Aspidochelone – The Fabled Sea Creature

Medieval Bestiaries often talked of the Aspidochelone, a large, mischievous sea creature. The description of the beast would vary, from a simple fish to a large sea turtle with huge spines. Sea travelers were said to confuse the Aspidochelone with small islands.

Giant fish with two men on its back and a boat next to it.

It seems that these two sailors assumed the Aspidochelone to be a great venue for a dance off. Their moves were ahead of their time, but ironically did not include the wave.

Here are some facts about the Aspidochelone:

  • Emits a sweet smell that attracts fish.
  • Often drowns humans that dock on its body, especially once the people start a camp fire burning the creature’s skin.
  • Grass and forage grows on its back.
  • It is known in different cultures by different names
    • Hafgufa in Old Norse.
    • Lyngbakr in Icelandic.
    • Tannin in Hebrew.
A giant crab like creature eating a boat of people.

Sources: “Two Fishermen on an Aspidochelone” (1270) by Unknown French Illuminator. Credit Getty Center, public domain. “Alexander Romance” (1544) by unknown. Credit Hrair Hawk Khatcherian and Lilit Khachatryan, public domain.