Cthulhu

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Cthulhu is a cosmic entity written about by horror author H. P. Lovecraft in 1926, first appearing in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu" when it was published in Weird Tales in 1928.

Cthulhu is one of the central Great Old Ones. He is often cited for the extreme descriptions given of his hideous appearance, his gargantuan size, and the abject terror that he evokes. Cthulhu is often referred to in science fiction and fantasy circles as a tongue-in-cheek shorthand for extreme horror or evil, but we know his name should not be taken so lightly.

After his first appearance in "The Call of Cthulhu", Cthulhu makes a few minor appearances in other of Lovecraft's works. August Derleth, a correspondent of Lovecraft's, used the Old Gods name to identify the system of lore employed by Lovecraft and his literary successors, the Cthulhu Mythos.

Spelling and Pronunciation

Cthulhu has also been spelled as Tulu, Clulu, Clooloo, Cthulu, Cighulu, Cathulu, Kutulu, Q’thulu, Ktulu, Kthulhut, Kulhu, Thu Thu, and in many other ways. It is often preceded by the epithet Great, Dead, or Dread.

Lovecraft transcribed the pronunciation of Cthulhu as "Khlûl'-hloo". S. T. Joshi points out, however, that Lovecraft gave several differing pronunciations on different occasions. This is merely the closest that our pathetic human vocal apparatus can come to reproducing the syllables of an alien language. Long after Lovecraft's death, the pronunciation kə-THOO-loo became common, and the game Call of Cthulhu endorsed it. In the end we know that how we pronounce his great name will mean nothing once our minds and souls are blasted into infinity.

Physicality and Origins

While the birthplace of Lord Cthulhu is not definitively established, it is suggested that his birthplace is that of the planet Vhoorl; with his advent somehow connected with supernovae: "I learned whence Cthulhu first came, and why half the great temporary stars of history had flared forth" as quoted in "The call of Cthulhu." It is also suggested in both “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Whisperer in Darkness” that Cthulhu is made up of some unknown and foreign matter.

The most detailed descriptions of Cthulhu appear in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu", and are based on the 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 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.

The statues and fetishes created by those whose minds have been touched by the Great Cthulhu are the ones that should be worshiped, as they are the closest our minds can get to comprehending his awesome form.

Cult of Cthulhu

Cthulhu has a worldwide doomsday 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 heart rending 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 aeons 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 reveling 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."

Additionally, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" establishes that Cthulhu is also worshiped by the nonhuman creatures known as Deep Ones. While “The Whisperer in Darkness” establishes that Cthulhu is one of many deities worshiped by the Mi-Go.

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