The hafgufa, as depicted in a medieval manuscript, specifically the British Library MS. Harley 3244, fol. 65r, 1236, c.1250, (public area)

The hafgufa is a mysterious sea monster described
Konungs skuggsjá (‘The King’s Mirror’), which is a mid-13th-Century
Previous Norse manuscripts – however that isn’t all. It has truly been traced again as
far as an account in a 2nd-Century-AD textual content from Alexandria, Egypt, entitled
Physiologus, whose textual content is accompanied
by illustrations of a whale-like creature termed the aspidochelone, depicted with
its enormous mouth broad open and fishes leaping into it.

In response to The King’s Mirror:

It’s stated of the character of this fish [the hafgufa] that, when
it goes to feed, it provides an incredible belch out of its throat, together with which
comes a substantial amount of meals. All kinds of close by fish collect, each small and
massive, looking for there to accumulate meals and good sustenance. However the massive fish
retains its mouth open for a time, no kind of broad than a big sound or
fjord, and unknowing and unheeding, the fish rush in of their numbers. And when
its stomach and mouth are full, [it] closes its mouth, thus catching and hiding
inside it all of the prey that had come looking for meals”

The hafgufa can be talked about in numerous different
Norse manuscripts from this identical interval. Furthermore, an identical description for the
aspidochelone is given as follows in Physiologus:

When it’s hungry it opens its mouth and exhales a sure variety
of good-smelling odor from its mouth, the scent of which, as soon as the smaller fish
have perceived it, they collect themselves in its mouth. However when his mouth is
full of various little fish, he out of the blue closes his mouth and swallows

Within the scientific age, there was a lot
hypothesis and dispute as as to whether the hafgufa was based mostly upon an actual
creature, and, in that case, what that creature is perhaps, with the consensus being
that it was most likely some kraken-like monster.


An aspidochelone
a French
manuscript, c.
1270, held on the J. Paul Getty Museum (public area)

Now, nonetheless, this maritime thriller beast’s
true nature could eventually have been revealed, because of the publicising of a exceptional
mode of feeding behaviour practised by numerous rorqual whales.

Often called lure feeding and first
scientifically recorded in 2010, numerous humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae and Bryde’s whales Balaeonoptera brydei have been noticed ready immobile on the
water floor in an upright place with their enormous mouths broad open, into
which shoals of fishes unsuspectingly swim to their doom, fatally mistaking the
whales’ gaping jaws for shelter, till the jaws shut, engulfing them!

Furthermore, this eyecatching exercise has
these days attracted worldwide consideration because of an Instagram video clip of a
Bryde’s whale performing it that went very important after that includes in a 2021 BBC
wildlife documentary (click on right here to view this clip).

In response to the Norse manuscripts, as famous
above, the hafgufa behaves in an identical method, even actively attracting shoals
of fishes to swim into its open mouth by emitting a selected fragrance. And positive
sufficient, when looking for to lure fishes into their mouths by regurgitating meals,
each the humpback and Bryde’s whales produce a definite scent.

An in depth examine inspecting and evaluating
medieval Norse accounts of the hafgufa with modern-day experiences of lure feeding
by rorquals was printed on 28 February 2023 within the journal Marine Mammal Science (click on right here to learn it). The paper was co-authored
by maritime archaeologist John McCarthy, from the Faculty of Humanities, Arts
and Social Sciences at Flinders College in Australia, who had grow to be
on this correlation after studying in regards to the hafgufa in conventional
Norse mythology.

As soon as once more, subsequently, it appears possible that
an ostensibly fabulous monster of mythology can lay declare to a agency foundation in mainstream
zoological reality in any case.


One other illustration
of the hafgufa, this time from Ortelius’s 1658 map of Iceland (public area)


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