the sickly light,
            From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
            Unnumber'd and enormous polypi
            Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
            There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
            Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
            Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
            Then once by man and angels to be seen,
            In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.


        By the way, if you think there’s a strange preponderance of K creatures associated with water, just wait until we get to N!



[Pictures: Kelpie, linocut by Sarah Young (Image from Sarah Young);
Kappa, wood block print by Hokusai, 1815 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);
Hafgufa (= kraken) detail from the "Carta Marina" by Olaus Magnus, woodcut, 1539  (Image from Uppsala University);
The Kraken, linocut by Joe Hodnicki (Image from his Etsy shop SHARINGtheSTOKE).]

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