H.P. Lovecraft: Cthulhu

The most detailed descriptions of Cthulhu in “The Call of Cthulhu” are based on statues of the creature. One, constructed by an artist after a series of baleful dreams, is said to have “yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature…. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings.” Another, recovered by police from a raid on a murderous cult, “represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like 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.”

When the creature finally appears, the story says that the “thing cannot be described,” but it is called “the green, sticky spawn of the stars”, with “flabby claws” and an “awful squid-head with writhing feelers.” The phrase “a mountain walked or stumbled” gives a sense of the creature’s scale.

Cthulhu is depicted as having a worldwide cult centered in Arabia, with followers in regions as far-flung as Greenland and Louisiana. There are leaders of the cult “in the mountains of China” who are said to be immortal. Cthulhu is described by some of these cultists as the “great priest” of “the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky.”

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 Cthulhu waits dreaming.” This is often shortened to “Cthulhu fhtagn,” which might possibly mean “Cthulhu waits”, “Cthulhu dreams,” or “Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

One cultist, known as Old Castro, provides the most elaborate information given in Lovecraft’s fiction about Cthulhu. The Great Old Ones, according to Castro, had come from the stars to rule the world in ages past.

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.

Castro points to the “much-discussed couplet” from Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon:

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange æons even death may die.

Castro explains the role of the Cthulhu Cult: 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.” 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 reports that the Great Old Ones are telepathic and “knew all that was occurring in the universe.” They were able to communicate with the first humans by “moulding their dreams,” thus establishing the Cthulhu Cult, but after R’lyeh had sunk beneath the waves, “the deep waters, full of the one primal mystery through which not even thought can pass, had cut off the spectral intercourse.”

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu

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