Great Race of Yith

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The Great Race of Yith are aliens mentioned in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. They were first mentioned in Lovecraft's short story "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936). They are called the "Great" race because they are the only beings to have mastered time travel. Throughout the "The Shadow Out of Time" they are simply referred to as "The Great Race" whilst their planet's name is only mentioned once.


The Great Race ... waxed well-nigh omniscient, and turned to the task of setting up exchanges with the minds of other planets, and of exploring their pasts and futures. It sought likewise to fathom the past years and origin of that black, aeon-dead orb in far space whence its own mental heritage had come – for the mind of the Great Race was older than its bodily form. . . The beings of a dying elder world, wise with the ultimate secrets, had looked ahead for a new world and species wherein they might have long life; and had sent their minds en masse into that future race best adapted to house them – the cone-shaped beings that peopled our earth a billion years ago. H. P. Lovecraft, "The Shadow Out of Time"

The Great Race are beings of enormous intellectual and psychic powers that once dwelt on the dying world of Yith. They escaped the destruction of their home planet by transferring their minds to the bodies of a species native to the Earth in the far distant past. They lived on this planet for 200 million
years or so, in fierce competition with the flying polyps, until this enemy finally destroyed their civilization near the close of the Cretaceous era.

The bodies they inhabited on the Earth were tall and cone-shaped, rising to a point with four strange appendages – two terminating in claws, a third in a "trumpet", and the fourth, a yellow globe which functioned as a sensory organ. They have no genders and reproduce by spores instead. The unique ability of this scientifically-advanced race was to travel through time by swapping minds with creatures of another era. This allowed them to satisfy their interest in human culture, science, and occult beliefs. Occupied beings' minds transferred to Yithian bodies against their will; these "captive minds" were queried by skilled inquisitors while the Yithians using their bodies learned as much as possible about the societies in which they dwelt.

Although captive minds were prisoners, they were nonetheless granted some freedoms in exchange for their cooperation. Those captive minds who cooperated with the Great Race were allowed to wander the Yithian cities at will and to browse the Yithians' gigantic library, which contained metallic tubes with scrolls that recorded the histories of uncounted alien races, including humanity. Creatures inside a Yithian body could also communicate with other captive minds from across our universe (and beyond). Once the Great Race had learned all they could from a captive mind, the occupied being's intellect was swapped back, with the additional precaution of erasing all knowledge of the Great Race.

Because the Great Race traveled to the future as well as the past, they foresaw their own destruction by the flying polyps. Before the fateful day, the Great Race transferred their best minds forward through time into the bodies of the "beetle folk" (the Coleopterous race), Earth's dominant species after humankind. One of the factors involved may have been the fact that the flying polyps are completely gone by this point in time. In regards to the polyps perhaps these entities had come to prefer earth's inner abysses to the variable, storm-ravaged surface, since light meant nothing to them. Perhaps, too, they were slowly weakening with the aeons. Indeed, it was known that they would be quite dead in the time of the post-human beetle race which the fleeing minds would tenant.


The Lost City of Pnakotus (also called the Library City, The Lost City of the Archives and Pnakotis) was located in Australia's Great Sandy Desert. This primordial city is where the Great Race housed their enormous library.

The library of Pnakotus held the Pnakotic Manuscripts, a legendary tome containing a detailed chronicle of the Great Race's history, among other things. Copies of this manuscript would later be passed down through the ages, eventually falling into the hands of sinister cults which would guard them into modern times.
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