Of all the gods of Lovecraft's mythology, Cthulhu was the most dangerous. He waits in his submerged Pacific city of R'lyeh for the day when the stars are right and he will rise to take charge of the world. Sometimes called the "Great Priest Cthulhu." He appears in "The Call of Cthulhu," but his name or icon image are invoked in other stories. From his letters, Lovecraft would give the impression that, from his point of view, Yog-Sothoth was the main figure of his Mythos, but, history and Derleth's diligence have shown, Cthulhu became the figurehead of Lovecraft's pantheon, not in position but in effectiveness to influence other writers. Pronunciation of the name: See Letter to Duane Rimel, July 23, 1934: "When Prof. Angell became interested in the matter, there had never been any attempt to render the name of the hellish R'lyeh monster in our alphabet--although Abdul Alhazred made an attempt in Arabic letters, which was repeated in Greek by the Byzantine translator. The Latin translator merely copied the Greek. The letters CTHULHU were merely what Prof. Angell hastily devised to represent (roughly and imperfectly, of course) the dream-name orally mouthed to him by the young artist Wilcox. The actual sound--as nearly as human organs could imitate it or human letters record it--may be taken as something like Khlul'-hloo, with the first syllable pronounced gutturally and very thickly. The u is about like that in full; and the first syllable is not unlike klul in sound, since the h represents the guttural thickness. The second syllable is not very well rendered--the l sound being unrepresented." Later, in a letter to Willis Cononover, August 29, 1936, Lovecraft revised this slightly: "About the pronunciation of the Outside word roughly given as Cthulhu in our alphabet-authorities seem to differ. Of course it is not a human name at all-having never been designed for enunciation by the voacal apparatus of Homo sapiens. The best approximation one can make is to grunt, bark, or cough the imperfectly-formed syllables Cluh-Luh with the tip of the tongue firmly affixed to the roof of the mouth. That is, if one is a human being. Directions for other entities are naturally different." It has been suggested by "Simon the Wise" the author of the Avon paperback called (wrongly) the Necronomicon that the name Cthulhu was of Sumerian origin. He contends that "The Underworld in ancient Sumer was known by many names, among them 'ABSU' or "Abyss", sometimes as 'Nar Mattaru,' the Great Underworld Ocean, and also as 'Cthua' or 'KUTU' as it is called in the 'Enuma Elish' (the Creation Epic of the Sumerians). The phonetic similarity between Cutha and Kutu and Cththonic, as well as Cthulhu, is striking. Judging by a Sumerian grammar at hand, the word KUTULU or Cuthalu (Lovecraft's Cthulhu Sumerianized) would mean "The Man of KUTU" (Cutha); the Man of the Underworld; Satan or Shaitan, as he is know to the Yezidis (whom Crowley considered to be the remains of the Sumerian Tradition).

From HPL: A MEMOIR by August Derleth. In a footnote on page 75: "* Though Lovecraft denied to Cook any derivative or phonetic source for Cthulhu, Douglas Webster, of Aberdeen, Scotland, has pointed out that the mythical figure of Cuthoolin, who held all Ireland under the sword, in Ossian, might quite possibly have risen from Lovecraft's memory to become Cthulhu.

("The Call of Cthulhu," "At the Mountains of Madness," "The Dunwich Horror," "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," "The Whisperer in Darkness") ([P.Rev.] "Medusa's Coil") See also: Buddai


... It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall no be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled haead surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful. ...


The figure, ... , was between seven and eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship. It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopulike 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. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular clock or pedestal covered with undecipherable characters. The tips of the wings touched the black edge of the block, the seat occupied the center, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouchng hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way down toward the bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that ends of the facial feelers brushed the backs of huge forepaws which clasped the croucher's elevated knees. The aspect of the whole was abnormally lifelike, and the more subtly feaful because its source was so totally unknown. Its vase, awesome, and incalculabel age was unmistakable; yet not one link did it show with any known type of art belonging to civilization's youth--or indeed to any other time.


... The Thing can not be decribed--there is no luanguage for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contraditions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the earth a great architect went mand, and poor Wilcox raved with fever in that telepathic instant? The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awakened to claim his own. The stars were right again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident. After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight. Three men were swept up by the flabby claws before anybody turned. ... So only Briden and Johansen reached the boat, and pulled despeately for the Alert as the mountainous monstrosity flopped down the slimy stones and hesitated, floundering at the edge of the water. Steam had not been suffered to go down entirely, despite the departure of all hands for the shore; and it was the work of only a few moments of feverish rushing up and down between wheelss and engines to get the Alert under way. Slowly, amidst the distorted horrors of that indescribable scene, she began to churn the lethal waters; whilst on the masonry of that charnel shore that was not of earth the titan Thing from the stars slavered and gibbered like Polypheme cursing the fleeing ship of Odysseus. Then, bolder than the storied Cyclops, great Cthulhu slid greasily into the water and began to pursue with vast wave-raising strokes of cosmic potency. Briden looked back and went mad, laughing at intervals till death found him one night in the cabin whilst Johansen was wandering deliriously. But Johansen had not given out yet. Knowing that the Thing could surely overtake the Alert until steam was fully up, he resolved on a desparate chance and, setting the engine for full speed, ran lightning-like on deck and reversed the wheel. There was a mighty eddying and foaming in the noisome brine, and as the steam mounted higher and higher the brave Norwegian drove his vessel head on against the pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean froth like the stern of daemon galleon. The awful squid-head waith writhing feelers came nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but Johansen drove on relentlessly. There was a bursting as of an exploded bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler would not put on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seething astern; where--God in heaven!--the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its distance widened every second as the Alert gained impetus from its mounting steam.


The persistence with which the Old Ones survived various geologic changes and convulsions of the earth's crust was little short of miraculous. ... Their original place of advent to the planet was the Antarctic Ocean, and it is likely that they came not long after the matter forming the moon was wrenched from the neighboring South Pacific. According to one of the sculptured maps the whole globe was then under water, with stone cities scattered farther and farther from the antarctic as aeons passed. Another map shows a vast bulk of dry land around the south pole, where it is evident that some of the beings made experimental settlements, though their main centers were transferred to the nearest sea bottom. Later maps, which display the land mass as cracked and drifting, and sending certain detached parts northward, uphold in a striking way the theories of continental drift advanced by Taylor, Wegener, and Joly. With the upheaval of new land in the South Pacific tremendous events began. Some of the marine cities were hopelessly shattered, yet that was not the worst misfortune. Another race--a land race of beings shaped like octopi and probably corresponding to fabulous prehuman 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--a colossal blow in view of the increasing land settlements. 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. New land cities were founded--the greatest of them in the antarctic, for this region of first arrival was sacred. From then on, as before, the antarctic remained the center of the Old Ones' civilization, and all the 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 again supreme on the planet except for one shadowy fear about which they did not like to speak. ...


It was curious to note from the pictured battles that both the Cthulhu spawn and the Mi-Go seem to have been composed of matter more widely different from that which we know than was the substance of the 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 Old Ones, but for their abnormal toughness and peculiar vital properties, were strictly material, and must have had their absolute origin with the known space-time continuum--whereas the first sources of the other beings can only be guessed at with bated breath. ...

NEW (2/10/94)


Cthulhu, the sea god of Lovecraft's extrterrestrial pantheon, rules the submarine deeps of R'lyeh, a city, according to its tradition, that will rise from the sea permitting its inhabitants to inherit the earth. In all probability Cthulhu is based on the Norwegian myth of the Kraken, a legendary monster thought to live under the waves of the northern seas. Lovecraft was well read in both world mythology and English literature, and although he might not have come directly in contact with the Norwegian myth, he could hardly have missed Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "The Kraken':

Below the thundres of the upper deep; Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea, His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep The Kraken sleepeth; faintest sunlights fell Above his shadowy sides: above him swell Huge sponges of millennial growth and height; And far away into the sickly light, From many a wondrous grot and secret cell Unnumber'd and enormous polypi Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green. There hath he lain for ages and will lie Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep, Until the latter fire shall heat the deep; Then once by man and angels to be seen, In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

In "The Call of Cthulhu" are found the following lines from Lovecraft's magical grimoire the Necronomicon: Ph'nglui nglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. This is translated in the story as: "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming." Comparing these lines with those of Tennyson's poem, we find that both Cthulhu and the Kraken are marine beasts who sleep, the Kraken dreamlessly and Cthulhu dreaming. In both the poem and the story it is said that these creatures will rise up again in a hideous display of power. Although Cthulhu's mountaintop house at R'lyeh actually stands beneath the surface of the water, it is forced above the water line due to a seismic eruption similar to that in "The Kraken" ("the latter fire shall heat the deep"). Lovecraft also employed this device in his early short story "Dagon," wherein just such an eruption heaves up a submerged island on which roams the Dagon figure that forms one-third of the Dagon-Cthulhu-Deep Ones triad of undersea monsters.