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🔀 This is an article about the character. For the story in which it first appeared, see Nyarlathotep (short story).
And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished, for the small hours were rent with the screams of nightmare.
~ H.P. Lovecraft about Nyarlathotep


This subject contains information from the "Lovecraft Circle" Myth Cycles, and while guided by HPL are not based on his work alone. 🎨 Nyarlathotep, known to many by his epithet The Crawling Chaos, is an Outer God in the Cthulhu Mythos. Created by H. P. Lovecraft he made his first appearance in the prose poem "Nyarlathotep" (1920). He is the spawn of Azathoth.

Nyarlathotep appears in numerous subsequent stories by Lovecraft, and is also featured in the works of other authors, as well as in role-playing games based on the Cthulhu Mythos.

Description

-a tall, lean man of dead black colouration but without the slightest sign of negroid features: wholly devoid of either hair or beard, and wearing as his only garment a shapeless robe of some heavy black fabric. His feet were indistinguishable because of the table and bench, but he must have been shod, since there was a clicking whenever he changed position. The man did not speak, and bore no trace of expression on his small, regular features. He merely pointed to a book of prodigious size which lay open on the table....
~ HPL , "The Dreams in the Witch-House"


Nyarlathotep differs from the other deities in the Mythos in a number of ways. Most of the Outer Gods are exiled to the stars, like Yog-Sothoth and Azathoth, and most of the Great Old Ones are sleeping and dreaming like Cthulhu; Nyarlathotep, however, is active and frequently walks the Earth in the guise of a human being, usually a tall, slim, joyous man. He has "a thousand" other forms and manifestations, many reputed to be quite horrific and sanity-blasting.

Most of the Outer Gods have their own cults serving them; Nyarlathotep seems to serve as He serves several cults and takes care of their affairs in the other Outer Gods' absence. Most Outer Gods use strange alien languages, while Nyarlathotep uses human languages and can easily pass for a human being if he chooses to do so. Finally, most of them are all-powerful yet evidently without clear purpose or agenda, yet Nyarlathotep seems to be deliberately deceptive and manipulative, and even uses propaganda to achieve his goals. In this regard, he is probably the most human-like among the Outer Gods.

Nyarlathotep enacts the will of the Outer Gods, and is their "messenger, heart and soul", "the immemorial figure of the deputy or messenger of hidden and terrible powers" He is also the servant of Azathoth, whose fitful, spastic wishes he immediately fulfills. Unlike the other Outer Gods, spreading madness is more important and enjoyable than death and destruction to Nyarlathotep. It is suggested by some that he will destroy the human race and possibly the earth as well. (EXP: "Nyarlathotep", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana [Harms])

In the Mythos

Nyarlathotep's first appearance is in the eponymous short story by Lovecraft (1920), in which he is described as a "tall, swarthy man" who resembles an Egyptian Pharaoh. In this story he wanders the earth, gathering legions of followers through his demonstrations of strange and seemingly magical instruments, the narrator of the story among them. These followers lose awareness of the world around them, and through the narrator's increasingly unreliable accounts the reader gets a sense of the world's utter collapse. The story ends with the narrator as part of an army of servants for Nyarlathotep.

Nyarlathotep, again manifested in the form of an Egyptian Pharaoh when he confronted Randolph Carter as an avatar of the Other Gods, executing their will on Earth and in Dreamland (HPL: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath).

Nyarlathotep meets Walter Gilman and witch Keziah Mason (who has made a pact with the entity) in the form of "the 'Black Man' of the witch-cult," a black-skinned avatar with the appearance of the Christian Devil (His footprints suggest cloven hooves instead of feet) associated with New England witchcraft lore (HPL: "The Dreams in the Witch-House").

The being of pure darkness dwelling, possessing a "three-lobed eye", in the steeple of the Starry Wisdom sect's church is identified as another form, or manifestation of, Nyarlathotep (HPL: "The Haunter of the Dark").

Nyarlathotep's name is spoken frequently by the fungi from Yuggoth in a reverential or ritual sense, indicating that they worship or honor the entity (HPL: "The Whisperer in Darkness").

According to certain sources he is currently living or imprisoned on the planet Abbith (EXP: The Horror in the Gallery).

Inspiration

In a 1921 letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, Lovecraft related the dream he had had — described as "the most realistic and horrible [nightmare] I have experienced since the age of ten" — that served as the basis for his prose poem "Nyarlathotep". In the dream, he received a letter from his friend Samuel Loveman that read:

Don't fail to see Nyarlathotep if he comes to Providence. He is horrible — horrible beyond anything you can imagine — but wonderful. He haunts one for hours afterward. I am still shuddering at what he showed.



Lovecraft commented:

I had never heard the name NYARLATHOTEP before, but seemed to understand the allusion. Nyarlathotep was a kind of itinerant showman or lecturer who held forth in public halls and aroused widespread fear and discussion with his exhibitions. These exhibitions consisted of two parts – first, a horrible – possibly prophetic – cinema reel; and later some extraordinary experiments with scientific and electrical apparatus. As I received the letter, I seemed to recall that Nyarlathotep was already in Providence.... I seemed to remember that persons had whispered to me in awe of his horrors, and warned me not to go near him. But Loveman's dream letter decided me.... As I left the house I saw throngs of men plodding through the night, all whispering affrightedly and bound in one direction. I fell in with them, afraid yet eager to see and hear the great, the obscure, the unutterable Nyarlathotep.
~ HPL , Selected Letters 1.094



Will Murray suggests that this dream image of Nyarlathotep may have been inspired by the inventor Nikola Tesla, whose well-attended lectures did involve extraordinary experiments with electrical apparatus, and whom some saw as a sinister figure.[1]

Robert M. Price proposes that the name Nyarlathotep may have been subconsciously suggested to Lovecraft by two names from Lord Dunsany, an author he much admired: Alhireth-Hotep, a false prophet from Dunsany's The Gods of Pegana, and Mynarthitep, a god described as "angry" in his "The Sorrow of Search".[2]

Quotations

"And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt when they saw him, yet could not say why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He spoke much of the sciences – of electricity and psychology –and gave exhibitions of power which sent his spectators away speechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude. Men advised one another to see Nyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished; for the small hours were rent with the screams of a nightmare.
~ HPL , Nyarlathotep


And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods — the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.
~ HPL , Nyarlathotep


It was the eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born rats, always questing for new horrors, and determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth's centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players.
~ HPL , The Rats in the Walls


What his fate would be, he did not know; but he felt that he was held for the coming of that frightful soul and messenger of infinity's Other Gods, the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.
~ HPL , The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath


There was the immemorial figure of the deputy or messenger of hidden and terrible powers – the "Black Man" of the witch cult, and the "Nyarlathotep" of the Necronomicon.
~ HPL , The Dreams in the Witch-House



The Nyarlathotep Cycle

This subject contains information from the Expanded Cthulhu Mythos, and not based on H.P. Lovecraft's works directly. In 1996, Chaosium published The Nyarlathotep Cycle, a Cthulhu Mythos anthology focusing on works referring to or inspired by the entity Nyarlathotep. Edited by Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price, the book includes an introduction by Price tracing the roots and development of the God of a Thousand Forms. The contents include:

Lovely Lovecraft

In Sara Bardi's webcomic Lovely Lovecraft, Nyarlathotep carries many masks, but usually appears as a tall human with handsome features, and hair styled like a pair of lightning bolts. Some time before the comic started, he and the other Outer Gods were trapped on earth in the forms of mortals. While Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath are content to wait for the stars to align, Nyarlathotep is more impatient, and tortures Albert Wilmarth for information on the Miscatonic University's copy of the Necronomicon. He gains access to the school under the guise of Mister Noyes, an English literature teacher in Wilmarth's absence. Before he can steal the Necronomicon, however, he discovers that it's been tore apart, and only the second half is in the University's possession. He considers going into the grave where the first half was lost, when foul magic stream from the book, giving him back a fraction of his power. Using it, he releases a captive shoggoth and sends it after the first half, held by 12-year old Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Before Nyarlathotep can use the complete necronomicon, he is temporarily incapacitated by the Night Gaunt Phil'Gwanach, who pushes an amulet bearing the Elder Sign into his chest.

He makes a reference to having made a deal with the Mi-Go at one point, possibly for information on Prof. Wilmarth.

Years later, he lured the adult Howard to one of his gatherings of aspiring cultists. When Lovecraft fearfully asked him if the stars were right, he responds that they are, but not for him and his people; For Lovecraft. As a horde of creatures dressed like the King in Yellow appear around Lovecraft, Nyarlathotep gleefully exclaims "You're going to die, Howard."

Popular culture

Main article: Cthulhu Mythos in Popular Culture: Nyarlathotep

Gallery

Main article: Nyarlathotep/Gallery

Behind the Mythos

  • Though Nyarlathotep appears as a character in only four stories and one sonnet (still more than any other Great Old One or Outer God), his name is mentioned frequently in numerous others.
  • Despite similarities in theme and name, Nyarlathotep does not feature at all in Lovecraft's story "The Crawling Chaos," (1920/21) an apocalyptic narrative written in collaboration with Winifred V. Jackson.
  • George Olshevsky named the nonconvex snub polyhedra after some other Great Old Ones, with the Inverted snub dodecadodecahedron as "Nyarlathotep".

Links and references

Role-playing game material

  • Aniolowski, Scott D. (1990). "The Sundial of Amen-Tet". Lurking Fears. Lockport, NY: Triad Entertainments.
  • Aniolowski, Scott D. (1994). Ye Booke of Monstres. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. [ISBN 1-56882-019-4].
  • Conyers, David (2007). Secrets of Kenya. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. [ISBN 1-568821-88-3].
  • Detwiller, Dennis; Adam Scott Glancy and John Tynes (1997). Delta Green: A Call of Cthulhu Sourcebook of Modern Horror and Conspiracy. Tynes Cowan Corp. [ISBN 1-887797-08-4].
  • Diaper, John; et al (1983). The Arkham Evil. Theatre of the Mind.
  • DiTillio, Larry; Lynn Willis (1987). "City beneath the Sands". Terror Australis. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. [ISBN 0-933635-40-0].
  • DiTillio, Larry; Lynn Willis (1996). Masks of Nyarlathotep. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. [ISBN 1-56882-069-0].
  • Gillian, Geoff (1991). "Regiment of Dread". Tales of the Miskatonic Valley. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. [ISBN 0-933635-83-4].
  • Gillian, Geoff; et al (1991). Horror on the Orient Express.
  • Hallet, David; L.N. Isinwyll (1991). "Eyes for the Blind". Dark Designs.
  • Hamblin, William (1983). "Thoth's Dagger". Different Worlds #27.
  • Herber, Keith (1990). "Dead of Night". Arkham Unveiled.
  • Herber, Keith (1984). The Fungi from Yuggoth.
  • Herber, Keith (1991). Return to Dunwich.
  • Johnson, Sam (1997). A Resection of Time. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. [ISBN 1-56882-095-X].
  • Lyons, Doug; L.N. Isinwyll (1989). "One in Darkness". The Great Old Ones. Oakland, CA: Chaosium.
  • Petersen, Sandy (1982). "The Rise of R'lyeh". Shadows of Yog-Sothoth.
  • Petersen, Sandy; John B. Monroe (1990). "The Ten Commandments of Cthulhu Hunting". The Cthulhu Casebook.
  • Ross, Kevin (1997). Escape from Innsmouth (2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. [ISBN 1-56882-115-8].
  • Williams, Chris; Sandy Petersen (1997). The Complete Dreamlands (4th ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. [ISBN 1-56882-086-0].
  • D, Kay (2007). Nyarlathotep.
  1. Will Murray, "Behind the Mask of Nyarlathotep", Lovecraft Studies No. 25 (Fall 1991); cited in Robert M. Price, The Nyarlathotep Cycle, p. 9.
  2. Price, p. vii, 1-5.
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