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Into the Paranormal: Sea Monk

So, as I browsed the list of creatures today, I came across an interesting one I hadn’t heard of before, a Sea Monk, which sometimes goes by the name of monk-fish. It was named in 1545 to the fish off the coast of Denmark’s Zealand island. The creature got its name by looking like a monk, as you can see from the picture.

It was featured in Conrad Gesner’s fourth volume of Historia Animalium, a renaissance zoology book. Gesner, who was a doctor and professor, had previous experience with a similar sea creature in 1531 off the coast of Poland.

The sea monk was made well known in the epic poem La Sepmaine; ou, Creation du monde by Guillaume du Bartas. The poem reflects the belief that everything on land has something that corresponds in the sea.

In the 1850s, Japetus Steenstrup, a Danish zoologist, came up with the idea that the sea monk was actually a giant squid, which lined up next to one another look similarly shaped. Others believed it could be a walrus, grey seal, hooded seal, monk seal, or even a hoax. Although, there’s one more possibility, which came about more recently. Some believe it could be an angel shark due to the fact that it’s typically called a monkfish or, in Norway, munk.

What’s your take on the Sea Monk? Have you heard about it before?


  1. Another excellent article. That drawing is wild. A casual search for pictures of angel sharks reveals something a little bit similar in profile to the drawing.

    "The poem reflects the belief that everything on land has something that corresponds in the sea."

    This is one of my favourite Medieval / Renaissance ideas.

  2. Sarah, when I saw the topic for today's post, I had to drop by. I thought maybe Sea Monk was the title of a new steampunk. 🙂 Love the pic. BTW: Monkfish is quite tasty.

  3. Elaine, I know what you mean! The drawing is pretty freaky. I haven't had monk-fish, but now I'm curious. Thank you for stopping by!

    Elizabeth, thank you! I looked up angel sharks when I wrote the article, but didn't see a picture with it's outline. I did see one comparing the squid and Sea Monk, which was interesting. I agree. I admire that idea too.

    Dawn, thank you for coming by! Yeah, the picture is pretty awesome in a weird way. lol I haven't tried monk-fish! Now I might have to. I'll just try to tell myself it doesn't look like the picture!

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