Cthulhu is a fictional deity created by writer H. P. Lovecraft and first introduced in the short story “The Call of Cthulhu”, published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928.
Considered a Great Old One within the pantheon of Lovecraftian cosmic entities, the creature has since been featured in numerous popular culture references. It is one of the central Great Old Ones of the Cthulhu Mythos, and is often cited for the extreme descriptions given of its hideous appearance, its gargantuan size (hundreds of feet tall), and the abject terror that it evokes.
After its first appearance in “The Call of Cthulhu”, Cthulhu makes a few minor appearances in a few other Lovecraft works; “The Dunwich Horror”, “The Horror in the Museum and “The Diary of Alonzo Typer”. It is also referred to in “At The Mountains of Madness” and “The Whisperer in Darkness”
The physical appearance and dimensions of this mythical creature are almost secondary to the effect he has on mortal man but regardless, its appearance is described as follows:
“A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings. . . .”
“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”
“a thing that cannot be described…the green, sticky spawn of the stars”
“…an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature”
“…a squatting octopus-headed thing”
“…many tentacled Cthulhu”
“…a monstrous creature resembling nothing so much as a squid, beaked and tentacled, with great yellow eyes, and with certain abominable approximations to the human form in its contours. . . . On the paws, feet, and head tentacles were curious claws — while the entity as a whole sat upon a great throne-like pedestal inscribed with unknown hieroglyphs of a vaguely Chinese cast”
Lovecraft’s rich mythology contained many deities, Cthulhu being one of the Great Old Ones (specifically their Priest) powerful, monstrous Gods from space who once ruled the Earth and who have since fallen into a deathlike sleep. Other Great Old Ones include Azathoth, Ghatanothoa, Shub-Niggurath, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep and Yig. They attract the worship of wayward and insane cults but operate in different dimensions to humans ordinarily and with utter disdain. Cthulhu’s worshippers chant “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” (“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”)
These Gods are supplemented by Outer Gods and, post-Lovecraft, Elder Gods, created by writers such as August Derleth, who also founded Arkham House Publishing. It was Derleth who expanded upon Lovecraft’s descriptions and tales to develop an entire Cthulhu Mythos. Though Cthulhu is destined to once again rule the Earth, humans are doomed never to understand it, as it is ultimately beyond mortal comprehension.
A particular bone of contention is the correct pronunciation of The Great One’s name.
Cthulhu has also been spelled as Tulu, Clulu, Clooloo, Cthulu, Cthullu, C’thulhu, Cighulu, Cathulu, C’thlu, Kathulu, Kutulu, Kthulhu, Q’thulu, K’tulu, Kthulhut, Kutu, Kulhu, Kutunluu, Ktulu, Cuitiliú, 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 and said that “the first syllable [of Khlûl′-hloo is] pronounced gutturally and very thickly. The u is about like that in full; and the first syllable is not unlike klul in sound, hence the h represents the guttural thickness.” According to Lovecraft, this is merely the closest that the human vocal apparatus can come to reproducing the syllables of an alien language.
Such is the relative ambiguity of Cthulhu, it has been interpreted in many different forms by artists over the years and in more recent times has become something of a pop culture figure, appearing on cereal boxes, as cuddly toys and on T-shirts. The Californian spider species Pimoa cthulhu, described by Gustavo Hormiga in 1994, is named with reference to Cthulhu. Two microorganisms that assist in the digestion of wood by termites have been named after Cthulhu and Cthulhu’s “daughter” Cthylla: Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque, respectively.
The size of Cthulhu and its ghastly appearance have made it a difficult one to make the transition into film, though attempts were made in 2005’s The Call of Cthulhu and a 2007 film simply titled Cthulhu. More successful has been Cthulhu’s appearance in role playing games, animation (an appearance in The Simpsons and South Park), video games, toys and statuary. The H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society have regularly performed recorded and stage musical work based on Lovecraft’s world, including ditties relating to the Great One.
Daz Lawrence, moviesandmania
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