Of Maps and Octopuses

Icon Feb 13, 2010

The following is a selection of octopuses with maps (or maps with octopuses). States are most typically represented as octopuses when it comes to maps, however, Landlords, Jews and Free Masons have also been shown as octopuses juxtaposed with cartography. I have excluded octopuses on globes for this selection, as the symbolism differs from a perceived regional threat, to a more nebulous ‘global’ threat.

The Maps

Artist unknown. American cartoon of John Bull (England) as an Imperial Octopus with its arms (with hands) in – or contemplating being in – various regions1. He has eleven arms, just to demonstrate the “octo” part of “octopus” is negotiable when it comes to illustration.

Cartoon is caption “The Devilfish in Egyptian Waters” and was an American cartoon published in Punch in 1888(?).

John Bull is a large landowner. His estate, to which he adds a piece day by day, consists in the first place of the British Isles, to which he gave the name of the United Kingdom. Then he has the Channel Islands, and the fortress of Gibraltar, which enables him to pass comfortably through the narrowest ot straits. The islands of Malta and Cyprus serve him as advanced sentinels in the Mediterranean, If he could have Constantinople he would be satisfied with his share of Europe. In Egypt ho is not quite comfortable ; yet ho is trying to make himself at home there. He took good care not to invent the Suez Canal, and moved heaven and earth to try and prevent the canal from being made ; yet behold him to-day a& a shareholder. He occupies his territory with an army considerably inferior in numbers to that of any other continental Power, in spite of which none of his possessions is in the least danger […] He is a curious mixture of the lion, mule, and octopus.2

“The English Octopus: It feeds on nothing but gold”: “Coin” Harvey, Coin’s Financial School 1894. Sub-title: “’The Rothschilds own 1,600,000,000 in gold’- Chicago Daily News. This is nearly over half the gold in the Chicago wheat pit.”3 (full article).

Postcard by WB Northrop showing a map of London with the vampiric octopus of “Landlordism” (absent landlord, renting) encircling parts of London4.

“Serio-Comic War Map for the Year 1877” by Frederick W. Rose. A British response to the Balkan’s crisis between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Britain sided with the Ottoman Empire as Russia was perceived to be a threat to its interests. 5

“A Humorous Diplomatic Atlas of Europe and Asia” by Kisaburo Ohara, published March 1904 prior to the Japanese-Russian War. Based on the Serio-Comic War Map by F.W Rose (1877) shown above6: Part of the text reads: ’“Black Octopus” is a name newly given to Russia by a certain prominent Englishman. For the black octopus is so avaricious that he stretches out his eight arms in all directions, and seizes up every thing that comes within his reach. But as it sometimes happens he gets wounded seriously even the small fish, owing to his ? covetousness. … Suffice it to say, that the further existence of the Black Octopus will depend entirely upon how he comes out of this war.’7.

A 1917 map by Maurice Neumont: “La Guerre est l’Industrie Nationale de la Prusse”, “War is Prussia’s National Industry”. A French poster that shows the expansion of the German and Prussian military. The octopus – wearing a pickelhaube helmet – has a map superimposed over it with its tentacles throughout Europe and Asia Minor (full article).

Den Preussiske Bläckfisken "The Prussian Octopus”: A map of Europe with two octopuses: Prussia and Austria-Hungary 8. The text reads:

DEN PREUSSISKE BLÄCKFISKEN. ‘Vi hota icke de små nationerna,’ förklarade tyske rikskanslern den 10 december 1915; ’ vi föra icke det krig, som tvingats på oss, för att underkuva främmande folk, utan for att skydda vårt liv och vår frihet.’ Bildkartan är illustration av hans ord. Den visar hur Preussen har stulit den ena provinsen efter andra från sina granner och likt en olycksbringande bläckfisk fortfarande sträcker ut sina tentakler för att rycka till sig nya förvärv.

THE PRUSSIAN OCTOPUS. ‘We do not threaten small nations,’ declared the German Chancellor on December 10th, 1915; ‘we do not wage war which has been forced upon us in order to subjugate foreign peoples, but for the protection of our life and freedom.’ This pictorial map is a commentary on his words. It shows how Prussia has stolen one province after another from her neighbours and, like a baleful octopus, is still stretching out her tentacles to grasp further acquisitions. 9

Anti-Japanese poster by Pat Keely (1944): “Indie Moet Vrij! Werkten vecht ervoor!” (Indies should be free! Work and fight for it!)10. It shows a Japanese octopus with its arms stretching down to Indonesia.

“Non! La France ne sera pas un pays colonise! Les Americains en Amerique!” (No! France will not be a colonised country! Americans in America!). This is unusual as the American octopus is not squatting in America, but as somewhere in the Atlantic? Published by the French Communist party circa 1950 11.

The last image is another French poster. It is an anti-semitic, Free Mason octopus. It shows an octopus with a human head on a map of France (more information).


  1. http://historymike.blogspot.com/2007/08/profit-providence-and-politics.html
  2. Max O’Rell (1887) “More Pictures of John Bull”, Te Aroha News, 4 June 1887 I’d recommend reading: More Pictures of John Bull in conjunction with this image as it provides insight.
  3. SOURCED FROM: http://lyndonlarouchewatch.org/larouche-rothschild.pdf
  4. Image source: Ebay auction (Accessed: 1st Feb 2009)
  5. Harwood, Jeremy, and Bendall, Sarah. To the Ends of the Earth: 100 Maps That Changed the World: Struik, 2006.
  6. Glasgow University Library Special Collections Department. 2008. Prints of the Russo-Japanese War. Glasgow University Library, http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/mar2008.html (accessed 15 Feb 2009)
  7. Harwood & Bendall
  8. VADS, http://tinyurl.com/d46ldj (Accessed: 15th Feb 2009)
  9. Text and translation from VADS
  10. Translation, and source: University of Washington, Special Collections Division: Content DM Collection, http://content.lib.washington.edu/u?/posters,8 (Accessed: 15th Feb 2009)
  11. There appear to be versions of this poster: One has the poster published by “Edité par le Parti Communiste Francais. Cette affiche a été payée avec les fonds collectés par les travailleurs des usines Renault.” (Published by the French Communist Party. This poster was paid with funds raised by the Renault factory workers.). The other has just “Edité par le Parti Communiste Francais” (Published by the French Communist Party)