Follow TV Tropes


Sandbox / Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods

Go To
The one-eyed alien Dianoga will consume anything. It almost looks kind of cute, in its own twisted way.

"Squid, cuttlefish, and other similarly baleful creatures are all members of the cephalopod family, characterized by HUGE EYES, BEAKS, INTELLIGENCE, and AMBITION. ... They're jet powered, did you know that? They're jet-powered animals and their heads are covered in PREHENSILE TENTACLES. They're carnivorous and most are cannibals!
T-Rex, Dinosaur Comics

This trope is about octopodes, squid, cuttlefish, nautiloids, and ammonites.

Something about these animals is just plain alien. Few Earth natives can lay claim to having anything like Bizarre Alien Biology, but cephalopods have a strong claim to it — they have two gill hearts, one systemic heart, and blue blood. They are invertebrates without carapaces, yet unlike worms and their mollusc kin such as snails and clams, they move with purpose and have large, staring eyes with Hellish Pupils. There are suckers on their tentacle-arms, and a few species like the colossal squid have hooks.

Their mouths are beaked and positioned strangely, their bodies look weirdly like heads, they expel clouds of ink to distract their predators, they move strangely, and some can leap out of the water like flying fish. Many of them can change colors and even the texture of their skin and they're somehow able to do this while being completely color-blindnote . Some species have donut-shaped brains and their esophagus runs through the "donut hole". And of course, they are bizarrely intelligent - on the same level as a cat or a bird. Unlike those animals, they don't learn from any parent - the parents die soon after the eggs hatch.


In fiction, sometimes they're horrible, mysterious denizens of the deep. Sometimes they're cute and funny. Largely this is a matter of size, but it's also true that generally the east favors the comical cephalopod while the west favors its big, evil cousin. Cephalopods live in every ocean.

See Flying Seafood Special if they can fly, and Cthulhumanoid if they're Half Human Hybrids.

Expect Combat Tentacles, Tentacle Rope and, in racier fare, Tentacle Rape. Bigger ones can apply for Giant Squid status, and from there it's not that big a jump to Kraken and Leviathan up to Eldritch Abomination. Not to be confused with Cephalothorax — those also have large heads and limbs spawning off them, but they're humanoid.

While you're here, also remember to introduce yourself to Great Cthulhu, the appointed spokesperson of the Cephalopod Nation. He gets very upset if people do not properly acknowledge him.



    open/close all folders 

Comical Cephalopods

See Funny Octopus.

Evil Cephalopods

See Tentacled Terror.

Other Cephalopods

    Anime and Manga 
  • Franken Fran: Chapter 53, "Octopus", revolves around a mimic octopus that Fran had been tinkering on that can mimic people's appearances. After Fran lost it, it was found by a young man who had recently lost his little sister; the octopus took on the form of said sister to fool him. It eventually mates with him and uses his body to host its thousands of eggs.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: The Cephalids of Otaria that showed up in the Odyssey block as a replacement to merfolk (kinda... Laquatus was still running around). They were almost humanoid squid creatures that were neutral to most of the events on the mainland, and involved in their own civil war, between the Emperor and Empress no less.
  • Yu Gi Oh: The Fiend Kraken and Flame Kraken monsters.

    Films — Animation 
  • Stretch, one of Lotso's henchmen in Toy Story 3, is a stretchy, sparkly octopus toy voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. Not evil, seeing as she abandons Lotso with the others when they learn of his past and see him for what he is.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian features a giant octopus that befriends Larry after he provides it with water, and happily sploshes into the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
  • In Oldboy (2003), the main character, after spending 15 years locked up, goes to a restaurant and orders "something still alive". He's served an octopus, which he proceeds to chew down while its tentacles squirm all over his face. Watch it here. Live octopus is a genuine South-Korean dish (called sannakji), but the critter is supposed to be cut up before serving. In the movie, he just ate it whole.

  • Stephen Baxter's novel Manifold: Time has humans breed squid for intelligence, then use them to man space probes. These squids colonize an asteroid; their species actually outlives most of humanity.
  • In the X-Wing Series, Loka Hask, the man who killed Wedge's parents, survived being shot down, but in the process a Corellian limpet got attached to his face, covering an eye and an ear and reaching tentacles into his mouth and nose. Corellian limpets look like vaguely jellyfish-ish eyeless, lumpy octopodes. Loka's limpet serves as a Red Right Hand, drawing a couple of circles around his evilness.
  • Ian Fleming's "Octopussy" features an octopus as a pivotal story device. It kills a major character, but not in any "evil" malice.
  • Similar to the Discovery Channel instance but much creepier: near the end of the Earth's life in H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, cephalopods appear to have finally gotten around to invading the land. One of them crawls out of the ocean towards the time machine as the atmosphere begins to snow out around the traveler.
  • The 'gods' of the Church of God Kraken.
  • In The Exposed, twenty-seventh book in the Animorphs series, the gang uses sperm whale morphs to capture a giant squid, and then all six morph it to access a ship in the deep ocean.
  • Sergey Pavlov's Aquanauts feature an absolutely tragic take on the trope, when the protagonist, a deep diver who's recruited to help to investigate the strange events at the automated underwater mine (one of two operators disappeared and the other had a nervous breakdown), finds what's really happens there. When he comes down, he finds there a mysterious giant squid that messes around with the equipment, and apparently shows signs of the intelligence. It turns out that the squid got injected with the consciousness of his girlfriend who recently died in an air crash, but whose brain was used by her father as a matrix for his AI research. When the plane carrying a prototype crashed near the mine, the prototype rewrites itself over the squid's brain, thus somehow awakening the girl's self-awareness. She, however, cannot cope and eventually commits suicide.
  • The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling features a hyperintelligent cuttlefish named "Gwendolyn."
  • China Mieville's "Kraken", natch. (More of the Eldritch Abomination type, but didn't do anything evil in the book.)
  • In Orn, the second book of Piers Anthony's Of Man And Manta series, Aquilon is able to communicate telepathically with giant ammonites in the Alternate Universe.
  • In Raymond Z. Gallun's "Davey Jones' Ambassador" (1935), a human undersea explorer is captured by a deep-dwelling civilization of cephalapods who have a culture based on Organic Technology.
  • From the Evillious Chronicles' Daughter of Evil and Deadly Sins of Evil Light Novels there is the "ziz tiama", an octopus species with a face (a reference to Tako Luka) which has magical properties.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Discovery Channel The Future Is Wild project speculates on the Earth of 200 million years into the future.
    • The ecological niche primates once occupied is now filled by tree-swinging, quasi-sapient "squibbons". It is strongly suggested that the squibbons will evolve on to form a civilization. From the same habitat as the "squibbons" comes the "megasquid", an elephant-sized octopus that walks on eight pillar-like legs of pure muscle. Both are stated to come from a family called "terasquids", the land-dwelling descendants of cephalopods.
    • In the same time period as the Terasquids above comes the ocean-dwelling "rainbow squid", which resembles a current-era giant squid except with far more impressive colour-changing abilities than any current-era cephalopod.
    • 100 million years earlier, a variety of marsh-adapted octopus called "swampus" uses its color-changing abilities to hunt among reed beds, and rears its young in puddles trapped by gigantic lotus flowers.
  • In part two of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Chain of Command," Gul Madred offers a starving Picard a pink Taspar egg. Picard cracks it open, revealing a squishy, squiddy thing inside which is still alive. Undaunted, Picard upends the egg and gulps it down.
  • A seventh-season episode of House has the Patient of the Week eating sannakji, live octopus parts, still moving on the plate. Played for humorous Squick.
  • On Primeval, Helen leaves a live ammonite on Cutter's desk as a sign she's returned from the distant past via one of the Anomalies.
  • Several Mecha in Super Sentai and its adaptation Power Rangers take the shape of a cephalopod.

    Myths and Religion 
  • The Hawaiian god Kanaloa is represented by an octopus. Despite being associated with the underworld, magic, and the deep sea, he was a pretty decent guy. However, Christian missionaries associated him with evil when they recast the major deities of the ancient Hawaiians into the Holy Trinity and Satan as part of their conversion efforts.
    • In some South Pacific mythologies, the octopus is the sole survivor of the previous universe, befitting its almost alien nature.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The d20 version of Gamma World has Octhofuses — a sapient race of octopodes, their name resulting from applying simulated linguistic drift to the original animal's name, like most creatures new to the d20 version. Most of them were actually friendly and curious — although there was a large, primitive, warlike subrace, roughly to them as orcs might be to humans in a fantasy setting — and they're considered a valid Player Character option.
  • One of the starting morphs in Eclipse Phase are "Octomorphs", uplifted octopodes. Depending on the background you pick and your "fluff" choices, a character with this morph might be an actual octopus, another animal with an octopus body, a human with an octopus body, or an AI with an octopus body.
  • You can also play an uplifted cephalopod in Transhuman Space. Some of them claim to worship Cthulhu, and humans who discuss it with them aren't sure if they're more unnerved by the possibility this is octosap-humour, or the possibility it isn't.
  • Star Frontiers features a race of land-dwelling, intelligent, telepathic, purple octopuses (technically they have nine tentacles, but still) in the very first intro module. For extra awesomeness they ride DINOSAURS!


    Video Games 
  • Octoroks from The Legend of Zelda.
  • Minecraft has squids that spawn in water. They're a neutral mob, though, and quite passive.
  • The Pokémon Octillery, which as the name suggests, is like a cross between an octopus and a cannon. (it evolves from a revolver fish). There's also Omanyte and Omastar, based on the extinct ammonite.
    • Pokémon X and Y introduces Inkay and Malamar, a evolutionary line of Dark/Psychic squid.
  • The Parodius series has Takosuke and other octopuses among the main characters. The subtitle of the original MSX game translates to The Octopus Saves the Earth.
  • Endless Ocean has octopuses and squid who all act benign towards you, but the second game's giant squid can be periodically seen fighting with a sperm whale.
  • The protagonist of Swim, Ikachan! is a squid, but, as a Heroic Mime, tends not to be particularly comical.
  • Jazzpunk has a giant squid statue as a parody of the Maneki Neko.
  • Fluik Games' mascot is a squid. In Office Jerk and its Spin-Off Office Zombie, you can use the squid as a projectile.
  • The stars (and playable characters) of Splatoon are the Inklings, squids who can change shape into humanoid teens. Their main enemies are the Octarians, a race of octopus-inspired creatures that resemble octopus tentacles.
  • In Evolve many of the animals are said to be descended from cephalopod like creatures. This is most noticeable with the mammoth birds, reptilian ostriches with Cthulhu heads, and cephaladons, which are crocodiles mixed with squid.
  • Animal Crossing has Octopus villagers. They're notable for being one of three species that aren't mammals or birds (the others being alligators and frogs, one of two that are also fish that can be caught (other being frogs) and the only one that's based on an invertebrate. They're also the rarest villager as there's only 3 of them in the whole series.
  • Cuttlefishes appear as preys in Feeding Frenzy: Shipwreck Showdown. They spray ink when they see they are about to get eaten, leaving a dark cloud that will disorient the player, making the playable fish slower and much harder to control.

    Web Original 
  • PZ Myers loves cephalopods. There's even a Friday Cephalopod feature!
  • Oddly enough, there's also a Friday Squid on cryptography badass Bruce Schneier's blog.
  • The Delegation is a mysterious cuttlefish and Zoofights competitor who is ostensibly from Japan (the fact that it arrived three days before the invitations were sent out notwithstanding). The Delegation is later revealed to be just one of many bodyguards of a massive squid who was nicknamed The Representative and referred to itself as SeaNet.
  • The rare and endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (Octopus paxarbolis).
  • Orion's Arm: Has an entire planet populated by cephalopods aptly named Cephalotopia. Some of the stranger examples of intelligent species are Bitenic Squids and PsySquids, neither of which are particularly friendly to humans.
  • This story, about a Mimic Octopus who can imitate Humans (albeit unconvincingly), and then another or possibly the same one who's learned to do it well. While the octopus does try to kill the protagonist, he seems to eventually come to have some small degree of sympathy for it, since its actions were apparently the result of its habitat being overfished by Humanity.
  • The Kraken in The Adventures of The League of S.T.E.A.M. short, "Tall Tails", is a cephalopod, although since only its arms are seen it is unknown if it is an octopus, squid or something else.

    Western Animation 
  • The first Superhero Episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Heloise create a muscle-enhancing squid that gave Jimmy superpowers. This led to Jimmy's superhero alias being Powersquid.

    Real Life 
  • The NHL's Detroit Red Wings typically celebrate the NHL playoffs by letting fans throw octopuses on the ice, a tradition that began in the 1950's (the octopus' eight arms signified the 8 wins—two best-of-seven series—needed to win The Stanley Cup in those years). The animal has been long associated with the team as a result, with even the team's mascot being one (Al the Octopus).
  • Paul the psychic octopus was a resident of a German aquarium known for having correctly predicted the outcome of every game that Germany played in the 2010 World Cup, plus the final.
  • Vampyroteuthis infernalis, the Vampire Squid from Hell.
  • In South-East Asian countries (particularly Singapore and to a lesser extent Malaysia), there is a saying "blur like sotong", meaning someone is inattentive or easily confused. The thinking is the association with blinding ink and being confused and distracted. However, as pointed out elsewhere on this page, cephalapods are very intelligent animals capable of complex thinking processes, and the ink confuses their enemies, not them.
  • Several cultures worldwide ascribe mystical properties or religious significance to Ammonite fossils; most notably Hinduism, where they are a symbol of Vishnu.
  • Chambered Nautiluses have some of the most famous shells in the animal kingdom.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: