Monday, October 17, 2011

Cthulhu

Today is my Monster Fest post for fabulous blogger/writer Sommer Leigh who runs one of the most professional websites that I frequently visit.  If you've never been to "Tell Great Stories" I truly urge you to do so. Sommer's posts are always cerebral and examine the world of writing and publishing from unusual and fresh perspectives.
[T]he nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults...In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.

—H. P. Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu"
Artist rendering of the City of R'Lyeh where Cthulhu is said to dream.

Here is how Lovecraft describes Cthulhu...

"The figure, which was finally passed slowly from man to man for close and careful study, was between seven and eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship. It 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. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular block or pedestal covered with undecipherable characters. The tips of the wings touched the back edge of the block, the seat occupied the centre, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way clown toward the bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the facial feelers brushed the backs of huge fore paws which clasped the croucher's elevated knees. The aspect of the whole was abnormally life-like, and the more subtly fearful because its source was so totally unknown. Its vast, awesome, and incalculable age was unmistakable; yet not one link did it shew with any known type of art belonging to civilisation's youth - or indeed to any other time. Totally separate and apart, its very material was a mystery; for the soapy, greenish-black stone with its golden or iridescent flecks and striations resembled nothing familiar to geology or mineralogy. The characters along the base were equally baffling; and no member present, despite a representation of half the world's expert learning in this field, could form the least notion of even their remotest linguistic kinship. They, like the subject and material, belonged to something horribly remote and distinct from mankind as we know it. something frightfully suggestive of old and unhallowed cycles of life in which our world and our conceptions have no part."

R'LYEH

R'lyeh is characterized by bizarre architecture likened to non-Euclidean geometry. Norwegian sailor Gustaf Johansen, the narrator of one of the tales in the short story, describes the accidental discovery of the city: "a coast-line of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less the tangible substance of earth's supreme terror — the nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh...loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours". The short story also asserts the premise that while currently trapped in R'lyeh, Cthulhu will eventually return, with worshipers often repeating the phrase Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn: "In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming".

Lovecraft claims R'lyeh is located at 47°9′S 126°43′W in the southern Pacific Ocean. Writer August Derleth, a contemporary correspondent of Lovecraft and co-creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, placed R'lyeh at 49°51′S 128°34′W.[2] The latter coordinates place the city approximately 5,100 nautical miles (9,400 km) from the actual island of Pohnpei (Ponape), the location of the fictional "Ponape Scripture". Both locations are close to the Pacific pole of inaccessibility (48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W), a point in the ocean farthest from any land mass.  The city is said to rise from the deep on its own for one day every 1000 years.

THE AGE OF CTHULHU

Cthulhu is set in that same time period that we find King Kong. It's the 1920's...there's much of the world that is still unknown.  Pervading all of this are Lovecraft's short stories that hint of ancient civilizations hidden by the waves kinda like that huge wall in Peter Jackson's film and the ruins all over that island.  You have steam-powered schooners, flappers, old-style cars, detectives that look like Humphrey Bogart's character in Casablanca... and people smoking cigarettes everywhere because it's "glamorous".
The Setting for King Kong 2005 is very Cthulhu-esque. I think Peter Jackson could
make an outstanding Call of Cthulhu movie because it would have many of the
same elements as seen in this film with the giant monsters, the mysterious island
and the ruins of an ancient city emerged from the bowels of the ocean and surrounded
by a blanket of thick fog.
I'm not the biggest fan of Lovecraft's actual writing. I'm thankful that the stories are short. He's heavy-handed with his vocabulary and the stories tend to read much like a diary would so they are very dry. I think I would prefer being immersed into the story than have it be told to me in passive first person, past tense. And I don't like the way his stories end. It's like he takes you up to the point where there could clearly be more and then just cops out and says that the narrator went insane and thus, there's no more that's written.  However, his world-building is impressive. Boys in particular seem to be drawn to tales of dark and evil things as long as very little is known about them.  Something about this "unknown and mysterious element" appeals to their imaginations, and I think, is the reason why this kind of mythos continues to endure. Every boy at some point discovers Cthulhu...becomes intrigued by the weird sounding name, wants to know more and discovers that there is in fact, very little known about it outside of roleplaying games.
Buy the book that critics say
is “a mind-blowing sci-fi read from
start to end.” $4.99 from Amazon
now. Begin your journey today.

My own writing has "Cthulhu mythos" inspired creatures and has been described by some reviewers as a "dark fantasy populated by terrifying monsters." Please give it a try if you like glass spiders, hockey sticks, and monsters from the id (subconscious). In "Slipstream", a dark god lays dreaming...

34 comments:

Sarah Pearson said...

Interesting. This is just one of those names I 'know' without actually knowing anything about it. I'm still not sure how to pronounce it though.

mooderino said...

I thought you might like this: Cthulhu


he's working in doing an entire book, you can see pages done so far here: Book

mood

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Cthulhu - excellent choice! And Lovecraft is a master world builder. His Mythos and Dreamlands are incredible.

Rogue Mutt said...

Hooray, another blogfest I knew nothing about!

All I know about Cthulhu is from the South Park episodes last year where BP raises him by drilling on the moon and then Cartman uses him to kill Justin Bieber.

Rusty Webb said...

I was a little late in learning of the cthulhu tales. Although me ever popular p

Rusty Webb said...

... ost on the the necronomicon was from the order of the cuthulu cultists. That's the second time I've posted in the middle of a comment. Weird.

David Powers King said...

I remember reading about those things in grade school. Some kind of monster dictionary. Crazy how these bits from the past sneak up on you. :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Gruesome monsters.

Good time of year for a monster blogfest.

Matthew MacNish said...

I love Lovecraft. Yes his prose is a bit purple at times, but I think it fits with the mood of his tales, and the time he was writing in.

Did you ever play the video game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_of_Cthulhu:_Dark_Corners_of_the_Earth

Munk said...

I'm with Sarah... the pronunciation is scary enough.

E.R. King said...

Those creatures are awesome. I've seen pics of them, but didn't know them by name, or even know that they had a name. Very cool. I've never read Lovecraft. I'll have to check him out of the library. Thanks.

Deborah Walker said...

I'm a huge mythos fan. Colour me old school weird.

Danette said...

I've left my horror story days behind me but I think I would have loved him if I'd have read him during my Poe and Hitchcock phase. King was a big Lovecraft fan, I hear and what you have here, this blurb is quite good. I might have to read some just for Halloween- just to get the scare up!

J. A. Bennett said...

I haven't joined this fest, but I am learning a ton. Who knew there are so many cool monsters out there!

REINHARDT! said...

I love stories of the Great Tentacled One, even though, like you, I don't care for Lovecraft's actual prose.

I once read a comment somewhere that said a perfect Lovecraftian movie would be 90 minutes of the same two white dudes from New England screaming at something they see off camera.

Despite those prose issues, though, Lovecraft and his cohort had some dynamite ideas and really influenced horror writers in the mid-to-late 20th century.

Great post!

Briane P said...

I listened to some Lovecraft in my books on tape era. I liked them.

Clarissa Draper said...

How imaginative for a blogfest. The creature and the places the creature roams are amazing depicted in those pictures.

J.L. Campbell said...

Just the names alone would boggle my mind.

Hart Johnson said...

I am totally, 100% with you on Cthulu love but not loving Lovecraft's writing itself, so much as the ideas he gets across. I like his New England under the mountain creatures that makes people crazy, too. But Cthulu is SO appealing! Did you know you can buy a 'plush Cthulu'? They are SO CUTE!

Christine Rains said...

I love the Cthulhu myth. My son has a stuffed one in his crib that he calls "Coo-lu" and gives wet kisses to even if I pretend the monster is eating his head. I also own the 4th edition of the RPG.

Andrew Leon said...

Lovecraft's writing style fits in with what was prevalent in his day. Poe is the same way. I just read "Masque of the Red Death" to my kids, last night, and it's very passive.
I've never actually read any Lovecraft, though; although I did play the RPG once.

Jessie Humphries said...

I am going to check out Summers site right now:)

The Golden Eagle said...

Fascinating post . . . I'd heard of Cthulhu, but I never knew exactly what it was.

lbdiamond said...

COOL post!!!!! I always think of South Park and The Coon when I see Cthulu, LOL!

L.G.Smith said...

I still haven't read any Lovecraft, though I know who Cthulu is because of some rabid fans. My first introduction was through a Christmas card showing Cthulu in a Santa suit.

Cindy said...

Great post. The Cthulhu seems to be the king of monsters, although its name is hard to remember.hehe.

Lydia Kang said...

Never heard of this creature, and happy to expand my knowledge of fantasy creatures. Thanks!

Lynda R Young said...

Cthulhu is a great choice of monster. And how cool is the city of R'lyeh? Love the imagination.

MasterVodo said...

http://knowyourmeme.com/videos/19426-cthulhu#.Tpy6DLJkKRh

Just saw this vid literally before I read your most recent post. It applies.

Trisha said...

Monsters are so much fun! I love 'em!

Ciara said...

This is my first introduction. I'm excited! Off to check it out.

Ciara said...

This is my first introduction. I'm excited! Off to check it out.

Alyson said...

I <3 monsters.

Celestial Elf said...

Thought you might like my Cthulhu tribute machinima film
The Highlander; Cthulhu Enigma
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdzezmqtHy4