Leviathan Map

The Grand Map by Keith Thompson (2009)

The Grand Map by Keith Thompson (2009)

Political octopus in pop culture: “The Grand Map” in Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and art by Keith Thompson. The map shows Northern Africa and the land below (or part of) “Serbia” as depicted by squid-like creatures.

You can see it in its full and glorious detail at Scott Westerfeld’s blog, where it is accompanied by information on how and why it was developed. There is also a version on Keith Thompson’s website that details each of the ‘allegories’ and why they were chosen.

For more cephalopod geographies: see “Of Maps and Octopuses“.

Big thanks to Mark Dominus for submitting this.

Silence – new material

This actually isn’t intentional. I just have nothing new to add at the moment.

If you know of any examples not here, or want to discuss anything here (or not here) or cephalophilia in general (include website blurbs), please feel free to leave a comment.

Boer War postcard (1899/1900)

Boer War postcard (c1900)

Postcard from series ‘La Guerre du Transvaal’. Depicts Transvaal lion as biting British octopus. All other colonies in thrall to the octopus and entangled in its arms.

The caption says: ‘Tu as cette fois Albion, En face de toi un Lion’ (You have this time Albion, in front of you a Lion.)

Cephalophilia Online

To bring to your attention other cephalopod oriented websites. These are a mix of popular culture and science (but mostly pop culture). If you know of more you think should be here, please leave a comment.


Cephalopod Awareness Days

Cephalopod Awareness Days 3rd Annual International Cephalopod Awareness Days. A 3 day celebration.

  • Thursday, October 8 – Octopus Day, for all the eight-armed species
  • Friday, October 9 – Nautilus Night, a time for all the lesser-known extant and extinct cephalopods
  • Saturday, October 10 – Squid Day/Cuttlefish Day, or Squidturday, covering the tentacular species

For more information: Cephalopodday.org, and Cephalopodcast. Hopefully I will find time over the next day or two in between uni assignments to put something together. (via Cephalopodcast) Update (7th Oct): fixed link *cough* – multi-tasking, pasted wrong link.


Continuing on after Octopus as Chimera and Of Maps and Octopuses to identify reoccurring motifs.

The octopus drawn as intelligent, mendacious and deceitful: the octopus tries to present itself as something other than an octopus. These include: appearing as the bearer of gifts in the Forty Thieves, as a Trojan Horse,  misdirection in the “Hunting the Octopus” or as treasure on an island. This was a relatively common visual metaphor circa 1900, but only makes a limited appearance after 1910.

The Forty T----s (Rogers, 1888)Hunting the Octopus (Rogers, 1900)Trojan Horse (Bradley, 1909)Treasure Island (Franklin, 1964)

Octopus as Chimera

Just a few rough ideas based on hybridity in political cartoons of octopus and other in order to develop a nomenclature for the different types of “octopuses” that appear in political cartoons. With the exception of the human/octopus combination, hybridity only makes up a small proportion of monstrous octopuses in political cartoons. Two broad groups can be identified on their purpose:

  1. To dehumanise (i.e. “Yellow Peril”, politicians): human/octopus hybrid is common
  2. To make monstrous (i.e. corporations, governments, imperialism): stranger hybrids occur: skulltopuses, cyborgs and vampires.

I would argue that these are two distinct purposes, although they might overlap. Mostly this is due to who, or what, is represented. With “who” typically dehumanised, and “what” made monstrous. I’m still working this out so any ideas, or arguments to the contrary welcome.

A (rough) Typology:

It is very uncommon that a single octopus/image belong in multiple categories (An example is “Putin“, which is a human/octopus cyborg)

  • Human/Octopus Hybrid (Anthropus?):
  • Skulltopus: Skull instead of a head. I would argue this differs from human/octopus hybrid due to the symbolism inherent in a skull (compared to a living head), and is more closely related to vampiric and monstrous octopuses. Only one example so far: SOAW octopus
  • Vampiric Octopus: Blood sucking octopuses. Example: Landlordism
  • Cyborg: Part machine or infrastructure, for example having bombs on the end of tentacles, or an oil tank for a head. Example: Standard Oil (I would include “Hunting of the Octopus” in this)
  • Animal/Octopus hybrid: Reptilian example: “The Devil Fish of Californian Politics

Discussion on this topic more than welcome. Although it is still in an early, incoherent phase.

Update: “There he is! Get Him” (Kal 2007) cartoon which depicts a geographical/octopus hybrid – the map/land grows tentacles, and the Time’s Scientology cover depicting a volcano with tentacles.