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, or other arboreal cephalopods, into their works -- either as friends or as enemies. Others have simply reported on tree octopuses for the edification of the public. Below is a list of tree octopuses appearing in the media.
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this list is to document how tree octopuses have been and are depicted in the media, including fiction. Some spoilers for stories may occur, but I'll try to be cagey in the descriptions if possible. Some items, especially historical ones, may contain imagery, viewpoints, or information considered offensive or outdated. Items are included on this list based purely on their tree octopus content, ordered by date. Links to sites selling the media are provided only if I couldn't find an objective site with more information, or haven't reviewed it on my blog. Inclusion on this list does not constitute endorsement by ZPi.
If you know of any other appearances, old or new, of tree octopuses in books, film, art, etc., email me.
Bill the Jungle Octopus (2018), a children's book by Angela Pink, is about an aquatic octopus that is forced by a pelican to move to the jungle and has to get along with his new, distrusting neighbors.
"Absolutely True Facts about the Pacific Tree Octopus" (2016), a short story by H. L. Burke, is about 8-year-old Liesel's decision between being right and doing right while on a family camping trip to the Olympic Peninsula.
Nolander (2015), an urban fantasy novel by Becca Mills, includes a species of sentient tree octopuses who live in a parallel Octoworld.
Arrival (2015), a novel by W. Ross White about a generational starship that arrives at its destination planet, where herds of four-armed cephalopods swing through the jungle canopies.
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.) Also published as text in Bear's collection Shoggoths in Bloom (2013).
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)
Pock's World (2010), a sci-fi novel by Dave Duncan, mentions its eponymous planet's greatest delicacy, talion, which is rotted tree octopus.
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".
"A New Order of Things" (2006), a sci-fi story by Edward M. Lerner serialized in Analog magazine, includes intelligent spacefaring aliens from Alpha Centauri A known as the Unity (or "Centaurs" by humans) that are "arboreal octopi covered in green fur".
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.
Vacuum Flowers (1987), a cyberpunk novel by Michael Swanwick, suggests in passing that tree squid might be common in the bioengineered blossom clusters of a future colonized solar system.
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.
"Drom Lunaris" by Richard A. Lupoff is a short story (published in the Feb. 1979 issue of KPFA Folio) about an intelligent, winged camel named Sopwith who flies to the moon to escape the ugliness of Earth, finding there, among other things, a garden with singing tree octopi in the vines of its tall trees. (Blogged)
"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.
"Pilgrims and Wayfarers" (1961, in Russian: «О странствующих и путешествующих») by the Strugatsky brothers, from their anthology Noon: 22nd Century, includes a species of venturesome octopuses called septipods ("септоподы", due to a reduced third left arm) that have started to explore dry land -- two even made an incursion into the forests, but were trampled by wild boars. (Blogged)
Old Growler—Space Ship No. 2213 (Science Fiction Fortnightly No. 4, 1951), a space exploration novel by "Jon J. Deegan" in which a character's grip is likened to a "tree-octopus from some swamp on Hamor" (p.19). (Another story in the "Old Growler" series, "The Singing Spheres" (1952), also likens someone's grip to a "swamp-octopus of Zonnash".)
"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)
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.
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.
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.)
An alternate-history thought-experiment from 1999 by Lewis Hutton, Douglas Muir, and Stan Engle imagines a world without vertebrates that includes a section on molluscs where herds of giant slugs are everywhere, some preyed upon by tree octopi (with illustration).
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:
Squatch vs Tree Octopus by Jonathan Dodd, commissioned by Strangeology (2021).
Giant Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus by Nick "Immortal-Cactus" (2020).
A pair of New World Nautilus Primates (Nautilidae octohabilis) by John "Magnus" Champlin (2019).
Fae Archaic by Kirt E. Burdick, "a fantasy comic book involving the dealings of lizard faeries, mountain ogres, and tree mollusks" (2013-2019).
Mural of a tree octopus by Patrick Maxcy (2018).
Watercolor of a tree octopus by Olivia Bosson (2017).
Painting an octopus in a tree with chickadees, a video tutorial by Lisa Lachri (2016).
Pacific Northwest Legends: A Natural History: Tree Octopus, part of a mural by Justin Gibbens and Will Bow, located under the BNSF Tunnel on Post Street in Spokane, WA (2015).
Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (and Pine Clams) by Iris Jay (print available) (2015).
"Leaf Octopus" by Alex Konstad (2014).
"Octopus in Waiting" by Lee White (2012).
"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)
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 tree octopus illustration created for a European oil company by Gaia Garlaschelli (2006?)
Pacific Northwest tree octopus tattoo by Raynelle (tattniss_everclean) (2018).
Cover-up tattoo with tree octopus by tim_austin_tattoos (2016).
Tree octopus forearm tattoo by Liberty Tattoo, Seattle (2012).
Tree octopus half-sleeve tattoo by Curtis Burgess (2011).
Hector the Tree Octopus arm tattoo by Ingrid Elaine (2019).
Tree Octopus jack-o-lantern at the Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, RI (2018)
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 from his branch in a tree:
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:
There's also one purporting to show a tree octopus hatching from an egg, but I'm not convinced. Also, footage of rarely seen tree octopus leaping behavior and a tree octopus camouflaging itself.
The Internet is filled with too many tree octopus videos to embed:
- Save It: The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, an instructional video from 1989 by Dr. Stanely Dre'Shea
- Let's Save the Tree Octopus! Mike and Jason show you three simple steps on how to save the endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus from extinction!
- PSA: The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Did you know the tree octopus is responsible for all the world's happiness?
- MrJayniepoo trick-or-treats for tree octopuses.
- Stop-motion Lego animation of tree octopus encounter.
- 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.
Alphabet Arcane (2008), a GURPS Sourcebook by Stefan Jones, mentions the Anchanipee Throwing Disc, which was used by natives of an isolated archipelago in the fabled Sunrise Ocean to "hunt the islands' stealthy arboreal octopus".
Footprints No. 4 (2005), an e-zine with material for AD&D campaigns, includes a monster description for a Tree Squid (Architeuthis arboreus) by B. Haskell Armstrong.
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).
Circle of Fear -- Part I (2001), a GURPS Atomic Horror Adventure by Stephen Dedman, has players abducted by aliens, finding themselves in a transparent cylinder with another nearby cylinder containing "arboreal octopus-like creatures".
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  and first pictured in Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: Beyond the Rim , 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.