To commemorate this most glorious of days and pay proper tribute to our lord and master, Cthulhu, let’s not delve into his literary creator but rather focus on the achievements, influences, and gifts bestowed to us by the Great Elder One. This day is his (it’s?) day after all and not H.P. Lovecraft’s.
I’m sure many of you have heard the name before. Cthulhu has been a forefather to the sub genre of science-fiction horror creatures that we’ve come to know and love since his emergence in 1926. Many of the cringy, tentacled spectacles we are familiar with are derived from those inspired by Cthulhu or many of the other nightmarish deities in his family tree.
Contemporary blockbusters such as The Thing, Alien, and even the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise all owe a debt to Lovecraft for what he’s given them. Monsters. Not just the ravenous ones that go bump in the night, but the ones that slither into the depths of your mind and slip you into madness. We’re talking gods. Cosmic beings with the abilities and power to conquer and devour as they please.
First introduced in The Call of Cthulhu our most notorious Lovecraftian creation was discovered fast asleep in the watery depths of R’lyeh. His power is so vast that he is able to spread nightmares from his slumber, causing madmen to form a cult bent on releasing hell on Earth. He is awakened briefly, has his skull bashed in by a yacht, which then regenerates almost immediately. Cthulhu reappears in his own mythos occasionally, mostly in Lovecraft’s progenie, August Derleth’s continuation of the mythology.
So exactly who or what is Cthulhu really? Where did he come from? Well Lovecraft left that part sort of vague. We have an understanding that he is a powerfully cosmic entity that became imprisoned in a portal on Earth. He’s hellbent on universal conquest, can plague living things with hallucinations and nightmares, and loves long walks on the beach. Before his imprisonment, he went to war with other cosmic gods named The Elder Things.
Derleth expanded the mythos by delving in deeper into Cthulhu’s genealogy. Carrying Lovecraft’s legacy, Derleth went into further detail on the cosmic war that occurred between various elemental beings (Cthulhu being a water deity) that waged on for eons resulting in the cataclysmic creation of the worlds we know today.
Another fun fact include his hatred of his half-brother, Hastur, another cosmic deity who appears cloaked and significantly shorter than Cthulhu as he stands around six feet compared to Cthulhu six-hundred and fifty feet. Cthulhu’s minions, known as the Deep Ones, are so loyal they swam (don’t ask) through various dimensions to follow their lord through to our plain of existence.
Cthulhu has been so widely accepted, feared, and loved there are hundreds of role playing games, video games, and board games based on him, not to mention the countless shows, movies, and novels that owe their thanks to him. You know what? It’s his day. Let’s mention them. Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Junji Ito and Alan Moore. Recognize some of these elites? Most of their works pay homage to Lovecraft and some of their boogeymen are either replicas or owe their likeness to the Great Cthulhu himself.
More recently, author Matt Ruff has given us Lovecraft Country which presents us with an alternative take on some of Lovecraft’s designs set in mid-sixties segregated United States where violent racism is just as frightening as the man eating creatures some of the characters face. Though the novel has nothing to do with Lovecraft or any of his creations, it’s definitely a noteworthy mention. You can also check out the television adaptation on HBO.
Cthulhu hates sharing the spotlight so most of his family aren’t too well known, other than by Lovecraft fans. Also, their names are sort of hard to pronounce. Azathoth. Yog-Sothoth. Nyarlathotep. See what I mean? And each one is just as terrifying. Felonious blobs with a thousand eyes and pulsating limbs. A shadow with eyes peeking at you through your dreams. A goat-octopus…thingy. Look, just take my word and read for yourself, if you got the stomach for it. Lovecraft’s stories present us with a complex and enriching nightmare that you won’t want to wake from.