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.

Literature:

  • The Long Earth (2012), a collaborative novel by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter about traveling through parallel Earths in which Homo sapiens never existed, proposes an alternate North America where, instead of tentaculating from branch to branch, tree octopuses glide through the canopy by spinning like frisbees.

  • "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)

  • The Procession of Mollusks (2008), a novel by Eric E. Olson, touches on the native uses of tree octopuses. (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.

  • Marc Stone #39: Les pieuvres végétales (1998), part of a French sci-fi novel series by Jean-Pierre Garen about the adventures of Marc Stone of Galactic Security and his android Ray, has Stone rescue tourists from Vénusia, a jungle planet whose all-female population is besieged by vegetable octopuses.

  • 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.

  • "Sword of Fire" by Emmett McDowell (Planet Stories, Winter 1949) is a novella about alien octopuses that take over a jungle planet, ruling the native humanoids using mind-control. (Review)

  • "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)

    Amazing Stories, May 1928 Amazing Stories, May 1928, p. 111, interior art
    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)

    Drome, tree octopus
    Art by Leahy from 1952 book.
    Click to enlarge...

  • 「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.

Non-Fiction:

  • 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.

  • Words of the Lagoon (1981), an ethnographic book about Palau by R.E. Johannes, reports on arboreal octopuses that give birth in the islands' mangroves. (More on this topic...)

  • 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.

Speculative Science:

  • 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:

    Firsoff, arboreal octopus
    Future spacepus?

Visual Arts:

  • "Leaf Octopus" by Alex Konstad (2014).

  • "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).

  • Optipess "Small Wee Ones", a comic strip by Kristian Nygård, explains the dangers of tree-octopus cross-breeding (2010).

  • "Ocean Invasion #1: Octopus arborealus" by Daniel D. Brown depicts a tree octopus eating a velociraptor (2010).

  • "Strange Tales of the Pacific Northwest. Episode 34: 20,000 Legs Under the Trees" (2007)

    Tree Octopus comic panel

    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.

Culinary Arts:

Film/TV:

  • 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.)

Internet Video:

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).

Miscellaneous Pop-Culture:

  • 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, furry arboreal octopi in the Indonan jungles of planet Cholganna. (First mentioned in: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: The Visual Dictionary [2002] and first pictured in Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: Beyond the Rim [2013], a RPG module.)

  • 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.