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Recently I have ventured into the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti and I came upon the steampunk classic symbol - Octopus. The Order of the Brass Octopus has it as their mark. I remember a Giant Squid in Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Other steampunk novels have incorporated the octopus in few ways.

Why has an octopus made it to be a staple symbol of steampunk? What is it about the octopus that is "steampunkish"?

I have already read some posts on the Steampunk Empire site but I'm not seeing the answers explaining the subject in depth.

I don't quiet understand why Atem Su Alset's post explains why "octopus is the animal that embodies the Steampunk spirit perfectly".

  • I have heard some steampunk LEGO fans refer to the octopus being associated with Steampunk through Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and his steam powered submarine, The Nautilus. Of course, we all know it was a giant squid, but... I'm passing on what I overheard. – Major Stackings Dec 21 '12 at 2:30
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    Are you sure you're not just overemphasising it? Persoanlly I wouldn't say that any animal is representative of the Steampunk genre. Goggles now, oh yes – user11154 Dec 21 '12 at 11:20
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    @UserEleventyOne goggles - yes, clockworks, pipes, polished brass - yes, but octopus .. seriously? It receives much more love from (post-)Lovecraftians and akin, but in no way you can call this noble animal a symbol of steampunk. – c69 Dec 21 '12 at 23:19
  • Lots of discussion here; thesteampunkempire.com/forum/topics/question-why-is-the-octopus none of it terribly enlightening though. – Valorum Jan 16 '14 at 22:49
  • I think it's less that the Octopus is typical for steampunk and more that it's typical for organizations striving for world domination (because the tentacles reach everywhere and, when the image is used in propaganda, you can denounce your enemy as not really human). – Eike Pierstorff Aug 13 '18 at 10:17
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I think the answer is that the octopus is not the representative animal of Steampunk. While it features in certain of the inspirations for Steampunk it doesn't appear more often or more prominently than any other creature.

Where Steampunk (or any other genre) blends in Lovecraftian influences there might be a case to say that the Octopus or Squid is representative of that sub genre.

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I would say it has to do with pipes. Steampunk involves a lot of weird machinery. That means pipes, tubes, and big fat boilers. Sometimes a Steampunk crafts-person's workshop probably looks like a jumbled up octopus.

On a more metaphorical note, the octopus is seen to be highly adaptable, being able to squeeze itself through tight spaces, and change the color and texture of it's skin. As I see it, adaptability is the reason steampunk is interesting in the first place; victorian ladies adapting to and using this new technology. Not to mention the 8 arms that could presumably be doing many things at the same time. The same way that characters like Alexia do many jobs at the same time.

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I tried to answer this question on my blog today, http://forwhomthegearturns.com/2014/01/16/steampunk-sourcebook-cephlapods-octopus-and-squid/ What I have concluded is that it has a lot to do with the early days of sci-fi writing which includes 20,000 leagues Under the Sea, Call of Chthulu and the poem The Kraken. These works and authors are fundamental to the formation of the steampunk genre. There are lots of pictures of steampunk cephlapods. I also really like the answer above about their bodies looking like a jumble of tubes and machinery (plus they totally have goggle eyes).

  • Reasonable and satisfying answer, +1 – FoxMan2099 Jan 16 '14 at 22:15
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I assume, that submarine Nautilus from Jules Verne's novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a very steampunkish role model which directly leads us into the multifarious arms of the octopus.

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