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The Cecaelia is a creature with origins in Asian and Native American mythology, legend and folklore. In particular, accounts of their existence are first recorded among such cultures as the Haida, Tligit, Tsimshian and Nootka tribes.
Among these, the Native Americans seem to attribute a certain connection between the Octopus-People, and the Raven People. For example, there is a myth about a man from the Raven tribe happened upon an Octopus-tribe woman with eight long braids of hair, who was using a stick to prod the shore of the beach. The Raven inquired of her: "Octopus, are you digging for clams?".
At first, the Octopus woman ignored him, but after the fourth time asking, she was fed up with his annoyance. Her hair turned back to tentacles, and she grabbed hold of the Raven. To spite him, Octopus answered him, "Yes. I am digging for clams. These are clams. And I am digging them."
By then, the tide had begun to draw nearer. As the water rose higher and higher, Raven answered politely, yet nervously, "You have answered my question, Octopus. Thank you. Now, please, let me go". Despite his struggling, Octopus held Raven fast, until the water grew higher and higher, and at last, Octopus left Raven for drowned.
Raven's people, having watched the whole ordeal from afar, did nothing, as they knew his nature as a trickster. The next day, he was back (having easily returned from the dead), but from then on, he never asked another question of Octopus again.
Though, some tales make Octopus' retaliation a bit more appropriate. In those tales, it is maintained that the Raven happened upon Octopus while in the midst of her clam digging. However, rather than simply showing pestering curiosity, he was overcome with passionate lust, and attacked Octopus in an act of rape. As revenge, she turned back into her true animal form, and held Raven under the water, and left him for drowned.
Still, his nature as a trickster spares him any true consequence. Raven's tribesmen come to his aid (having only seen the retaliation of Octopus, not the act leading up to it), but he springs back to life, and goes about his business as normal.
In a myth that may or may not be related, a girl of the Raven tribe is revealed to be missing, having likely been kidnapped from her canoe. The village shaman discovers that the Octopus people are responsible for her abduction, but there is some relief in this fact, because, at least she is still alive and has not been harmed.
Only later does the Raven shaman intervene, when the Octopus people threaten the Ravens and their friends, the humans, for the humans' mistreatment of Octopus children. When peace is brokered, the Octopus people retreat from hostility and the Raven girl is returned. There is a banquet held in honor of the Octopus people, their children and the returned Raven girl.
Since then, this race of creatures has gone on to be mentioned in numerous pieces of aquatic fiction, in the person of such famous and well-renowned characters as the Sea-Witch Ursula (and later, her sister, Morgana), in Disney's adaptations of The Little Mermaid.
Though, it should be noted, the term 'Cecaelia' is never used within the course of the original mythology. It is a product of modern fiction featuring this race of creatures, most likely as a solution to the phrase 'Octopus Person', which some consider to be awkward, and a mouthful.