Issie: The Matriarch Sea Serpent

For this week’s cryptozoological tale, let’s travel to the islands of Japan for a rather somber yarn. As you might already know, some folklore is rooted in profoundly sad origins. So goes the story of Issie, Japan’s most mythical water-dwelling creature. Way back before she embraced her fate as a legendary sea serpent–a heavy burden all on its own–Issie was simply a concerned mother.

But you see, Issie wasn’t your usual serpentine mother, the kind that nudges her youngsters to the water’s surface in hopes of terrorizing the locals. In fact, Issie wasn’t born a sea serpent at all. She came into the world a graceful white mare. Yup, that’s right. This beast of the water started out as a run-of-the-mill beast of burden. Just when you think cryptozoology can’t get any stranger, regular animals start upgrading to mythical ones. Excuse me while I sprout wings and become a thunderbird.

So Issie was a horse. And she had a little baby horse. Things were all fine and well until one day when Issie and her foal were grazing near a local lake. A samurai happened to walk by and decided it was a perfect afternoon to kidnap a random animal. Off went the samurai with the foal, and try as she might, Issie couldn’t convince him to return her child. In Issie’s sorrow, she dove into the water, and without natural rhyme or manmade reason, she transformed into the sea serpent we now know and love. The story alleges that to this day, Issie still searches in vain for her lost child. And you thought your local crybaby bridge tale was sad.

If legend is to be believed, Issie resides in Kyushu Island’s Lake Ikeda, a large caldera lake. What’s a caldera lake, you might ask? That’s a terrific question! Before assembling this article, I couldn’t have told you what a caldera lake was either. But thanks to Issie, I now have a better appreciation of limnology AKA the study of lakes, another word that has recently joined my vocabulary. Anyhow, a caldera lake is simply a body of water created in a volcanic crater. Pretty neat, huh? Issie sure thinks so! She’s been hanging out there forever.

For years, people have spotted Issie in the waters of Lake Ikeda. After all, being a 17-foot-long serpent makes it difficult to keep a low profile. As a result of her longevity and strange origin story, Issie is something of a local legend. She even has a statue in her honor.

And if I do say so, it’s a pretty fetching likeness.

Since forlorn fables about cryptids are too horrible to bear, I personally prefer to believe that Issie’s little one eventually heard her mother’s cries and returned to the lake, nipping at the wayward samurai as she fled. That would also mean there are now multiple sea serpents hanging out in that old volcano. Provided that my revisionist history is accepted, our biggest challenge would be to determine an appropriate name for Issie’s progeny. Lissie? Nissie? Jane? Any of those would do just fine, so long as Issie is content caring for her beloved daughter.

And the sea monsters lived happily ever after…

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