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Octopussy

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"Octopussy"
Octopussy
Author: Ian Fleming
Publication date: 1966
Published in: Playboy
Alternate title:
Collected in: Octopussy and The Living Daylights
Publication order
Previous: Next:
"The Property of a Lady" "Blast From the Past"

"Octopussy" is a short story written by Ian Fleming featuring his fictional secret agent James Bond. It was included in the 1966 short story collection Octopussy and The Living Daylights.

"Octopussy" first appeared in a serialized form in the March and April 1966 issues of Playboy magazine, over two years after Ian Fleming's death.

PlotEdit

For two months Major Dexter Smythe has been trying to make friends with a wild octopus he had found in the coral as he made his daily rounds in what he thinks of as his underwater zoo. In his mind he calls the cephalopod "Pussy", and has been feeding it raw meat on the end of his underwater spear gun. Now he is going to find and spear a scorpion fish to feed "Pussy" and report the results to Professor Bengtry at the local Scientific Institute. Dexter Smythe thinks that given another month he would be able to tame the octopus, but now he is not going to have a month.

Earlier, a body thawed out of a glacier in Austria and MI6 investigated it. James Bond took up the case as it so happened that the body was that of Hannes Oberhauser, who happened to be an old friend of his who taught him to ski in his teens. After finding the bullets used to kill Oberhauser, Bond traced back the weapons owner to Smythe and travels to Jamaica to arrest him. He meets with Smythe who tells his story to Bond:

Near the end of World War II Smythe was serving in the British Army and enlisted Oberhauser's help as a guide in order to steal a hidden Gestapo cache of gold bullion. After finding the gold, he shot Oberhauser and pushed his body off a cliff. Smythe then took the gold which after the war he used to pay for a life of luxury with his wife in Jamaica. He slowly sells off the gold through local Manchu-Chinese merchants for money in a market in Macau. He uses it to buy a house, Wavelets, on the North Shore. However, he became estranged from the locals after his wife overdosed on sleeping pills and he became an alcoholic.

Bond leaves after hearing the story and implies that the authorities will arrest him in due course after he writes a report. Rather than face the shame of a court marshal, Smythe commits suicide by allowing a poisonous scorpion fish to sting him and, on the verge of death, he feeds himself to his pet octopus bringing on a fatal heart attack.

BackgroundEdit

The story "Octopussy" was written in early 1962 at Fleming's Goldeneye estate in Jamaica. The story is told in the manner of "Quantum of Solace", with Bond as catalyst for story told in flashback, rather than as a main character for action. The topics chosen for Fleming were familiar ground for him to cover, with hidden gold, tropical fish and the wartime exploits of commandos all coming from elements of his past. Also from the past, or from his acquaintance, were other references used in the story and Miscellaneous Objectives Bureau was a fictional version of Fleming's 30 AU unit.

One of Fleming's neighbours in Jamaica, and later his lover, was Blanche Blackwell, mother of Chris Blackwell of Island Records. Fleming had previously used Blackwell's name as the guano-collecting ship in Dr. No, calling it Blanche. Blackwell had given Fleming a coracle called Octopussy, the name of which Fleming used for the story. Raymond Benson considered "Octopussy" to be a morality tale, with greed bringing repercussions years later to the main protagonist, Dexter Smythe.

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