Friday, December 4, 2015

Jaws: How big was that shark?

Who hasn't watched all four Jaws movies, read all three Jaws novels, and then wondered how all those sharks would measure up if they were standing (swimming) next to each other?

I know I have. And I can't be the only one, right? (Right?)

Well. Assuming I'm not the only one, we're gonna run through all seven sources and see what each had to say about this extremely important topic.

Alrighty then. Let's see... how to go about it? Movies first? Books first? Chronological order, regardless of media type? Yeah, that works. So it's:
  • Jaws (Novel) 1974
  • Jaws (Movie) 1975
  • Jaws 2 (Novel) 1978
  • Jaws 2 (Movie) 1978
  • Jaws 3-D (Movie) 1983
  • Jaws: The Revenge (Novel) 1987
  • Jaws: The Revenge (Movie) 1987
Technically, all three novels were published before their corresponding movies were released. In the case of Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge, since they were actually novelizations taken from early-draft movie scripts, that amounted to being published just two or three months before those films hit theaters. Jaws-novel, on the other hand, was a real-life book that had its own bonafide existence well before Jaws-movie was ever in the works. But you probably already knew that, and we're not really here to delve into the dark recesses of each book/movie anyway--we're just comparing sharks.

Oh, and did I mention I created a shark graphic, just for this very post? Well I did, 'cause that's how I roll. But that comes later. Let's look at the book/movie references first.

Before that, we should find out how big an actual, non-movie-monster, great white shark is likely to be. According to Wikipedia (who tells no lies) your garden variety great white would be anywhere from 12 to 16 feet long. In fact, we have Wikipedia to thank for the (on the larger end of) average shark-drawing below, which is swimming alongside a very brave/foolhardy but proportionate human-drawing. And since no human-drawing should be without a name, we'll call this one Hooper.

Hooper has no problem swimming with an average-sized great white.

Even this average, non-movie-monster, great white shark looks pretty intimidating to me. That mouth could certainly remove Hooper's leg in one bite, and be the death of him with just one or two more. (I guess removing a leg would be the death of you, if you were in the middle of the ocean.) But you know what I mean. Let's move on.

Jaws (Novel)

So, this is our introduction to movie-monster sharks, as a species, and author Peter Benchley takes his damn sweet time giving us any real idea of the size of this fish. I'd actually recently reread the book, but (of course) didn't make a note of if or when the size of the shark is mentioned. "But it must be in the first few pages," I thought to myself, "so I'll just thumb through the first chapter until I run across it." (...229 pages later...)

Benchley did sprinkle a few clues along the way, though. We start on pages 75 and 80 (in the 1991 Fawcett Crest edition, anyway) with a tooth and some toothy-estimates:
Into Brody's palm Hendricks dropped a triangle of glistening white denticle. It was nearly two inches long.
[Brody] flipped the tooth to Hooper, who turned it over in his hand.
Harry Meadows: "How big?"
Hooper: "I can't be sure, but big. Fifteen, twenty feet."
 And when the fellows eventually meet the actual fish, on pages 226 and 227, more estimates ensue:
Hooper: "That head must have been four feet across."

Hooper: "How long, would you say?"
Quint: "Hard to tell. Twenty feet. Maybe more."
Until finally Quint gives us his real-for-true expert estimate on page 229:
Quint: "I put that fish at twenty feet, so I'd say they grow to twenty feet. If I see one tomorrow that's twenty-five feet, I'll say they grow to twenty-five feet."
That was a long time comin'. But now we know: 20 feet. And the measuring gets a lot easier from here.

Jaws (Movie)

Jaws-movie clues us in at the same place the book did, story-wise: when the fellows first meet the fish:

And, by golly, this shark has a good 5 feet over Benchley's. Do I spy a trend in the making?

Jaws 2 (Novel)

Ah. Much quicker and to the point, Jaws 2-novel tells us what we want to know by page 8:
At 30 feet and almost two tons, she was longer than a killer whale and heavier by half.
That was easy. And, true to form, the shark is bigger still.

Jaws 2 (Movie)

Hmm. We never actually get a size in Jaws 2-movie. (Lame.) Closest we come is when shark-expert-lady says this:

Psht! Well, we know that, don't we?

Jaws 3-D (Movie)

Sadly, no novelization for Jaws 3, but we get our movie estimate about two thirds through:

Indeed it would, and indeed it was. Our biggest shark yet.

Jaws: The Revenge (Novel)

Revenge-novel follows 2-novel's lead, by being very straightforward and to the point on page 3:
He was twenty-eight feet long and weighed three thousand pounds.
No thumbing through three-quarters of a book for information, here. And the fellow is actually down-sized this time around.

Jaws: The Revenge (Movie)

Revenge-movie (also) follows 2-movie's lead, by telling us absolutely nothing about the shark. It's "big." Bah.

And that's it. So with 2-movie and Revenge-movie both wimping out by giving us not even an estimate on their sharks, that leaves us with three book sharks and two movie sharks with actual sizes--five sharks in all.

Which means it's time for our graphic:


ADDENDUM: And now (like the first two commenters on this post) you're wondering how big that Roger Kastel paperback cover/movie poster shark up top really is, aren't you? You're thinking to yourself "20-25 feet?! That thing looks way bigger than that!" Well it is, and you can find out just HOW big by following this link.


  1. Great post! Thanks for all the illustrations. I can't believe there have been no comments. I'm curious about the scale of the shark in the famous illustration used on the movie poster. That shark looks like a small whale.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, zenobardot. :-) I had a blast putting it together. I've always wondered about the paperback/movie poster shark's size, as well. My ballpark-eyeball-guesstimeter tells me it would be a good 60-70 feet nose to tail if we could see the whole thing. That's Megalodon territory, there!

    1. That's exactly what brought me here. That poster shark is way scarier than the actual shark.

  3. Okay, two comments in a row wondering about the size of that poster shark told me I had a job to do, and now I've done it: follow the link in the addendum at the end of the post to get the official goods on Poster-Shark. :-)


  4. Great post and illustration. Well done! May I share the image on my facebook page?

  5. Thanks. And no, I don't mind if you share it--just let folks know where you found it. ("Credit where credit's due" and all that.) :-)

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