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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Mystery: The Zaratan

Come swim away with me.
Last year, during Decemystery, I covered the theoretical Bermuda Beast. In that write-up, I stated that the beast is said to be the largest cryptid to ever be “recognized” at over 4,000 feet long. However, for every first place holder, there’s someone in second place. Today, we’ll be covering that creature, the Zaratan. I mentioned this creature very briefly when I covered the Bermuda Beast by stating it has an island on its back. There’s more to it than just that, so let’s dive into this story and find out what lies beneath the island. Spoilers: it’s a gigantic turtle.

The Story

Okay, first up, let’s get one thing out of the way. While I stated that the Zaratan is a giant turtle, this isn’t the only version of it. There are versions of it out there that depict it as a whale, octopus, a plesiosaur, or a “giant fish that strives night and day to bring its tail to its mouth” but it’s incapable of doing so due to its enormous size. For the sake of simplicity though, we’ll be viewing the Zaratan as a giant turtle. Though I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least showcase what its other forms and depictions look like, so here are some images I found from the Cryptidz Wiki.

Stories of turtles that hold land on their back are by no means new. There are stories of how our entire planet is on the back of a turtle that’s either swimming through space or floating in it. In the case of the Zaratan, isn’t just one turtle, but rather an entire species. They’re said to have islands on their back, which sailors often mistake for an actual island until it begins to move or, worse, submerge. The most common version of what happens to those that set foot onto the creature is that it will submerge and drown the crew of the ship—and take the ship with it.

Moving on though: the Zaratan is said to live for extremely long periods of time and can grow to be over 1,000 feet long. This would make them roughly four times smaller than the Bermuda Beast. To give an idea as to how big this creature would be, this would make the Blue Whale—which is roughly fifty-one times smaller than the Bermuda Beast—about ten times smaller than the Zaratan.

The first appearance of the Zaratan in literature is something I cannot find, though given the aforementioned usage of a “World Turtle”, it’s likely that it was birthed from retellings of that story. Over the course of history, the idea that our world was on the back of a massive turtle slowly shifted into a turtle that has an island on its back. According to Wikipedia though, one of the earliest records of the Zaratan comes from a 9th century Arab prose writer and zoologist by the name of Abū Uthman Amr ibn Baḥr al-Kinānī al-Baṣrī—or simply Al-Jahiz. He described the Zaratan in a book entitled Kitab al-Hayawan (or “The Book of Animals”). Nowadays, it’s occasionally used in the tabletop game “Dungeons and Dragons”.

Like any good legend, there’s more to the Zaratan than just “it’s very good and therefore, it’s scary”. As for how it feasts, the Cryptidz Wiki states that, when it gets hungry, the Zaratan will open its mouth as wide as it possibly can and exhale a “sweet smelling aroma”. This will attract fish into its gaping maw and then, the creature will snap its mouth shut in a fashion that’s said to be similar to a Snapping Turtle.

These stories are all fine and dandy though, but what about sightings? Is there anything to back up such a fantastical creature? Well, I did some searching for this and I found a single story of sorts. It comes from the “Cryptozoology Cryptids” Wiki and it’s an extremely barebones story. According to the site, the origin of the Zaraton comes from a group of sailors that found what they described as a “jungle island”. After landing on the island, they decided to set up camp on it, only for the island to slowly dive underwater. It was then that the sailors realized that they’d set up camp on the back of a massive turtle.

For whatever reason, the article I linked above has two versions of the story, though the differences are minimal. It’s still a bit odd in my eyes. I digress: the article ends off by stating that there’s a belief that the story of the Zaratan was what spawned the legends of the Kraken. I cannot find anything to back this up, though I’m very doubtful of this. The Zaratan is never depicted as attacking ships and it doesn’t sound like it’s a very proactive creature (some depictions of it state it’s incapable of moving at all due to its size). That said, it’s possible given the portrayal of the Zaratan as an octopus.

Though with that, the story of the Zaratan comes to a close. It’s certainly a more interesting story than the Bermuda Beast in my eyes, though is it any more likely to exist than that malicious fiend? Well, let’s move onto the theories and see if we can find out if that’s the case.


1. It’s merely a legend

First up, we have the theory that the Zaratan is nothing more than a legend; a product of stories told from person to person throughout the ages. Most skeptics and even most ardent Cryptozoologists would likely tell you that this is the case, but given the lack of anything beyond the aforementioned legends, I don’t think most have given the creature the time of day to think about it. I mean, after all, it’s a 1,000+ foot long turtle. I don’t think many people would take that seriously unless they were playing a game where it dropped loot.

Roll a 20, boy-o!

2. It’s a real creature

The second and final theory is that it’s a real creature. As is per the norm on this blog, I must state that most of the world’s oceans have not been explored and you get the point, let’s cut to the chase. There’s no physical proof of this creature existing in any capacity beyond the written legends and the fables that were told in times of yore. The accounts from sailors are unreliable as they were (and still are, albeit to a much lesser degree) known to embellish their stories. You’d be deluding yourself to take their word without a grain of salt, especially when it comes to a creature like the Zaratan.

My Take

Just like with the Bermuda Beast, I don’t think this creature is real in the slightest, though I will say that I think this creature is infinitely more likely to exist. However, if it were to exist, it would not only need to eat an incredibly large amount of food to survive, it would have to be the sneakiest creature in the world to have hid from our satellites, let alone have not caused tsunamis simply by burping. That said, it’s a very cool story and I think it’s fun to imagine it being real.


A very fascinating legend to be sure, the idea of a creature like the Zaratan existing is one that definitely invokes a sense of awe and wonder in my mind. To see such a magnificent sight would be a dream come true in a way, though I also cannot comprehend such a massive creature. The Blue Whale alone is something that I find incomprehensible in a way, but something that would be upwards of ten times the size of that is even more incredible. Though what do you think, dear reader? Do you believe the Zaratan to be a real beast? Or do you think it’s simply the product of legend? Tell me in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. Again, as you said, if this was one of those creatures that existed, it would be impossible for it to stay hidden nowadays. Aside from the fact that it would be easy to track via satellite, sonar could probably find this creature as well.