Paul the Octopus: how he got his name

Paul the Octopus, being remembered today around the globe, was named after a poem for young readers.

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    German children's writer Boy Lornsen was the creator of "Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus."
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Paul the Octopus – a resident of a tank at Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, who died yesterday – was the most unlikely of celebrities. He burst into fame after correctly "predicting" the winner of Germany's seven matches at the 2010 World Cup, as well as the final. (Paul's "predictions" were made when he would select a mussel from a box bearing the flag of the winning country.)

His selections were 100% (8/8) correct for the 2010 World Cup and 86% (12/14) correct overall.

What some of his fans may not realize, however, is that he takes his name from another celebrated – albeit entirely fictional – octopus. He was named after an ink-blot octopus in the poem "Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus" by German children's writer Boy Lornsen.

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The fictional Paul, of course, never became as famous as his real-life counterpart who had fans around the world following him on at least two Twitter pages (another one here) and a blog. But the story of Paul Oktopus has turned out to be a bit like that of Kalle Blomkvist (aka Bill Bergson), the fictional boy detective created by Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren (best known as the creator of the "Pippi Longstocking" series).

Even as the fictional Kalle Blomkvist achieved a whole new level of fame around the world when a character in Stieg Larsson's wildly popular "Millennium" trilogy was given his name as a nickname, so Paul Oktopus has gained a second life through his German counterpart.

It just goes to show that it's important to remember the names of all those beloved characters from children's lit – you never know when and where they will turn up again.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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