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Revision as of 22:03, September 21, 2019

Cthulhu header

"In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming..." - English translation of Aklo verse

This article is written on a topic within the Greater Cthulhu Mythos based on information from works in the Mythos. By default, all information is to be assumed to derive from the Lovecraft Myth Cycle unless otherwise marked.

In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.
~ H.P. Lovecraft , The Call of Cthulhu


Lovecraft circle Seal Cthulhu is a Great Old One of great power that lies in a death-like slumber beneath the Pacific Ocean in his sunken city of R'lyeh. He remains a dominant presence in the eldrich dealings on our world.

Quotations

That is not dead which can eternal lie.

And with strange aeons even death may die.

~ HPL: "The Call of Cthulhu, Abdul Alhazred


They were not composed altogether of flesh and blood. They had shape [...] but that shape was not made of matter. When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live. But although They no longer lived, They would never really die. They all lay in stone houses in Their great city of R'lyeh, preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the earth might once more be ready for Them.
~ HPL: "The Call of Cthulhu", Castro on the nature of the Old Ones


When the stars have come right for the Great Old Ones, "some force from outside must serve to liberate their bodies. The spells that preserved Them intact likewise prevented them from making an initial move.
~ HPL: "The Call of Cthulhu", Castro on the Cthulhu Cult


[At the proper time,] the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from his tomb to revive His subjects and resume his rule of earth [...] Then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.
~ Castro, HPL: "The Call of Cthulhu"


Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!
~ Popular Cthulhu chant



Description

The most detailed descriptions of Cthulhu in "The Call of Cthulhu" are based on statues of the creature. One, constructed by an artist after a series of baleful dreams, is said to have "yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature [...] A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings." (HPL: The Call of Cthulhu) Another, recovered by police from a raid on a murderous cult, "represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind." (HPL: The Call of Cthulhu)

Castro, a Cthulhu cultist reports that the Great Old Ones are telepathic and "knew all that was occurring in the universe." They were able to communicate with the first humans by "moulding their dreams," thus establishing the Cthulhu Cult, but after R'lyeh had sunk beneath the waves, "the deep waters, full of the one primal mystery through which not even thought can pass, had cut off the spectral intercourse." (HPL: The Call of Cthulhu)

Worshippers

It is unknown how large the throng of those who worship the dreaded Cthulhu is, but his cult has many cells around the globe. The cult is noted for chanting its horrid phrase or ritual: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," which translates as "In his house at R'lyeh dead C'thulhu waits dreaming." (HPL: The Call of Cthulhu) This is often shortened to "Cthulhu fhtagn," which might possibly mean "Cthulhu waits," "Cthulhu dreams,"[1] or "Cthulhu waits dreaming."[2]

When the creature finally appears, the story says that the "thing cannot be described," but it is called "the green, sticky spawn of the stars", with "flabby claws" and an "awful squid-head with writhing feelers." Johansen's phrase "a mountain walked or stumbled" gives a sense of the creature's scale. (HPL: The Call of Cthulhu) This is corroborated by Wilcox's dreams, which "touched wildly on a gigantic thing 'miles high' which walked or lumbered about".

Cthulhu is depicted as having a worldwide cult centred in Arabia, with followers in regions as far-flung as Greenland and Louisiana. (HPL: The Call of Cthulhu)

The cult is noted for chanting its horrid phrase or ritual: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh C'thulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," which translates as "In his house at R'lyeh dead C'thulhu waits dreaming." (HPL: The Call of Cthulhu) This is often shortened to "C'thulhu fhtagn," which might possibly mean "C'thulhu waits," "C'thulhu dreams,"[3] or "C'thulhu waits dreaming."[4]

There are leaders of the cult "in the mountains of China" who are said to be immortal. Cthulhu is described by some of these cultists as the "great priest" of "the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky." (HPL: The Call of Cthulhu)

Cthulhu is also worshiped by the nonhuman creatures known as Deep Ones. (HPL: "The Shadow Over Innsmouth")

History

Cthulhu is mentioned in other sources, sometimes described in ways that appear to contradict information given the most well-known accounts. For example, rather than including Cthulhu among the Great Old Ones, a quotation from the Necronomicon says of the Old Ones, "Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can it spy Them only dimly." (HPL: "The Dunwich Horror") But different Lovecraft stories and characters use the term "Old Ones" in widely different ways.

Human explorers in Antarctica discovered an ancient city, for example, where the Old Ones are described as a species of extraterrestrials, also known as Elder Things, who were at war with Cthulhu and his relatives or allies. The discoverers of the Elder Things were able to puzzle out a history from sculptural records:

With the upheaval of new land in the South Pacific tremendous events began [...] Another race–a land race of beings shaped like octopi and probably corresponding to the fabulous pre-human spawn of Cthulhu–soon began filtering down from cosmic infinity and precipitated a monstrous war which for a time drove the Old Ones wholly back to the sea [...] Later peace was made, and the new lands were given to the Cthulhu spawn whilst the Old Ones held the sea and the older lands [...] [T]he antarctic remained the centre of the Old Ones' civilization, and all the discoverable cities built there by the Cthulhu spawn were blotted out. Then suddenly the lands of the Pacific sank again, taking with them the frightful stone city of R'lyeh and all the cosmic octopi, so that the Old Ones were once again supreme on the planet.
~ HPL: "At the Mountains of Madness"



William Dyer, part of the Antarctic expedition, also notes that "the Cthulhu spawn [...] seem to have been composed of matter more widely different from that which we know than was the substance of the Antarctic Old Ones. They were able to undergo transformations and reintegrations impossible for their adversaries, and seem therefore to have originally come from even remoter gulfs of cosmic space [...] The first sources of the other beings can only be guessed at with bated breath." He notes, however, that "the Old Ones might have invented a cosmic framework to account for their occasional defeats."(HPL: At the Mountains of Madness) Other stories have the Elder Things' enemies repeat this cosmic framework.

In another account, (HPL: "The Whisperer in Darkness") there is a reference to "the fearful myths antedating the coming of man to the earth–the Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu cycles–which are hinted at in the Necronomicon." That suggests that Cthulhu is one of the entities worshiped by the alien Mi-go race, and repeats the Elder Things' claim that the Mi-go share his unknown material compositions. Cthulhu's advent is also connected, in some unknown fashion, with supernovae: "I learned whence Cthulhu first came, and why half the great temporary stars of history had flared forth." The story mentions in passing that some humans call the Mi-Go "the old ones" (HPL: "The Whisperer in Darkness")

Investigations into the cult activity in Innsmouth, Massachusetts has revealed that Cthulhu is also worshiped by the nonhuman creatures known as Deep Ones (HPL: "The Shadow Over Innsmouth")

The priest Kathulos (CIRCLE: "Skull-Face") is Cthulhu (HPL: Selected Letters 3.421, "The Whisperer in Darkness")

Rather than including Cthulhu among the Great Old Ones, a quotation from the Necronomicon states of the Old Ones, "Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can it spy Them only dimly." (HPL: "The Dunwich Horror") But the term "Old Ones" is often used in widely different ways:

According to one account, the Old Ones are a species of extraterrestrials, also known as Elder Things, who were at war with Cthulhu and his relatives or allies. (HPL: At the Mountains of Madness) Human explorers in Antarctica discover an ancient city of the Elder Things and puzzle out a history from sculptural records:

With the upheaval of new land in the South Pacific tremendous events began [...] Another race–a land race of beings shaped like octopi and probably corresponding to the fabulous pre-human spawn of Cthulhu–soon began filtering down from cosmic infinity and precipitated a monstrous war which for a time drove the Old Ones wholly back to the sea [...] Later peace was made, and the new lands were given to the Cthulhu spawn whilst the Old Ones held the sea and the older lands [...] [The] antarctic remained the centre of the Old Ones' civilization, and all the discoverable cities built there by the Cthulhu spawn were blotted out. Then suddenly the lands of the Pacific sank again, taking with them the frightful stone city of R'lyeh and all the cosmic octopi, so that the Old Ones were once again supreme on the planet
~ HPL , At the Mountains of Madness



William Dyer also notes that "the Cthulhu spawn [...] seem to have been composed of matter more widely different from that which we know than was the substance of the Antarctic Old Ones. They were able to undergo transformations and reintegrations impossible for their adversaries, and seem therefore to have originally come from even remoter gulfs of cosmic space [...] The first sources of the other beings can only be guessed at with bated breath." He notes, however, that "the Old Ones might have invented a cosmic framework to account for their occasional defeats." (HPL: At the Mountains of Madness) Other accounts have the Elder Things' enemies repeat this cosmic framework.

According to one, "the fearful myths antedating the coming of man to the earth–the Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu cycles–which are hinted at in the Necronomicon." That suggests that Cthulhu is one of the entities worshipped by the alien Mi-go race, and repeats the Elder Things' claim that the Mi-go share his unknown material compositions. Cthulhu's advent is also connected, in some unknown fashion, with supernovae: "I learned whence Cthulhu first came, and why half the great temporary stars of history had flared forth." Some humans call the Mi-Go "the old ones".(HPL: At the Mountains of Madness)

Family

Extended universe sigil With the revelation of writing detailing his relations, we have learned that Cthulhu descends from Yog-Sothoth, possibly having been born on Vhoorl, in the 23rd Nebula. He mated with Idh-yaa on the planet Xoth. His offspring are Ghatanothoa, Ythogtha, Zoth-Ommog, and Cthylla. (EXP: The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia (3rd ed.))

Family tree

Main article: Family tree of Azathoth

According to correspondence between Lovecraft and fellow author James F. Morton, Cthulhu's parent is the deity Nug, itself the offspring of Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath. Lovecraft includes a fanciful family tree in which he himself descends from Cthulhu via Shaurash-ho, Yogash the Ghoul, K'baa the Serpent, and Ghoth the Burrower. (HPL: Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft 4.617).

Associated Materials

Main article: Cthulhu Mythos in popular culture

Gallery

Gallery of Pastiches of Cthulhu

Eldritch or demonic tentacled beings that somewhat look like Cthulhu and/or they have similar lore (imprisoned in a dimension and/or an island civilization that sunk, and who a cult or monstrous followers are trying to release).

Behind the Mythos

  • George Olshevsky named the nonconvex snub polyhedra after some other Great Old Ones, with the Great inverted snub icosidodecahedron as "Cthulhu".

Name

Lovecraft transcribed the pronunciation of Cthulhu as Khlûl'-hloo, although S. T. Joshi points out, however, that Lovecraft gave several differing pronunciations on different occasions. (EXP: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories)

the first syllable [of Khlûl'-hloo is] pronounced gutturally and very thickly. The u is about like that in full; and the first syllable is not unlike klul in sound, hence the h represents the guttural thickness.
~ HPL , Selected Letters V



According to Lovecraft, this is merely the closest that the human vocal apparatus can come to reproducing the syllables of an alien language.[5] Long after Lovecraft's death, the pronunciation kə-TH'oo-loo became common, and the game Call of Cthulhu endorsed it.

Artistic imagery

Cthulhu has served as direct inspiration for many modern artists and sculptors. Prominent artists that produced renderings of this creature include, but are not limited to, Paul Carrick, Stephen Hickman, Kevin Evans, Dave Carson, Francois Launet and Ursula Vernon. Multiple sculptural depictions of Cthulhu exist, one of the most noteworthy being Stephen Hickman's Cthulhu Statue which has been featured in the Spectrum annual[6] and is exhibited in display cabinets in the John Hay Library of Brown University of Providence. This statue of Cthulhu often serves as a separate object of inspiration for many works, most recent of which are the Cthulhu Worshiper Amulets[7] manufactured by a Russian jeweler. For some time, replicas of Hickman's Cthulhu Statuette were produced by Bowen Designs,[8] but are currently not available for sale. Today Hickman's Cthulhu statue can only be obtained on eBay and other auctions.

References

  1. Will Murray, "Prehuman Language in Lovecraft", in Black Forbidden Things, Robert M. Price, ed., p. 42.
  2. Marsh, Philip "R'lyehian as a Toy Language - on psycholinguistics"
  3. Will Murray, "Prehuman Language in Lovecraft", in Black Forbidden Things, Robert M. Price, ed., p. 42.
  4. Marsh, Philip "R'lyehian as a Toy Language - on psycholinguistics"
  5. "Cthul-Who?: How Do You Pronounce 'Cthulhu'?", Crypt of Cthulhu #9
  6. Burnett, Cathy "Spectrum No. 3:The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art"
  7. Cthulhu charms on-sale in Russia
  8. "Other Lovecraftian Products", The H.P. Lovecraft Archive
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