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Cecaelia or an octopus person, is a composite mythical being, appearing occasionally in art, literature, and multimedia; combining the head, arms and torso of a woman (more rarely a man) and, from the lower torso down, the tentacles of an octopus or squid as a form of mermaid or sea demon. They are sometimes referred to as "sea witches".
Since 2007, the term cecaelia has become more-frequently used online in the naming of these hybrid creatures.
In Literature and Art
Cecaelia have appeared occasionally in artwork and literature, indeed predating the story "Cilia", though they are not consistently named.
- The Heritage Universe features an octopus-like elder race of Builders who left artifacts throughout space.
- The Japanese artist Hokusai produced a couple of erotic pieces that featured such a woman-octopus hybrid, as well as related pieces showing couplings of women with octopuses.
- H. P. Lovecraft's mythology frequently featured squid and octopus hybrids, including a two legged female octopus person derived from both "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and "Dagon", which was made into a movie by Stuart Gordon and released in 2001, with Spanish actress Macarena Gómez playing the role of the mermaid-like priestess Uxía Cambarro.
- A Draugr in Norse mythology is occasionally represented as a seaweed covered octopus person.
In Popular Media
Perhaps one of the most well-recognized octopus people in modern history is Ursula the Sea Witch, from Walt Disney Pictures' "The Little Mermaid" (1989), voiced by Pat Carroll. Overweight and with blue-tinged skin, Ursula uses her six black-and-purple tentacle arms to dramatic effect, though in the climax of the film she is killed by Prince Eric. She also had a very brief non-speaking cameo in one episode of Hercules: The Animated Series (1998–1999). Her sister, the octopus person Morgana (voiced also by Carroll), is featured in much the same role in the direct-to-DVD sequel "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" (2000)- though she's thinner and more squid-like.
The character of Ursula also appears as the antagonist in Disney's Broadway musical production of The Little Mermaid (2008–2009), she is originally performed here by stage actress Sherie Rene Scott. A major change for the character was introduced here which was not seen before- that Ursula and King Triton as brother and sister (thus making Princess Ariel her niece). Ursula and Triton, at their father's deathbed, are given presents- Triton was given the crown and magical trident which give him command over Atlantica, and Ursula half of the sea and a magical seashell. This enrages Ursula, and although she and Triton are supposed to co-rule Atlantica, she secretly plots to take over the kingdom through the use of dark, forbidden magic that manifests through the shell. However, she is caught before she can do so, and is eternally banished from the kingdom. Later in the musical Ursula uses her magical shell to store Ariel's voice in. Just like she did with her necklace in the film. It is implied in the musical, that she may have originally been a mermaid, and that either Triton or her misuse of magic transformed her into an ugly octopus person as punishment, but this is not shown. This plot element of Ursula being a relative of Ariel's family was in the initial script drafts for the 1989 animated film, but was eventually dropped. Her association with King Triton, however, is vaguely hinted at in her first appearance in the film where she says that she once lived in the palace, but no further explanation is given. This closer family-relations plot element is only part of the Broadway production, and is not considered canon in any other animated or literature in the larger franchise.
- One time during the "Little Mermaid"-based TV series (1992–1994)- in which she makes several appearances, again as an antagonist- Ursula's species was identified as "Octopian".
Because of a lack of common knowledge in identifying Ursula and Morgana's species (which is not mentioned specifically in the more readily-available motion picture, subsequent direct-to-DVD movies, or any literature), octopus women in general are now more frequently referred to as "sea witches" today due to the popularity of Disney's example in their Little Mermaid franchise.
By contrast, the unnamed and evil Sea Witch from Hans Christian Andersen's original story of "The Little Mermaid"- first published in 1837- was vaguely described as being just an old mermaid who specialized in potions and magic; a rather minor though important character in the story compared to Disney's re-interpretation.
Appearances in Other Media
- In the 1993 Japanese-only video game Romancing SaGa 2 for the Super Famicom video game console (the Japanese version of the Super NES), a male octopus person named Subier is one of the seven major antagonists.
- A male octopus person is figured as a guard in the 2000 music video by Ricky Martin based on his hit song "She Bangs", which also featured a combined live-action/CGI mermaid.
- A Sony advertisement for the "PlayStation 9" (which was actually promoting the PlayStation 2) briefly features in an underwater sequence an octopus person that turns into a giant octopus. However, instead of human arms, the octopus person had two more tentacles attached to her shoulders in their place, for a total of 10. Although the sequence is short (barely two seconds long), the advertisement was aired thousands of times in the United States alone and was seen by millions of people.
- In the 2002 video game "Kingdom Hearts" produced by Square Enix and Disney Interactive for the PlayStation 2 platform, one of the worlds that the main characters visit is the Kingdom of Atlantica from "The Little Mermaid". Because the events of the game take place underwater in this world, some of the characters undergo a transformation. Specifically, Donald Duck becomes an octopus person version of himself, with six small light blue tentacles replacing the lower half of his body. Also, Ursula the Sea Witch makes an appearance as one of the many lead villains throughout the game. She does return in the sequel game "Kingdom Hearts II" (2005), but there she more closely matches her role from "The Little Mermaid" (though there is no acknowledgment in-game that any of the characters had met her in the previous game).
- In the 2002 computer game "The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall", and its sequels Morrowind and Oblivion, one of the enemies is an aquatic race called "dreughs." They appear as humanoid creatures with tentacles and claws. Sometimes after a dreugh has been killed, the player can harvest "dreugh wax" from the corpse which can be used as a potion ingredient. In Morrowind, the player can obtain "dreugh armor," made from the shell of a dreugh.
- In the MMORPG "World of Warcraft" there are no in-game octopus people, but the official artwork of Queen Azshara (villainess of the universe and Empress of the Naga) depicts her as a sort of octopus person - having lower body of an octopus and upper body of nightelven female with snakes for hair. Naga "Sea Witches" appear in "Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos", but they are serpentine unlike the ones in "The Little Mermaid".
- In the bimonthly adult comic book "Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose" (1996–present), the character John Webb encounters and is abducted and seduced by a "magikal" octopus woman, whom he successfully resists and escapes from.
- In the video game Scribblenauts, Cecaelia is one of the objects you can create.
- In the Planescape campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons, there are octopus people called zoveri that live in the oceans of Mount Celestia.
- In the video game Team Fortress 2, fan created works often portray the Spy with the lower half of an octopus. Valve Corporation has not acknowledged Tentaspy at this point in time.