Octopuses (because now I know the plural isn’t octopi) are intelligent.

[from September 2016]

So, okay, I read this book because it kept popping up on social media as a fabulous read, and yes, I liked it. Octopuses (because now I know the plural isn’t octopi) are intelligent

A staffer put food inside the ball but later was surprised to find that not only had the octopus opened the ball, it had screwed it back together when it was done.


Six of us were watching her, and three of us had arms in the tank, before anyone noticed what had happened: She had managed to steal the bucket of fish right out from under us.


Roland found octopuses can open the childproof caps, an achievement that eludes many PhDs.

not to mention this MFA.

But there is a great deal of anthropomorphism contained herein, beginning with the title of the book. An octopus with a soul? An animal who, just for example, often kills and eats their mate? Intelligent, yes, curious, adventurous, yes, but you could ascribe those characteristics as well to a gorilla, a raven, a grizzly, a humpback. Do these animals have souls as well?

And if you’re going to attribute human behavior to an octopus who kills itself by escaping its tank and go into literal mourning at the loss of what you now consider to be your friend, why ignore the one motivation that would cement your theory? Maybe it wasn’t mischief or curiosity or loneliness or claustrophobia or in this case agoraphobia (she was transferred from a barrel to a much larger tank). Maybe she just wanted to get back to the ocean, where she didn’t have to put up with all these weird bipeds staring at and fondling her. Remember Inky, who didn’t even leave a note (http://www.npr.org/2016/04/16/4744122…).

This book is well written and clearly well researched with some very funny scenes (love when they all go to eat sushi after a visit to the aquarium), but I’m a child of Alaska and I was raised eating wild catch. If we didn’t get our moose we didn’t eat meat that winter. Maybe I’m just pre-disposed to regard anthropomorphism with skepticism because I don’t want to think I’m a cannibal. There is no denying the intelligence of the octopus and I’m not trying to, but I dig in at a soul.

[Note on 4/5/21–Although I could be wrong. It looks like at least one of them is fighting back: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-austra…]

Book Review Monday Chatter

Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Remember John Wyndhams’ “The Kraken Awakes”? He already envisioned an intelligent species but one that does not like us much.

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