The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
Tree Octopuses In The Media
Tree octopuses have inspired activists, writers, artists, and researchers across generations. Some speak out specifically on the plight of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and their kin. Some incorporate fictionalized versions of tree octopuses into their works -- either as friends or as enemies. Others have simply reported on tree octopuses for the edification of the public. Here are some noteworthy examples of tree octopuses in the media.
Note: the purpose of including fiction on this page is to document how tree octopuses are depicted by artists, so some spoilers may occur. I'll try to be cagey in the descriptions if possible.
If you know of any other appearances, old or new, of tree octopuses in books, film, art, etc., email me.
"Confessor" (2010), a near-future, post-collapse story by Elizabeth Bear from the audiobook collection METAtropolis: CASCADIA, follows an investigation into the murder of a geneticist that leads to a smuggling ring on Mt. Rainier selling genetically engineered counterfeit tree-octopuses to unsuspecting international buyers. (Review)
Spooky Washington: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore (2010), a book of folklore stories by S. E. Schlosser, includes one about a mischievous tree-octopus that steals chickens, with illustration. (Review)
Nation (2008), a tropical alternate-history young-adult novel by Terry Pratchett, includes an island that's home to tree-climbing octopuses (Octopus arbori) that are hard to pull off if they land on your head -- and never let them think you're a coconut, because they have sharp beaks. (British cover-art includes a suspiciously familiar tree octopus.)
The Other Side of the Island (2008), an eco-dystopic young-adult novel by Allegra Goodman, has a tree octopus named Octavio who helps the protagonist, Honor, as she learns the truth about The Corporation and its sky projections.
The Book of Summer (2008), a Christian-military-sci-fi novel by James F. David, takes place on the newly colonized planet America, where outcast Rey Mann adopts an orphaned baby tree-octopus (which he names Ollie) after he kills its mother.
Lulu Atlantis and the Quest for True Blue Love (2008), a children's novel by Patricia Martin, mentions Lulu's father being off to save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, which is described as "a worthy crusade and a worthy cause".
Minnie & Moo and the Seven Wonders of the World (2003), an illustrated children's book by Denys Cazet, is about two cows trying to raise money to save their farm by giving tours of seven wonders, including a Forest Octopus they solicit donations to save.
Zollocco: A Novel of Another Universe (2000), a sci-fi-comedy-adventure by Cynthia Joyce Clay, follows a woman who escapes an eco-dystopic Earth and finds herself on a planet ruled by an intelligent forest named Zollocco that protects her -- with, among other things, its tree-octopus minions -- from an interplanetary corporation that wants to sell her as a household pet.
The Crucible of Time (1983), a sci-fi novel by John Brunner about an alien species of tree-octopusoids who, at the dawn of their understanding of science, learn that their planet will one day be destroyed by the collision of their star system with a cloud of interstellar debris and must, over millennia and against disastrous set-backs, develop the technology to escape into space.
"The Hour that Stretches" (from Stalking the Nightmare, 1982), a short story by Harlan Ellison, includes a plot synopsis involving the Chesapeake Tree-Climbing Octopus, described thusly:
This retiring and rarely glimpsed creature lives in the many quiet estuaries of the Chesapeake system. Early each morning the octopus leaves the water and crawls up the trunk of a shoreside tree. It makes its way precariously onto a branch overhanging the water, where it waits for its prey to pass underneath.
"A Night in Elf Hill" by Norman Spinrad (1968, reprinted in his The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde) is a short story about a merchant spacer who searches for a hidden city in an alien swamp where golden-fuzzed, turkey-gabbling "octopoid things" swing through the trees by their tentacles like monkeys.
"The Thaw Plan" (from The Lost Cavern and Other Tales of the Fantastic, 1948), a short story by Gerald Heard, is set long after the ice caps were melted, leaving mankind divided into two different, polar-bound species separated by a vast, equatorial belt of impenetrable jungle, home to atavistic creatures, including a briefly-mentioned tree octopus that attacks the protagonist. (Review)
"The Octopus Cycle" (Amazing Stories, May 1928), by Irvin Lester & Fletcher Pratt with art by Frank R. Paul, is a pulp story about towering octopuses, referred to as "Umbrella Beasts", that walk out of the sea into the jungles of Madagascar, from which they terrorize the locals -- and potentially the world. (Review)
Cover from Poulpe Pulps, interior art scanned by Matt Goodman.
Click to enlarge...
Drome (1927), a pulp adventure by John Martin Leahy originally serialized in Weird Tales (Jan.-May, 1927) then published as a book in 1952, takes place in a cavernous realm miles below Mount Rainier with a primeval forest inhabited by deadly tree-octopuses. (Review)
「松に藤蛸木にのぼるけしきあり」 (c. 1600s), a renku by poet Nishiyama Sōin likening wisteria growing on a pine to an octopus climbing a tree. A translation:
wisteria on pine --
a tree octopus climbs
there's a spectacle!
Halieutica (c. 100s), an epic poem on fishing by Oppian of Corycus, contains a passage about Greek octopuses' love of olive trees.
Weird Washington (2008), a book on Washington State oddities, has an article on the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, illustrated with photo of a tree octopus luring squirrels with nuts.
The Bella Coola Indians (1948), an ethnographic book about the Nuxalk of British Columbia by Thomas Forsyth McIlwraith, reports on octopuses that forage in spruce trees for pitch, which they enjoy chewing like gum. (More on this topic...)
Life in the Southern Isles (1876), by Rev. William Wyatt Gill, includes the earliest written record of Polynesian tree octopuses.
Naturalis Historia (c. 77-79), by Pliny the Elder, tells of a Spanish octopus that used a tree to steal pickled fish.
The Future Is Wild (2003), a TV documentary series exploring what future evolution may produce, had an episode titled "The Tentacled Forest" set 200 million years hence in which squibbon, a cephalopod that swings through the trees like a gibbon, use their intelligence to battle giant, forest-dwelling megasquid. The series ends suggesting the squibbon may form a new civilization. (There was also a swampus from 100 myh.)
The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution (1988), a book by Dougal Dixon that imagines what present day life would be like had the non-avian dinosaurs not gone extinct, includes a Coconut Grab (Nuctoceras litureperus), a type of tree ammonite of the Australasian Realm that climbs coconut trees.
Life Among the Stars (1974), a science book on the possibility of extraterrestrial life by V.A. Firsoff, includes speculation that an arboreal octopus might one day become a spacefaring species, with illustration:
"Octopus in Waiting" by Lee White (2012).
Tree octopus tattoo by Curtis Burgess (2011).
"The Resting Place" by Shane Devries depicts two forest octopuses sitting on the lap of a wistful monster (2011).
"Ocean Invasion #1: Octopus arborealus" by Daniel D. Brown depicts a tree octopus eating a velociraptor (2010).
Tree-dwelling octopus triptych by three different artists (2008).
"Darwin claims another tree dwelling octopus" by Ben Lawson (2008).
"Strange Tales of the Pacific Northwest. Episode 34: 20,000 Legs Under the Trees" (2007)
A one-page graphic-novel drawn by Lukas Ketner and written by Ryan Brown about the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus' origins and struggles with cougar predation. It appeared in issue #25 of The Bear Deluxe Magazine published by Orlo, a nonprofit organization using the creative arts to explore environmental issues.
A roasted Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (vegetarian).
Tree Octopus Bento: Karetchko raises delicious awareness with a tree octopus rendered in string cheese.
Monsters (2010), a film about a journalist who must rescue a woman from a quarantined zone in Mexico overrun with giant, alien octopusoids that walk on the land and lay their eggs in the trees.
IMPOLEX (2009), an independent film about a US soldier on a mission to recover German V-2 rockets at the end of World War II who encounters, among other things, a talking European forest octopus.
In the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe episode "Trouble in Trolla" (1984), He-Man has the squeeze put on him by a giant, blue tree-octopus on Trolla, home-planet of Orko:
Kure Kure Takora (クレクレタコラ, 1973-4), a Japanese kids' show centering around the bizarre, greedy exploits of Kure Kure Takora (Gimme Gimme Octopus), a tree octopus who wants all that he sees.
お猿の艦隊 (The Monkey Fleet) (1936), a Japanese animated silent short, depicts an army of octopuses marching into a forest to raid a monkey melon farm.
La Pieuvre (The Octopus) (1928), a short surrealist documentary by Jean Painlevé, opens with an octopus climbing down from a tree:
(A video I created by editing together excepts with new intertitles can be found here: La Pieuvre Des Arbres. Someone else added music and uploaded it to Vimeo.)
The Tree Octopus - A Journey, a documentary following a trek into the Olympic National Forest in search of tree octopuses:
- Someone (not me) started a Save The Tree Octopus! YouTube channel that includes a touching tribute video, a homeless Tree Octopus created in Spore, and an actual video of an elusive Tree Octopus:
The Internet is filled with too many tree octopus videos to embed:
- Newt Gingrich on the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.
- The Tale of the Urban Tree Octopus, an illustrated explanation of biological adaptation and tree octopus gentrification.
- Tree Octopus Hunter, the man who has committed his whole life to finding and recording sightings of the PNW Tree Octopus.
- The Hunt for Tree Octopi, a short, Attenborough-esque documentary on their sad plight.
- Troctopus (Part 1) a "Romantic Documentary" (in 22 short parts) about one teen's obsession with finding tree octopuses in South Dakota, a conspiracy to stop him by his arch-nemesis, and a star-crossed romance between his best-friend/research-assistant and a local Sasquatch that threatens to rip apart the research team.
- Erin wants a tree octopus pet, but since poaching would only harm their population, she wants science to invent one for her.
- Mission: Tree Octopus is an epic adventure to discover evidence of tree octopi armed only with an electric toothbrush.
- A flashback video by an Australian kid who has opened some sort of spatial rift between Australia and Gorst resulting in him being attacked in his home by a gun-wielding tree octopus.
- Tree Octopus Attack! is a short octoploitation flick.
- PSA: Tree Octopus is a simple but effective animated PSA.
- PSA: Tree Octopus and Swine Flu (Note: At the time this PSA was released, researchers feared the Sasquatch had gone extinct due to the swine flu pandemic. Turns out they were all just hiding from the researchers. All is well with Sasquatch. Please remain calm.)
- Watch Dingo McGee track the wily Tree-Climbing Octopus.
- Watch an episode of the Carry Springer Show (like the Jerry Springer show, only in someone's living room) tackling the plight of the tree octopus.
- Watch the short film Traci Bogart, PI: Hunt for the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (there's also a trailer and blooper reel).
- Watch a lesson on "How to be a Tree Octopus".
- Watch the video audition of a young Steve Irwan fan as he goes in search of tree octopuses and Sasquatch.
- Watch 8 Legs of Awesome, a short deconstructionist movie about capturing a tree octopus and feeding it chickens on a farm. (They also have a trailer.)
- Watch a Dutch animal documentary about the tiger, panda bear, and mysterious tree octopus.
Role Playing Games:
Airship Troopers: Volcanic Dinosaur Island of Doom (2010), a RPG set in the Zeppelin Age, includes a Treetopus and other unusual octopuses.
Stormwrack: Mastering the Perils of Wind and Wave (2005), an environment supplement for playing Dungeons & Dragons in sea and storm by Richard Baker, Joseph Carriker, & Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes, has a footnote on "Terrestrially Adapted Aquatic Creatures" that suggests Dungeon Masters include relatively harmless creatures such as arboreal octopi, adding "the tree-climbing octopus might be after coconuts and only occasionally try to crack a character's head by mistake".
Fera Vita: Pax Draconis Supplement #1, Wildlife (2005), a creature stat supplement by Justin Dagna for the sci-fi RPG Pax Draconis, has an entry for the Land Octopus, or Lukashi, that spends much of its time in trees and can be found on most worlds in the game's universe since their microscopic hatchlings are spread in water supplies and "can also survive in wet bathing suits that tourists often wrap in plastic for the trip home." Also mentioned in The Lost Colony: Pax Draconis Campaign #1 (2003).
In the Star Wars "Expanded Universe" (i.e. stuff not in the movies), the nexu is a predator that feeds on bark rats and warm-blooded arboreal octopi in the Indonan forests of planet Cholganna. (First mentioned in: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: The Visual Dictionary.)
Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe (2002) notes that "ancient records hint that proto-Puber were arboreal, a sort of tree-dwelling octopus."
A never-produced mid-1990s Tremors TV series was to include an episode with an arboreal octopus preying on people in the woods.