Cthulhu, The Great Old One

The first, and by far most necessary, character of Lovecraft’s that I feel needs to be discussed is undoubtedly Cthulhu, the Great Old One, who has been by far the most misrepresented and maligned by popular culture.

Before I delve too deeply into this topic, I would like to clarify that my interpretation of Cthulhu, and indeed all of the beings and locales of Lovecraft’s writings, are based solely on what Lovecraft wrote of them, not the many years of Mythos fan-fiction which followed.  There is a place for the extended Mythos, and it has literary value to be sure, but it is not material which I choose to draw from in either my scholarly endeavors or my game crafting. My games are designed to be a tribute to the genius of Lovecraft, not those who followed and tried to add their own “spin” on the Mythos and its inhabitants.

Cthulhu is god-like being, one of the Great Old Ones, who was sent to the Earth by the Other Gods from Outside  (Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, and Nyarlathotep).  In ancient times, the primordial visitors and inhabitants of this planet worshipped and revered the Other Gods, even though the Other Gods had little interaction in their daily lives. However, in time other god-like beings such as Ghatanothoa arose and sought to be worshipped instead of the Other Gods, converting or killing their followers through sometimes cataclysmic events. This caused the Other Gods to lose their foothold of fear and reverence from their followers, causing them to be forgotten or looked unfavorably on.

In time, the Other Gods seemed to combat this by sending harbingers of their own to bring new displays of vast and frightful power to the Earth’s inhabitants, to remind them of the Other Gods from Outside whom they had forgotten, and the vast, limitless power which they held. These were not gods whom one would pray to for favors, these are gods who would be served and sacrificed to for fear of displeasing them and bringing doom upon the masses. It seems that Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones such as Tsathoggua were able to return the people to the worship of the Other Gods for a time.

Eventually, the Other Gods grew tired of the Earth and its inhabitants, and left this dimension alone in favor of other realms, including the Dreamlands whose shores touch upon every plane of existence. Newer gods, the gods of the earth, arose and were worshipped by the creatures of Earth, granting favors and having more of a direct impact on the lives of their followers. The Other Gods seemed to allow this, so long as the earth’s gods remembered their place and showed the Other Gods from Outside their due reverence and worship.  Eventually, even the gods of the earth grew tired of mortals, and retreated to the Dreamlands where they would frolick and cavort while avoiding the wrathful eyes of the Other Gods.

During this time, the Other Gods had no real interest in the Earth, and so Cthulhu and the other Great Old Ones began to slumber, awaiting for a time when the Other Gods would return to Earth and claim the lives and souls of earth’s inhabitants for their own. Cthulhu, who was the High Priest of the Other Gods and and their primary enforcer on Earth, would awaken when the stars were right and would unlock gates to let the Other Gods in to this realm.

So, as you can see, Cthulhu is not the “chief god” of the Cthulhu Mythos, he is actually the High Priest of the Other Gods, who themselves are the chaotic representation of cosmic forces. Azathoth is chaotic interpretation of the idea that the macrocosm has a consciousness, Azathoth is that malign consciousness; uncaring, all-consuming, chaos. Yog-Sothoth is the chaotic aspect of the infinite, the vastness of eternity, while Shub-Niggurath is the chaotic representation of the finite, of the chaos that is the short blossoming of life, the chaos of creation and the chaos it brings until its eventual termination. Nyarlathotep is the chaotic version of the messenger, the one who carries messages back and forth, the chaos that is communication and the transmission of will. Cthulhu is merely a servant of these forces.

That is not to say Cthulhu does not wield intense, unearthly power; indeed much to the contrary. Cthulhu has the ability to pierce the minds of every inhabitant of earth with the seed of madness, allowing the concept and reality of the horrible truth of the Other Gods to seep into the minds of the mortal. This is the preparing of the way for the the return of the Other Gods to this realm.

Cthulhu is certainly the attentive servant, too! Even when preparing to slumber, he still put certain newer gods of earth in place who would not allow their followers to forget the aspects or the promise of return of the Other Gods. Dagon is an excellent example of a lesser god whom Cthulhu slowly shifted his followers to include in their worship, so that as Cthulhu slept  Dagon would still keep followers on a path which would help to pave the way for the eventual return of the Other Gods.

Cthulhu is not some easily defeated boss monster, nor is he something to be faced by mortal man. Cthulhu is the one who waits to bring back the Other Gods from Outside, and until that day he lies dead but dreaming, for that is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die. Until the stars are right…

 

Opening the Journal…

Greetings to you, reader! Thank you for joining me as we begin to explore the vast and beautiful world granted to us by the late Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

I have been a fan of Lovecraft’s work since I was nine years old, upon finding a copy of The Lurking Fear And Other Stories, the one from the series with that excellent Michael Whelan art highlighted on the covers. Later, I found some more of his work at the local library, and delved more deeply into his strange and fascinating worlds. Whether sailing to the Dreamlands on the White Ship, or down in the crypt with Harley Warren, I loved the dark and haunting realities which Lovecraft would so casually, yet carefully unfold to the reader. This was in the very early 1990s, so access to public domain works on the internet was not yet widely available as it is today. I would scour the used bookstores and flea markets, hoping to find another Lovecraft collection with even one or two stories not contained in my currently owned volumes.

Fast forward some twenty-odd years, now anyone can literally begin their Lovecraft journey on their cell phone just by going to one of the online databases containing complete transcripts of Lovecraft’s writings. Such widespread access has also allowed me to read every story ever made available to the public that he has written, and I have read every last one of them countless times. In 2009, while working on one of my larger-scale board games, Cults Of The Necronomicon (previously Cults Of Arkham) {unreleased}, I took the time to read and re-read the entire collected works and poems of Lovecraft with a scholarly bent, gleaning out every last detail about each character, place, item, or setting that I could find. I have even created my own maps of both Lovecraft’s famous Miskatonic Valley setting and his Dreamlands by scouring the texts for any hints of location relativity and filling in the gaps.

Despite the current market over-saturation of loosely-themed quote-unquote Lovecraftian or Cthulhuian games, I still love having a line of my company’s games and accessories dedicated to my favorite author.  When I make a Lovecraft game, each little detail is taken directly from the stories, and I keep strictly to Lovecraft’s written works, not the many Mythos fan writers that followed. I have nothing against the further Mythos expansion, but when it comes to Lovecraft’s work, I am a bit of a purist. The only things I use which were not originally Lovecraft’s are the few things Lovecraft himself would use and add to his world from contemporary writers such as Howard, Smith, and Bloch. I love creating new ways to explore his vast, dark world, and am always excited to take each of you with me on those journeys.

In this journal, I will explore many of the unique characters and facets of Lovecraft’s world, from the haunted town of Arkham to the sunken shores of R’lyeh to the jungles of the Dreamlands, and talk about the aspects of them which I find so facinating. I’ll include little tidbits of who they were to Lovecraft, and why they are represented in my game Cthulhu: The Great Old One. I hope you will enjoy the journey as much as I have!