Kraken Rising: How the Cephalopod Became Our Zeitgeist Mascot

Kraken-raising-tn Mark Dery in h+ magazine:

As H.P. Lovecraft devotees know, Cthulhu (“kə-THOO-loo”) is the octopoid horror that slithered across the intergalactic wastes, in the time before Time, and slumbers now in the ocean’s abyssal depths, dreaming of apocalypse. As described in “The Call of Cthulhu,” he’s a cosmic obscenity, a partial-birth nightmare of “vaguely anthropoid outline” with the scaly hide and “rudimentary wings” of a dragon. But his most memorable aspect is his cephalopod head, variously described as an “octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers,” an “awful squid-head with writhing feelers,” or just “pulpy” and “tentacled.”

When the stars align, Cthulhu will rise again to resume His dominion over the Earth, ushering in an age of frenzied abandon. Humankind will be “free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and reveling in joy” — Aleister Crowley’s idea of Primal Scream therapy, maybe, or what Burning Man might look like if the Manson Family were called in as rebranding consultants.

Recovering English majors will be reminded of the leviathan in Tennyson’s poem “The Kraken,” which rises from the abyss at the end of the age, when “fire shall heat the deep.” (The Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price thinks the author drew inspiration from the Tennyson poem.)

As it happens, the many-tentacled One is rising these days, though less as an omen of apocalypse than as an emblem of the zeitgeist. The cephalopod — octopuses and squid, especially the giant squid, Architeuthis — has emerged, in recent years, as a tribal totem for geeks and hipsters of the Threadless T-shirt persuasion, celebrated in tattoos, skateboard decks, Gama-Go’s Giant Squid messenger bag, the Colossal Squid onesie retailed by Hipster Baby Tees, artist Adam Wallacavage’s tentacled chandeliers, Etsy seller OctopusMe’s sterling-silver rings cast from actual tentacles, and let us not forget the Screaming Octopus Mini Vibrator or the insertable silicone Tentacle from Whipspider Rubberworks, a “g-spot stimulator” studded with glow-in-the-dark suction cups. (Both go well with tentacle hentai, the only-in-Japan cartoon-porn genre devoted to fantasies of wide-eyed Lolitas ravished by cephalopods).