Continuing my research into the wonderful world of squids: this week I was to search for various cultural images and references of my spirit animal, the squid, and break them down briefly. The interesting thing is that after watching and reading so much about real squids, it became very clear that the real thing is actually quite more magical and awesome than most of the cultural references aside, (except Squidward, perhaps).
Exhibit A is one of the most interesting depictions of giant squids, since it is one of the earliest. Exhibit A is a pen and wash drawing by Pierre Dénys de Montfort. I had seen this image many times before in reference to the mythical, dangerous Kraken, but upon closer inspection, it looks more similar to an octopus. The funny thing is that when this drawing was made in 1801, hardly anything was known about squids (giant and not) and there was hardly a distinction between them and their octopus friends. However, because of the enormous, fanciful scale of this creature, it is important to think of this cultural reference as a sort of nautical archetype. The open sea was to be feared, as were the many dangerous denizens of the abyss. Now we have ROVs and submarines and can watch things that once were feared to be larger than massive boats on YouTube.
Exhibit B + C are kind of a double whammy. B is of Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and C is of his pet Kraken, or giant squid. Both were feared and reviled by ordinary people and pirates alike in the movies. Jones had a telepathic link to the Kraken and could command it to sink ships at will, in order for him to ferry the hapless souls of passengers to the underworld. Jones himself is an amalgam of sorts of a squid and a man. He has all sorts of magical powers, but is a bit of a tormented soul, as his heart is separated from his body. This means he can live forever if it is safely hidden away, but if it falls into the wrong hands, he is at their disposal. Plot device if I ever heard one. Jones symbolizes a man long lost at sea and what can happen if you get too close to the secrets of the sea. The Kraken on the other hand, once again is the crystallization of our fears of things from the abyss, but this one is particularly heinous because it is weaponized via its mental link to Davy Jones.
Squidward, on the other hand, hardly has a mental link to anyone in Bikini Bottoms. The poor guy in exhibit D has Spongebob and Patrick as neighbors, and is constantly irritated by their antics with Sandy the Texan squirrel. He is a bit of a know it all, and he loves to play the clarinet. He also works at the Krusty Krab with Spongebob, but he prefers to man the register, as opposed to cook like Spongebob loves to do. Interestingly, Squidward has such a salty temperament, it is ironic that he is the one who interacts with customers. Squidward is a fantastic cartoon rendering of an anthropomorphic squid, much like a Mindflayer from RPGs and things of that nature, but much less evil. Squidward is known the world over by children and adults alike, and because of his comedic neighbors and their agitation of him, Squidward is one of the few cultural references we have to a squid (giant or not) that is not something to be feared or mystified by. Instead, Squidward is the same height as the other characters and though he has a short temper, he hardly has the destructive power of his Kraken kin. From his design to his demeanor, Squidward is a thing of comedy.
As a bonus, please enjoy this fascinating video of the Vampire Squid. It predates both squids and octopi, and resembles a mix of both, but it gets better! Not only does it have light emitting circles on its head, it has proto tentacles to sense movement, AND it can shoot out bioluminescent particles at its enemies to distract them instead of messy ink. It pretty much shoots out GLITTER. How awesome is that!? We don’t need to find aliens in space, we have them right here under the sea.