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Mythology Corner: Hrosshvalur

It's time for another post about Icelandic mythological being.

This week I'm going to talk about Hrosshvalur.

The literal translation of the name would be "horse whale".

I kinda get why.

Look how majestic it looks!

It's called Hrosshvalur due to the big, red mane of hair which obscures the bone spikes on its back as well as the red tail.

It's also got a dark star on its forehead that people have mistaken for a third eye.

The sound it makes is similar to a horse's neigh, albeit louder in tone.

His usual size is around 10 meters but it can be up to 30-40 meters long!

It is said that it loves human meat and searches for ships all around the ocean and try to break them with its weight. They're also said to be greedy and evil and that if you see it, the weather will become very bad. At least that's what happened to a Danish ship in 1751 that saw a couple of Hrosshvalur and tried to hunt them, but no avail.

If a whale comes in touch with its bone spikes (that are filled with bacteria), an infection will spread from the wound and it will die slowly and horribly.

The first mention of Hrosshvalur comes from Grágás, the first lawbook of Iceland (930-1262/62) where it states that the consumption of its meat was forbidden along with the meat of other mythological beings, such as Náhvalur and Rauðkembingur.

It's even mentioned in Snorra-Edda.

It seems that last sightings were somewhere between 1792 and 1841. There have been no sightings of it in the 20th century. Not even in the 21st century.

Might be because of our whale huntings and also due to the industrialization of better and stronger ships that the Hrosshvalur's bone spikes can't handle.


The more I look at the photo, the more I seem to remember a very old cartoon that I used to watch as a kid.

Something feels familiar.....

I wonder if the Loch Ness monster is related to the Hrosshvalur?

What do you think?

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1 Comment

Don Edward Cook
Don Edward Cook
Nov 06, 2019

Hi, Villemy! Ever heard of an ancient species of ocean-dwelling reptile called the ichthysaur? (I believe that’s how it’s spelled.) Anyway, it bears a striking resemblance to the horse whale. Remember, legends are often based on fact. For me, I still believe in dinosaurs and my faith in ✝️ still lives. There is a Creationist explanation for those terrible lizards such as horse whales. For what it’s worth, that’s my two cents’ worth.✝️🙂🙏

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