A Lovecraftian Bestiary
I really agree that Yog-Sothoth is a basically immature conception, & unfitted for really serious literature.
H.P. Lovecraft to Frank Belknap Long, February 27, 1931
“…that last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity—the boundless daemon-sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes; to which detestable pounding and piping dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic ultimate gods, the blind, voiceless, tenebrous, mindless Other Gods whose soul and messenger is the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.” (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath)
“…I started with loathing when told of the monstrous nuclear chaos beyond angled space which the Necronomicon had mercifully cloaked under the name of Azathoth.” (“The Whisperer in Darkness”)
“Eventually there had been a hint of vast, leaping shadows, of a monstrous, half-acoustic pulsing, and of the thin, monotonous piping of an unseen flute—but that was all. Gilman decided he had picked up that last conception from what he had read in the Necronomicon about the mindless entity Azathoth, which rules all time and space from a curiously environed black throne at the centre of Chaos.” (“The Dreams in the Witch House”)
“Some were the figures of well-known myth—gorgons, chimaeras, dragons, cyclops, and all their shuddersome congeners. Others were drawn from darker and more furtively whispered cycles of subterranean legend—black, formless Tsathoggua, many-tentacled Cthulhu, proboscidian Chaugnar Faugn, and other rumoured blasphemies from forbidden books like the Necronomicon, the Book of Eibon, or the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt.” (“The Horror in the Museum”)
Chaugnar Faugn is the creation of Frank Belknap Long.
“If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings… 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…” (“The Call of Cthulhu”)
There are some who are of the opinion that Lovecraft borrowed the name “Cthulhu” from Sumerian mythology. This is a hoax perpetrated by the “Simon” hoax edition of the Necronomicon which combines elements of Sumerian mythology and the Lovecraft myths. The name “Cthulhu” was purely an invention of Lovecraft’s. His sketch of Cthulhu may be seen at Robert Arellano’s “The Lovecraft Web”.
Oddly, much debate surrounds the pronunciation of “Cthulhu.” The pronunciation used by most is perpetuated by the “Call of Cthulhu” roleplaying game by Chaosium, Inc., whose books have “Can you say kuh-THOO-loo?” printed on their backs. Several Lovecraftian scholars prefer to pronounce it “Cloo-loo” based on references in Lovecraft’s revision tales. I choose to take a middle ground and aspirate both hs, with a result similar to “kt’hoo-lhoo.” Here are a couple of excerpts from Lovecraft’s letters where he discusses the pronunciation of this word:
The actual sound—as nearly as human organs could imitate it or human letters record it—may be taken as something like Khlûl’-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. (to Duane Rimel, 23 July 1934)
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. (to Willis Conover, 29 August 1936)
In “Lovecraft in Providence,” Donald Wandrei claims that Lovecraft pronounced it “K-Lütl-Lütl,” yet in the above-mentioned letter to Duane Rimel, Lovecraft claims that Wandrei’s comments on the pronunciation of the term are “largely fictitious.” Robert H. Barlow, in On Lovecraft and Life, claimed that Lovecraft pronounced it “Koot-u-lew.” One can’t help but think that Lovecraft was toying with his friends, since everyone’s pronunciations differ, including his own. Ultimately, does it really matter?
“Vast, Polyphemus-like, and loathsome, it darted like a stupendous monster of nightmares to the monolith, about which it flung its gigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous head and gave vent to certain measured sounds…. Once I sought out a celebrated ethnologist, and amused him with peculiar questions regarding the ancient Philistine legend of Dagon, the Fish-God; but soon perceiving that he was hopelessly conventional, I did not press my inquiries.” (“Dagon”)
“Poor Matt—Matt he allus was agin’ it—tried to line up the folks on his side, an’ had long talks with the preachers—no use—they run the Congregational parson aout o’ taown, an’ the Methodist feller quit—never did see Resolved Babcock, the Baptist parson, agin—Wrath o’ Jehovy—I was a mighty little critter, but I heerd what I heerd an’ seen what I seen—Dagon an’ Ashtoreth—Belial an’ Beëlzebub—Golden Caff an’ the idols o’ Canaan an’ the Philistines—Babylonish abominations—Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin… All in the band of the faithful—Order o’ Dagon—an’ the children shud never die, but go back to the Mother Hydra an’ Father Dagon what we all came from onct…” (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”)
Dagon is mentioned in the Bible on several occasions: Judges 16:23, I Samuel 5:2–7, and I Chronicles 10:10.
“Them things told the Kanakys that ef they mixed bloods there’d be children as ud look human at fust, but later turn more’n more like the things, till finally they’d take to the water an’ jine the main lot o’ things daown thar. An’ this is the important part, young feller—them as turned into fish things an’ went into the water wouldn’t never die. Them things never died excep’ they was kilt violent.” (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”)
“I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.” (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”)
“We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y’ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory forever.” (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”)
“Important discovery. Orrendorf and Watkins, working underground at 9:45 with light, found monstrous barrel-shaped fossil of wholly unknown nature; probably vegetable unless overgrown specimen of unknown marine radiata. Tissue evidently preserved by mineral salts. Tough as leather, but astonishing flexibility retained in places. Marks of broken-off parts at ends and around sides. Six feet end to end, 3.5 feet central diameter, tapering to 1 foot at each end. Like a barrel with five bulging ridges in place of staves. Lateral breakages, as of thinnish stalks, are at equator in middle of these ridges. In furrows between ridges are curious growths. Combs or wings that fold up and spread out like fans. All greatly damaged but one, which gives almost seven-foot wing spread. Arrangement reminds one of certain monsters of primal myth, especially fabled Elder Things in Necronomicon. These wings seem to be membraneous, stretched on a framework of glandular tubing. Apparent minute orifices in frame tubing at wing tips. Ends of body shrivelled, giving no clue to interior or to what has been broken off there.” (At the Mountains of Madness)
Slightly later in this story, Lovecraft spends several pages describing the Elder Things.
“These figures were seldom completely human, but often approached humanity in varying degree. Most of the bodies, while roughly bipedal, had a forward slumping, and a vaguely canine cast. The texture of the majority was a kind of unpleasant rubberiness.” (“Pickman’s Model”)
“It was a colossal and nameless blasphemy with glaring red eyes, and it held in bony claws a thing that had been a man, gnawing at the head as a child nibbles at a stick of candy. Its position was a kind of crouch, and as one looked one felt that at any moment it might drop its present prey and seek a juicier morsel. But damn it all, it wasn’t even the fiendish subject that made it such an immortal fountain-head of all panic—not that, nor the dog face with its pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips. It wasn’t the scaly claws nor the mould-caked body nor the half-hooved feet—none of these, though any one of them might well have driven an excitable man to madness.” (“Pickman’s Model”)
“They seemed to be enormous, iridescent cones, about ten feet high and ten feet wide at the base, and made up of some ridgy, scaly, semi-elastic matter. From their apexes projected four flexible, cylindrical members, each a foot thick, and of a ridgy substance like that of the cones themselves. These members were sometimes contracted almost to nothing, and sometimes extended to any distance up to about ten feet. Terminating two of them were enormous claws or nippers. At the end of a third were four red, trumpet-like appendages. The fourth terminated in an irregular yellowish globe some two feet in diameter and having three great dark eyes ranged along its central circumference. Surmounting this head were four slender grey stalks bearing flower-like appendages, whilst from its nether side dangled eight greenish antennae or tentacles. The great base of the central cone was fringed with a rubbery, grey substance which moved the whole entity through expansion and contraction.” (“The Shadow out of Time”)
“I found myself faced by names and terms that I had heard elsewhere in the most hideous of connexions—Yuggoth, Great Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Yog-Sothoth, R’lyeh, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Hastur, Yian, Leng, the Lake of Hali, Bethmoora, the Yellow Sign, L’mur-Kathulos, Bran, and the Magnum Innominandum—and was drawn back through nameless aeons and inconceivable dimensions to worlds of elder, outer entity at which the crazed author of the Necronomicon had only guessed in the vaguest way…. There is a whole secret cult of evil men (a man of your mystical erudition will understand me when I link them with Hastur and the Yellow Sign) devoted to the purpose of tracking them down and injuring them on behalf of the monstrous powers from other dimensions.” (“The Whisperer in Darkness”)
These are the only places in Lovecraft’s fiction where he mentions Hastur. Lovecraft borrowed the term “Hastur” from Robert W. Chambers, who had, in turn, borrowed it from Ambrose Bierce. In Bierce’s “Haïta the Shepherd,” Hastur is “the god of shepherds.” Chambers borrowed the term and used it as the home city of Cassilda and Camilla, but also used it as the name for a groundskeeper in “The Demoiselle d’ Ys.”
Mi-Go, the Fungi from Yuggoth
“They were pinkish things about five feet long; with crustaceous bodies bearing vast pairs of dorsal fins or membraneous wings and several sets of articulated limbs, and with a sort of convoluted ellipsoid, covered with multitudes of very short antennae, where a head would ordinarily be…. As it was, nearly all the rumours had several points in common; averring that the creatures were a sort of huge, light-red crab with many pairs of legs and with two great bat-like wings in the middle of their back. They sometimes walked on all their legs, and sometimes on the hindmost pair only, using the others to convey large objects of indeterminate nature. On one occasion they were spied in considerable numbers, a detachment of them wading along a shallow woodland watercourse three abreast in evidently disciplined formation. Once a specimen was seen flying—launching itself from the top of a bald, lonely hill at night and vanishing in the sky after its great flapping wings had been silhouetted an instant against the full moon.” (“The Whisperer in Darkness”)
“Shocking and uncouth black beings with smooth, oily, whale-like surfaces, unpleasant horns that curved inward toward each other, bat-wings whose beating made no sound, ugly prehensile paws, and barbed tails that lashed needlessly and disquietingly. And worst of all, they never spoke or laughed, and never smiled because they had no faces at all to smile with, but only a suggestive blankness where a face ought to be. All they ever did was clutch and fly and tickle; that was the way of night-gaunts.” (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath)
“And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt when they saw him, yet could not say why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He spoke much of the sciences—of electricity and psychology—and gave exhibitions of power which sent his spectators away speechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude. Men advised one another to see Nyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished; for the small hours were rent with the screams of a nightmare.” (“Nyarlathotep”)
“What his fate would be, he did not know; but he felt that he was held for the coming of that frightful soul and messenger of infinity’s Other Gods, the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.” (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath)
“There was the immemorial figure of the deputy or messenger of hidden and terrible powers—the ‘Black Man’ of the witch cult, and the ‘Nyarlathotep’ of the Necronomicon.” (“The Dreams in the Witch House”)
“There are references to a Haunter of the Dark awaked by gazing into the Shining Trapezohedron, and insane conjectures about the black gulfs from which it was called. The being is spoken of as holding all knowledge, and demanding monstrous sacrifices.” (“The Haunter of the Dark”)
Over the jagged peaks of Thok they sweep,
Heedless of all the cries I make,
And down the nether pits to that foul lake
Where the puffed shoggoths splash in doubtful sleep.
(Sonnet XX, “Night Gaunts” in Fungi from Yuggoth, 1929–30)
“We were on the track ahead as the nightmare plastic column of foetid black iridescence oozed tightly onward through its fifteen-foot sinus; gathering unholy speed and driving before it a spiral, re-thickening cloud of the pallid abyss-vapour. It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter.” (At the Mountains of Madness, 1931)
“This was the dream in which I saw a shoggoth for the first time, and the sight set me awake in a frenzy of screaming.” (“The Shadow over Innsmouth,” 1931)
“I saw a shoggoth—it changed shape. . . .” (“The Thing on the Doorstep,” 1933)
“Iä! Shub-Niggurath!” (“The Last Test,” “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Mound,” “Medusa’s Coil,” “The Horror in the Museum,” “The Thing on the Doorstep,” and “The Diary of Alonzo Typer”)
“One squat, black temple of Tsathoggua was encountered, but it had been turned into a shrine of Shub-Niggurath, the All-Mother and wife of the the Not-to-Be-Named-One. This deity was a kind of sophisticated Astarte, and her worship struck the pious Catholic as supremely obnoxious.” (“The Mound”)
“Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!” (“The Whisperer in Darkness,” “The Dreams in the Witch House,” “The Man of Stone”)
“This was a squat, plain temple of basalt blocks without a single carving, and containing only a vacant onyx pedestal…. It has been built in imitation of certain temples depicted in the vaults of Zin, to house a very terrible black toad-idol found in the red-litten world and called Tsathoggua in the Yothic manuscripts. It had been a potent and widely worshipped god, and after its adoption by the people of K’n-yan had lent its name to the city which was later to become dominant in that region. Yothic legend said that it had come from a mysterious inner realm beneath the red-litten world—a black realm of peculiar-sensed beings which had no light at all, but which had had great civilisations and mighty gods before ever the reptilian quadrupeds of Yoth had come into being.” (“The Mound”)
“They’ve been inside the earth, too—there are openings which human beings know nothing of—some of them are in these very Vermont hills—and great worlds of unknown life down there; blue-litten K’n-yan, red-litten Yoth, and black, lightless N’kai. It’s from N’kai that frightful Tsathoggua came—you know, the amorphous, toad-like god-creature mentioned in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon and the Commoriom myth-cycle preserved by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton.” (“The Whisperer in Darkness”)
“Black Tsathoggua moulded itself from a toad-like gargoyle to a sinuous line with hundreds of rudimentary feet…” (“The Horror in the Museum”)
Tsathoggua is the creation of Clark Ashton Smith.
“I last Night strucke on ye Words that bringe up YOGGE-SOTHOTHE, and sawe for ye firste Time that fface spoke of by Ibn Schacabao in ye ———.” (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
“Rais’d Yog-Sothoth thrice and was ye nexte Day deliver’d.” (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
“He was soon disliked even more decidedly than his mother and grandsire, and all conjectures about him were spiced with references to the bygone magic of Old Whateley, and how the hills once shook when he shrieked the dreadful name of Yog-Sothoth in the midst of a circle of stones with a great book open in his arms before him.” (“The Dunwich Horror”)
“Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread.” (“The Dunwich Horror”)
“Imagination called up the shocking form of fabulous Yog-Sothoth—only a congeries of iridescent globes, yet stupendous in its malign suggestiveness.” (“The Horror in the Museum”)
“It was an All-in-One and One-in-All of limitless being and self—not merely a thing of one Space-Time continuum, but allied to the ultimate animating essence of existence’s whole unbounded sweep—the last, utter sweep which has no confines and which outreaches fancy and mathematics alike. It was perhaps that which certain secret cults of earth have whispered of as YOG-SOTHOTH, and which has been a deity under other names; that which the crustaceans of Yuggoth worship as the Beyond-One, and which the vaporous brains of the spiral nebulae know by an untranslatable Sign…” (“Through the Gates of the Silver Key”)