While the Elder Ones themselves will be dealt with in a future article, we reprint here an excerpt from Albert N. Wilmarth's infamous "Book of Elderian Lore," prepared by Miskatonic University graduate student Gregor Staslansko.  Wilmarth is part of the group that broke the language code of the Elder Ones, brought back from the Antarctic in the form of sketches, photographs, and small soapstone samples by Professor William Dyer (1876-1978).  Wilmarth's book is considered the finest extant source of information on the Elder Ones and the Shoggoth.

A note.  In the Necronomicon they are called the Elder Things. Professor Lake called them the Elder Ones.  Professor Peaslee called them the Great Old Ones.  Popular folklore calls them the Old Ones and sometimes the Black Winged Old Ones.  For ease of commonality, we follow Wilmarth's lead and use 'Elder Ones' and the collective 'Elderian.'

The late Professor William Dyer wrote that "the nightmare, plastic column of fetid black iridescence, oozed tightly onward through its fifteen-foot sinus, gathering unholy speed and driving before it a spiral, rethickening cloud of pallid abyss vapor.  It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down on us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter.  Still came that eldritch, mocking cry: 'Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!'"

his arcane and fantastical description of the entity which drove Dyer and his assistant Danforth back from the brink of discovering the abyss of the Elder Ones of prehistory may not be so fantastical after all.  Myths of Shoggoths--those amorphous, protoplasmic abominations--have appeared in a variety of eras and civilizations.  They are spoken of with great reverence in the Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred in Book Two, Chapter Two within in the tale of Alhazred's encounter with the Afrasiab and the book of S'gg'ha, and again in Chapter Seven, Part Six in the alchemical and extrasensory instructions on the creation and control of Shoggoths.  They are mentioned vaguely in the Pnakotic Manuscripts, fragment CXXIII, in connection with great Kadath in the Cold Waste.  There is a reference to them in the rituals of the Cthulhu cult reprinted in the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of Friedrich von Junzt.  To understand the origin and impact of the myth or reality of these horrifying amorphous monstrosities, it is necessary to carefully review the records Dyer brought back from Antarctica in 1931.

Among the bas-relief sculptured wall records left by the Elder Ones in their abandoned city on the Antarctic superplateau.  Elderian mythology holds that the Elder Ones, on planets they inhabited prior to arriving in our solar system, had gone through mechanical and electronic ages just as mankind has.  But mechanisms such as automobiles and airplanes are of little use for creatures that live mainly underwater, walk fast on land, and fly through the air. But during those ages, they did develop the science of artificially manufacturing the building blocks of life their own form of genetic engineering.

Upon arriving on our then landless, sea-swept planet and finding little life at all, the Elder Ones manufactured their own food, using the basic building blocks of life available to them under the sea and the scientific techniques they had brought with them.  As they began to think of building a permanent colony on the planet, they developed tools to do work which they were unable or unwilling to, such as cutting and maneuvering huge stone blocks.  Later man would create machines of metal like tractors and cranes to do his work.  The Elder Ones, on the other hand, created 'machines' by reshaping or mutating organic substance into an animals capable of fulfilling a necessary function such a stone cutting or earth moving. Of these 'organic machines' the most impressive and useful form were called the Shoggoths of which Abdul Alhazred, the mad author of the Necronomicon, swears that none were ever bred on this planet, that only dreamers drugged on a certain alkaloidal herb could have conceived them, that they are the invention of primitive myth.  The records Dyer discovered seem to tear away the mad Arab's attempts to hide the horrific facts.

The actual formula for creating a Shoggoth, or the basic building blocks of the genetic structure, have been lost.(1)  Apparently the undersea Elder Ones were able to manipulate deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and cytoplasm to create self-duplicating, clear cellular creatures which were electrically charged to cling to others of their kind. Some of this creation process was performed by the physical manipulation of matter.

The Elder Ones had developed a special telepathic sense.  Their five-lobed brains, connected to fine cilia which radiated out of their heads, could produce a form of radio wave capable of either agitating the cellular material into specified arrangements.  With this sense they were able to do the detailed and microscopic processes, such as encoding the DNA. The Elder Ones carefully encoded the beings both a lack of self initiative and the ability to transmogrify on command.

Once encoded, these masses of cellular material would cling together forming a semifluid, viscous, transluscent colloid, much the way tiny sea creature join together to create a coral or jellyfish.  In their static state these colonies of cells would appear as a rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids (fifteen feet apparently being the natural balance between gravity, atmospheric pressure, and cohesion). These spheroid Shoggoths, therefore, had a constantly shifting shape and volume.  But they held the ability to reform into entities with the imitation of the form, organs, processes, and actions of other lifeforms.

Under the control of their Elderian masters, the Shoggoths would mutate temporarily into whatever shape was required for a specific task.  Often these shapes were horrificly large and multifaceted. But sometimes they would be simply directed to ape the form, organs, and appendages of their masters. In this, the Shoggoths were able to even recreate Elderian vocal chords.  It is, therefore, most likely that the eldritch, mocking cry "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" reported by Dyer and Danforth may be both the sound of the Elder Ones and of the demoniac Shoggoths.  The Shoggoths had no other model for language other than that of their creators.(2)

Incredibly plastic and incredibly powerful, these imitation creatures were the perfect beasts of burden, slaves, and builders, making possible the vast and imposing undersea Elderian cities.  The Shoggoths were easily controlled by the Elder Ones, much the way a queen ant or bee controls her hive.  Through their genetically encoded programming and telepathic contact, learned their functions quickly.

As the Elder Ones expanded their colony out of the seas and onto the newly formed continent of earth, the protoplasmic material was also used to create a wide variety of surface life forms animal and vegetable, marine, terrestrial, and aërial.  Unfortunately, this explosion of Elderian creativity led to uncontrolled evolution in some of the more benign of these new creatures. Those creations which posed a threat were mechanically exterminated.  The undersea Shoggoths were, for the moment, almost forgotten, merely janitors and service creatures to the small pockets of deep-sea Elder Ones.

As other alien forms found the planet, a long period of warfare began with the Elder Ones battling such newcomers as the Great Race, Cthulhu and his spawn, and the Fungi from Yuggoth. During this period, the Shoggoths began to mutate on their own.  This may be due to the use of Shoggoths in warfare where a natural instinct for independent survival began to emerge in the loathesome creatures.  Whatever the cause, the Shoggoths began to evolve independently as they reproduced by means of fission.  This evolution included the acquisition of a semistable brain with a dangerous degree of accidental intelligence.  They began to self-model themselves independent of the Elder Ones, both in forms implanted by past suggestion and imitative of the new alien life they encountered.

In the extended eons of the wars, as the sculptures sadly confessed, much of the art and science of creating new life from inorganic matter had been lost.  As peace returned, the Elder Ones had to depend on the remolding of forms already in existence.  The change in the Shoggoths presented a formidable problem.  With the loss of the genetic engineering capability, the destruction of the Shoggoths was impossible.  And without full control over the Shoggoths, the now-complex sea Elderian world would become impossible.  After the wars, the Elder Ones began elaborate experiments on the Shoggoths to prevent the loss of control over these creatures without great success.

In the middle of the Permian Age, the Shoggoths turned upon their masters, lashing out first in random attacks and, later, in full scale riot and warfare.  Horrifying images of this war can be found in the bas-reliefs of the antarctic Elderian city, often centering upon the headless, slime-coated fashion in which the Shoggoths typically left their slain victims.  Dyer, who witnessed Elder Ones who had died at the 'hands' of a Shoggoth, said that though "mauled, compressed, twisted, and ruptured as they were, their chief common injury was total decapitation. From each one the tentacled starfish head had been removed....  The manner of removal looked more like some hellish tearing or suction than like any ordinary form of cleavage.  Their noisome dark-green ichor formed a large, spreading pool; but its stench was half overshadowed by the newer and stranger stench, here more pungent than at any other point along our route."  It is also noted that the Shoggoths, when killing in skirmish or single combat, often left a slimy epitaph over their foe's body, in the very language of the Elder Ones themselves, indicating the rapid ability to learn which had developed in them.

The Elder Ones retailiated with curious weapons of molecular and atomic disturbance.  Ultimately, after great devastation, they achieved complete victory over their former slaves.  With the balance of power and trust shifted, the relationship between the Shoggoths and their masters never returned to its former equalibrium.  During the wars, the Shoggoths had shown an ability to live out of water.  This transition in the Shoggoths was not encouraged since their usefulness on land would hardly balance the problem of managing them. Instead, the majority of the Elderian population itself moved landward.  And for many eras the Shoggoths were successfully, though nervous, kept in servitude.

Then, suddenly, epic changes in the earth's atmospheric climate endangered the surface existence of the Elder Ones.  First, a dramatic depletion of the earth's ozone during the wars wiped out all saurian land life.  Then the rapidly approaching Ice Age began killing off the mammal population. To sustain and fortify the land cities against these ecological reverses, the Elder Ones were forced to adapt some of the amorphous and curiously cold-resistant Shoggoths to land life.  Ultimately, even this effort failed. The great river became lifeless and the ice and snow made life in the land cities impossible.  The Elder Ones had no choice but the retreat to their former life under the sea.  They planned a great city in the watery, dark abyss under Antarctica itself.  To quarry the needed insoluble rocks from the honeycombed mountains, the Elder Ones adapted the Shoggoths to breed stone lifters and subsequent beasts of burden for the cavern city, and other protoplasmic matter to mold into phosphorescent organisms for lighting purposes.

With this new breed of Shoggoth, the city in the abyss rose rapily, itself mimicking the magnificent city above it.  These new Shoggoths were enormous in size and singular in intelligence.  Their greater brain capacity made them somewhat resistant to telepathic control.  The Elder Ones found themselves, more and more, having to use spoken commands more than hypnotic suggestion.

As their Antarctic city disappeared under a solid glacial blanket, the Elder Ones and their Shoggoth slaves, sealed off their retreat and moved, lock, stock, and barrel into the Stygian, undersea city.

But something must have gone terribly wrong between the time the last Elder One slipped back into the black water and 1930 when Dyer and Danforth stumbled upon the rim of that abyss.  Something must have happened which drove the Elder Ones out of the magnficent new city and back toward land, recarving hasty exits through the hills and squirming desparately back into the frozen waste they had sought to escape.

What this terrible catastrophe was we may never know.  What we do know is that the fleeing Elder Ones left behind them a city badly bored with strange holes and decorated with a decadent imtiation of Elderian art no Elder One could have conceived.  It is possible that the Shoggoths finally took their revenge and their freedom violently.  It is possible that they merely outnumbered and replaced the Elder Ones and that the city is now merely a Shoggoth recreation of Elderian life, with the Shoggoths themselves playing out the parts, forming themselves in mock imitation of their creators, continuing the sculptures with decadent, pseudo-Elderian images.  And, perhaps, they still worship that fearful thing in the westard mountains which Danforth glimpsed and went mad.  Perhaps the muttered, disjointed phrases Danforth uttered to Dyer before he took his life give us a glimpse into this horrorifying end of the Elder Ones: "The black pit," "the carven rim," "the proto-Shoggoths," "the windowless solids with five dimensions," "the nameless cylinder," "the elder Pharos," "Yog-Sothoth," "the primal white jelly," "the color out of space," "the wings," "the eyes in darkness," "the moon-ladder," "the original, the eternal, the undying."

We would do well to listen to Abdul Alhazred and Dyer, who said: "I had seen those primal sculptures, too, and had shudderingly admired the way the nameless artist had suggested that hideous slime coating found on certain incomplete and prostrate Elder Ones those whom the frightful Shoggoths had characteristically slain and sucked to a ghastly headlessness in the great war of resubjugation.  They were infamous, nightmare sculptures even when telling of age-old, bygone things; for Shoggoths and their work ought not to be seen by human beings or portrayed by any beings."

Could the horror have spread beyond the city of the abyss and the superplateau?  Could the nauseous demoniac Shoggoths, free at last, have returned to the surface to conqueor the burrows and caverns of the last Elder Ones?  Is it their insane piping, "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" not the wind but the Shoggoths themselves chanting maniacally around the lofty mountain caves?  Could they have invaded the very heights of Kadath in the Cold Waste and annihilated the gods there, replacing them with their own in the gods' image?  If so, where will they head next?  What form will they take?

    1. The Necronomicon in Chapter Seven, Part Six, attempts to reproduce the Elderian formula for creating manipulable life. Ancient alchemists were successful in creating homunculus based upon it but ultimately failed to produce the pure form of Shoggoth described in the Elderian records. Perhaps this is only because man lacks the telepathic acuity the Elder Ones possessed in their early eras. 

    2. Arthur Grimple, in his "Pattern of the Islands," notes that Gilbert Islanders coaxed porpoises in from the sea by calling: 'Teirake! Teirake!' meaning 'Arise! Arise!.' The words seem to have both called in and hypnotized the porpoises. 

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