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

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.


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

His 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]

Other Discoveries

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")


This subject contains information from the Expanded Cthulhu Mythos, and not based on H.P. Lovecraft's works directly. 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.)

Behind the Mythos

This subject contains information from the "Lovecraft Circle" Myth Cycles, and while guided by HPL are not based on his work alone. According to correspondence between H.P. Lovecraft and fellow author James F. Morton, Lovecraft jokingly reveals Cthulhu's family tree (HPL: Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft 4.617):

            /                          /                                  /
      Nyarlathotep            The Nameless Mist                       Darkness
(The ancient patrician                 /                                  /
gens Viburnia of Haec                 /                                  /
RESPVLICA.ROMANA)                Yog-Sothoth------------+---------Shub-Niggurath
            /                                          /
           /                              ____________/___________________
   L. Viburnius Marco                    /                               /
            /                           Nug                             Yeb
           /                             /                               /
   P. Viburnius Marco                   /                               /
    Legatus of Legio 11.,            Cthulhu*                       Tsathoggua*
    station'd at Isca Silurum,           /                               /
    in Britannia Secunda                /                               /
    in A. D. 103                    Shaurash-ho                        Yabou
            /                           /                               /
           /                           /                               /
          /                     Yogash the Ghoul                 Nush the Eternal
         /                              /                               /
        /                              /                               /
       /                        K'baa the Serpent                Gilles Grenier,
      /                                 /                       Lord of Averoigne
     /              **                 /                                /
 Viburnia-----------+-----------Ghoth the Burrower                     /
                   /        (one of the Little People)        Hippolyte Le Sorcier,
                  /                                             ancestor of
          Llunwy of Wales                                       Clark Ashton Smith
            ancestor of
            Owen Gwynedd
            and of H.P.L.

* First of their respective lines to inhabit this planet.
** This union was an hellish and nameless tragedy.

Associated Materials

Main Article: Cthulhu Mythos in popular culture


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[3] 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[4] manufactured by a Russian jeweler. For some time, replicas of Hickman's Cthulhu Statuette were produced by Bowen Designs,[5] but are currently not available for sale. Today Hickman's Cthulhu statue can only be obtained on eBay and other auctions.

Behind the Mythos

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


  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. Burnett, Cathy "Spectrum No. 3:The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art"
  4. Cthulhu charms on-sale in Russia
  5. "Other Lovecraftian Products", The H.P. Lovecraft Archive
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