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Cephalopod Awareness Days: Monkeying with Myths and Legends

October 11, 2012

Greetings Blogophiles! We are more than halfway through Cephalopod Awareness Week! Feeling any more aware? Today, October 11th, we spend the day telling tall tales and conjuring cephalopod related beasties. What fun!

Did you know that bagpipes were invented by Shane MacDoogle after a fishing trip? Turns out Shane had accidentally hooked into an octopus. While he was trying to get it off the hook he accidentally squeezed its head. The octopus let out a low droning noise which Shane MacDoogle found musically appealing. After several mishaps with using actual octopuses, he finally realized hollow tubes and an air bladder would work better and smell less, thus the bagpipes we all know and love were born.

Photo of a man playing bagpipes

Man playing bagpipes. They look an awful lot like half an octopus to me. Photo by By jpellgen on flickr

Yes, I made that up. After all, it is myths and legends day. Here are three of the more common cephalopod based myths and legends; perhaps you’ve heard of them.

The Cthulhu is a fictional entity created by H.P. Lovecraft in 1928 for a story called “Call of the Cthulhu,” and no, I can’t pronounce it either. The Cthulhu was a beast with an octopus-like head, a humanoid body and dragon-like wings. I have never read this story but, from its description, The Cthulu is definitely a cephalopod-like beast and one should be aware of it.

Image of Chtulhu

The mythical beast Chtulhu. Photo by Brett Jordan on Flickr

Our next mythical cephalopod is the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus. This is one of my favorite hoaxes on the internet and is, for my mind, a very clever idea. The Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus was created by Lyle Zapato in 1998 and has a whole campaign around saving this mythical beast.

Photo of a tree octopus

The tree octopus is endangered and rarely captured on film. This one was so frightened by being photographed it turned itself into plastic. Photo by Dru on Flickr

Finally we come to my favorite of all cephalopod related myths and legends, The Kraken! Krakens are legendary sea monsters that live off the coast of Norway and Greenland and, again, from their descriptions are most definitely cephalopods. For more legends about cephalopods please visit the TONMO website.

Photo of the Kraken

Krakens, even when released, are not sociable creatures. Photo by Kousto on Flickr

So where else can you find mythical and cephalopod inspired creations? Here are some likely places to look:


  • 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters/Jane Austen


  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Galaxy Quest
  • Clash of the Titans

There are many more I’m sure I have missed. Feel free to comment and complain if I missed your favorite. If you’d like to make up your own cephalopod inspired myth, I’d love to hear it. I hoped you enjoy myths and legends day. Remember, if you see a Kraken, please release it and if you see a Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, please save it. Tune in tomorrow for the last day of Cephalopod Awareness Days.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2012 1:47 pm

    Reblogged this on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs and commented:

    by Trish Weaver

  2. October 8, 2014 1:31 pm

    I heard there’s a 3 m-long specimens of fossil cephalopod (Cameroceras?), possibly at the Museum of Comparative Zoology Harvard University. Is it possible?

    Great blog by the way!


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