More Octopus Homagery

The latest paean in the recent gush of Octopus love. It is by now a legit genre in nature writing. Anyhow, this one in particular deserves some sort of prize for this lead:

In 1815, 15 years before he made his most famous print, The Great Wave, Hokusai published three volumes of erotic art. In one of them there is a woodcut print known in English as ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’ and in Japanese as ‘Tako to ama’, ‘Octopus and Shell Diver’. It depicts a naked woman lying on her back, legs spread and eyes closed, while a huge red octopus performs cunnilingus on her. The octopus’s slit eyes bulge between the woman’s legs and its suckered limbs wrap around her writhing body. A second, smaller octopus inserts its beak into the woman’s mouth while curling the thin tip of an arm around her left nipple. In Europe, the print was interpreted as a scene of rape, but the critics didn’t read Japanese. In the text arranged in the space around the three entwined bodies, the shell diver exclaims: ‘You hateful octopus! Your sucking at the mouth of my womb makes me gasp for breath! Ah! Yes … it’s … there! With the sucker, the sucker! … There, there! … Until now it was I that men called an octopus! An octopus! … How are you able? … Oh! Boundaries and borders gone! I’ve vanished!’

Ok, I’ll save you the trouble of Googling the Hokusai print (NSFW, obviously). I don’t put it here (purely) for prurience, but at least partly because it suggests at least one interesting, offbeat (and subconscious?) element to the seemingly endless human fascination with the highly intelligent, supremely sinuous, creature.

The Mind Of An Octopus (#432)

“You must be pretty dumb if you are endlessly surprised by how intelligent and interesting I am.”

Not sure how many articles and books it is possible to write about how darn smart an octopus happens to be. But they keep coming. Which is fine, because maybe if we read enough about nonhuman intelligence we will stop being so arrogant about our own.

Here’s the latest, adapted from from Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, by Peter Godfrey-Smith.