Bound Beneath The Earth

This Week’s Prompt:59. Man in strange subterranean chamber—seeks to force door of bronze—overwhelmed by influx of waters.
The Resulting Story: The Many Doors of the Dead

We find a man in a room, underground, with only one exit. He may stay in this room. Or he may try and force his way out. When he goes and tries to escape his isolation, the onrush of the outside world, a miasma of chaotic waters, kill him. We do not know if he was pulverized or drowned. But had he not forced open that door of antiquity, he would be alive.

I say antiquity, because that is what the metal bronze conjures. It is a metal deployed in phalanxes or on chariots, not in the knightly arms of medieval warlords or the rifling of a modern man. It is a material of a bygone age. And as such, we might discuss some of the metaphor that seems at play in this story. For, pushing the bounds of the world and meeting catastrophe is a common theme in Mr. Lovecraft’s work.

Plato's Cave.png

We can consider the lightless room or cave to be a maker of the cosmos. Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher who put Socrates’s words to writing, used a similar metaphor. In the Americas, a number of South Western people’s describe the emergence of humanity into the world as coming from a series of caves. Both the Navajo and the Hopi include stories of humanity emerging into this world from one’s deep below. In the myths of Maya and Aztec people’s, cave play the special role as connections to the underworld and ancestors. In more modern times, there are of course notions that we are within a hollow shell,the inside of an egg waiting to be born.

So we are within the world. And there is a door, made in ages past of bronze. It is the only way out, it seems, from our comfortable room of known existence. This door of bronze perhaps could be taken as the understanding of the world our ancestors had. It is a limiter, beyond which we cannot see anything—the chamber is after all subeterranean, and who would force open a door that they knew had a vast expanse of water on the other side. By pushing past these ancient limits, we encounter something new, or at least vast. The waters, who’s symbology we have discussed before, are a vast life giving force that overcomes the fool that releases them, creating a minature deluge. The man dies for his curiosity.

The metaphor points generally to a sort of terrified conservatism that defines Lovecraft to a point. We can recall his famous opening of the Call of Cthulhu:


“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. “

That being the case, we must consider how to wring more out of this then mere dread. Watching a man slowly go insensate before making a fatal mistake, unknown and unmourned by the world at large in his tomb is…dull. I am sure there is some way to make such a story intreasting. But on it’s own, existential dread is an easily dismissed horror. No. A better trick, I think, is that of memory. To recollect, as one stumbles through the strange cave, life before this darkness. What it is that lures the fatal, doomed choice of opening that ancient door.

King in the Mountain.png

Places literally underground are not uncommonly full of dangers. We have talked about the threats of some of these creatures before, such as kobolods and grootslangs and Typhon who was buried under a mountain in Sicily. Other stories that are more than relevant here include those things of the deep that hold ancient knowledge. The dead are the most common, but not only example. In Russian Folklore, we have a giant of a man named Svyatogor who is trapped beneath a mountain and yet lends advice where he can to the knights of the Rus. In Arthurian myth and Charlemagne romances, Merlin often ends up beneath a tree or within a tree despite all his wisdom. And of course, there is the King In The Mountain, Barbossa being the most famous literal version. Some of these imprisonments, however, are only that. While a traveler might find such strange nobillity here and there, they aren’t dwelling so much as sleeping.

We can also consider creatures that are more serpentine in nature, as was touched on here. The great naga princes of tibetan folklore often dwelled in dreamworlds of the deep, resembling the fae we’ve come to know in many ways, including their power of many forms and their multiplicity of gifts, and a bit of their penchant for trickery.

In Maori folklore, Maui’s blessings come from his mother and father who live in the depths of the earth. Maui further presents an intreasting example of the sort of hubris Lovecraft would give to the man of science. Maui heads out to earn man’s immortality, by defeating his ancestor. The result is rather predictable, if bizarre. He heads within his ancestress while she sleeps, warning the nearby birds not to laugh. One very young bird does, and his stirring ancestress kills Maui.

The Sumerian hero Gilgamesh likewise ventures underground, following the flames of the sun in order to reach the place where immortality might be found. He also fails, although he survives the encounter. His test is rather wakefulness, and in another time we will discuss the motif of death and slumber. 

To return to how this might shape our narrative, the cavern is as much a character as our prisoner. It is a character in shapes and form, eliciting memories and moods. I think a landscape like those the dragons once dwelt in will work well. An abandoned faerie castle, the ruins of a great dragon’s kingdom, a landscape that is more than darkness and shadows wandered through forever and ever. It also might give the bronze door some more menace, if it is the only worked metal in the cavern of wonders. The only plain, unadorned thing, in a forgotten land.

City of Brass.png

A good reference for this material would be the story “City of Brass” from the 1001 Arabian Nights. The story follows travelers through a series of barren wastelands and tombs, full of strange sights, desiccated corpses, imprisoned demons, and odd devices. It has a rather clear moral to it about attachment to material goods, but at the same time there are undercurrents of cosmic horror as the will of God so portrayed is not always knowable. The story also features several instances of characters dooming themselves by ignoring clear warnings, which falls neatly into what might be waiting for our prisoner. The city itself is slightly off from the prompt, sadly, being of brass instead of bronze. But the visual cue is close enough I believe.

Bibliography:

Grey, George. Polynesian Mythology, and Ancient Traditional History of the Maori. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1974.

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Black Sun Finale: The Account

This Week’s prompt:25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

Read part 1 and part 2

The account thus written was never known to the board of directors or to Derelth, and so we must leave them be. It was found amongst the belongings of the recently deceased Mrs. ____ as the only article left to the public from her estate.

“We, for Queen and Country, approached the Veronan hills. The good governor was the old sort for the region. His daughter had run off in the night, out to the hills and forests, and he was dearly concerned. A superstitious old man, he feared that the people and things that lived between the hills and trees would do the most dreadful things to his lost daughter. So we made our way, Roger, George, Edward, John, and myself, under orders, with naught but a rifle each.

“The way up the hills was one of laughter and jokes. More than likely, John said, the girl had run off to rendezvous with a native lover. Or perhaps she had to hide away some store of jewels. The dogs we had brought were chipper, barking at hares and rodents that scurried in the tall grass. Crossing over the hills, to where the forest was in sight.

“The woods of on the other side of Vernonan hills are a strange sort. There bark was like ink or ash, more a painted on effect than something real. And on this night, a cloudy new moon, they were almost invisible. A few lanterns hung near the houses, marking the cottages near the woods. There was still no sight of the girl. We reckoned it’d be best to check the houses, then the woods. After all, bandits of all sorts could lurk the woods with their wild beasts and wicked weapons.

“Roger was the strongest, so he forced the doors. They were all locked of course. We’d been here before, cleaning up squatters and checking in on debts owed to the Company. We didn’t wear anything to hide our prescence and the barking dogs surely gave them warning. So we searched each house, one at a time. Not a soul was found. Now, there were around twenty men and maybe fifteen women in that little squalid site. No children or chickens either.

“When we got to the decaying fields of wheat, we at last found a man. He was shambling in the distance, his eye-catching the light of our lanterns like a cat. Our dogs immediately pulled and in frustration, we set them on him. Do not worry, like good hunting dogs, they only surrounded and tackled their prey down.

“At closer look, he was a rather old man. He had an old factory hat on, and a nice leather vest for the are. His hands were a farmer’s hands, and his face the face of lost solider. All together, he certainly had suffered worse than dogs being set upon him. We still took our time approaching.

“George whisteled for the dogs to relent while me and Edward stood the old man up. John asked most of the question. Rather simple ones, really, though the poor man barely seemed to understand some of them.

“ ‘Have you seen a nice lady come through?’ John would ask. The man would smile and say he has seen many nice ladies in the hills. John got a bit more specific, and the man would get quiet for a bit. Then Roger did somethings that were, admittedly, a little unbecoming of our station. I have heard it said by wise men that the capacity for good is measured in equal part by the capacity for evil. If there is ever a testament for how civilized the Empire can make a man, none is more damning than Roger’s behavior.

“ ‘Have you seen the nice lady, the governor’s little lady come through here?’ John asked slowly this third time. The man was still catching his breath when we stood him up, a bit bruised. Roger had aimed for the chest, and for a moment I feared he’d broken the man’s lungs. John held up his hand as Roger prepared another round.

“ ‘The nice lady? She’s not that little or that nice.’ the man said with a chuckle, holding up his hand as Roger pulled back his fist. ‘Yes, yes, she came by tonight, she had bad dreams and knew, she knew we were people of dreams.’

“ ‘She had bad dreams?’ John said, raising his eyebrows as best as I could tell in the light. ‘Stand him up proper.’

“ ‘No, no, she did! Terrible dreams. And tonight, of all nights? It was a sign.’ he said as we hefted him up. He shouted for us to stop, but Roger wasn’t restrained. He was coughing horribly when John spoke to him again.

BlackSunFinale2.png

“ ‘I’m telling the truth!’ he managed to get, crumpled on the ground. ‘You imbeciles don’t see it. She had terrible dreams of things we knew. The Black Sun, she is rising to fill the world with beautiful forms again. To cast a shadow, that a multitude might grow.’

“ ‘So she’s in the forest?’ John asked, more annoyed than anything. The man nodded. At the time, I thought it strange, that he should comply after such rude treatment. I learned that night he had complied, but only for our own doom.

“ The wood was thick as we went in. The branches stifled the already dim stars, and caught the lantern light like flies in a spider’s web. More strikingly, there was not a sound that night. Not a single leaf crinkled beneath a foot. Not a single breeze blew, not a branch rattled, not a twig snapped. No rabbit hopped. Not a wolf howled, not a whisper was heard. Even when we spoke, it was like whispers struggling against a breeze. We eventually resorted to simple hand gestures, keeping an eye for even the slightest shimmer.

“It must have been hours in that dreadful space. I entertained the idea that perhaps the sun rose and set and we hadn’t noticed, so dark were the woods. Then the smoke began to come from the distance, though still we saw no fire. Simply a tendril of the darkness stretching into our hallowed sphere of light.

“But the smoke quickened our minds. We knew, we knew that smoke came only from fire. So we followed it, covering our mouths to not inhale it. Slowly color intruded on the wood, red sigils painted on the trees, carvings carefully colored white as corpses. Sound came necks, drumming sounds, and the braying of the hounds, the crack of twigs and the crunch of crushed leafs all returned. And we beheld a dreadful sight.

BlackSunFinale.png

“There was a great pillar of stone there, crude volcanic stone. Around it danced men and women with madness, masks like pigs and goats and other unclean characters. Above them was a pulsing cyst of the sky, a tumorous mass. I have heard tell that among savage or decadent magicians, there is much desire for the hair a woman has devoured and has calcified. I can only imagine they would love this strange growing mass, with its hairs and scales and eyes and mouths. It grew crooning outward, singing and moaning as it spread. Lumps fell down to the earth and out sprung vermin and slugs and leeches in swarms.

“And we saw the governor’s daughter there, directly beneath, utterly indecent. Tar sputtered from the ground and filth fell from the sky and she reveled in it. Her form swelled, nearly to the point of bursting as we watched. And that, beneath the deep shadow, was the last of it. John, the religious sort, let cry a ‘Deus vult!’ and at once we let a salvo loose and forgot our dogs.

“The heathens were not quiet in their departure, however. Quickly, easily even, they drew knives and daggers and set upon us. And while we bore guns, they had numbers. Blood quickly watered the ground, both ours and savages. As it did, the ground grew hard, and the thing above seemed to squirm and flicker. Until, at last, as Roger fell to an ax to the shoulder, the thing pulled itself back into the pillar.

“Whence it came and went I do not know. But the forest must be raised, and the hills demolished. Dark things live in those places, and we can abide them no longer.”

It has been a long celebration, my brothers and sister! But I hope it was not too bad. Next week, we return to our regular schedule and regular research. What did you drum up from this classic corpse? Did you find some sea drenched beast? Or was your tale more mundane in it’s terrors?

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Ia Ia: What A Novel Phrase

This Week’s Prompt:25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

The Prior Research:Part 1  ,Part 2

The Resulting Stories: Black Sun Part 1,Part 2,Part 3

In our final word on this prompt, brothers and sisters, I wish to discuss the grandson of Yog Sothoth’s modern incarnations. And how…eschew they sometimes are. For the lord dreaming in Ryleh tends to be combined with two other figures of mortal antagonism: The Devil and entities like Godzilla.

The first being more rampant, we’ll approach it first. There is a trend, perhaps well intended, to make Cthulhu a grand source of evil in the cosmos. Many a demon lord in gaming has his visage, and his rare forays into film bleed over into Satanism more than the strange, global, and aboriginal nature his cult has in the original work.

This is strange, given the difference between the two characters. We said our piece on the devil here. And if there is something dependable dealing with the diabolic it is a desire to destroy mankind. Either a moral corruption through temptation, or a physical filth through literal death and devastation. The lords of locusts in Revelation and the great dragons of medieval times care deeply about humanity. They want it dead and ruined, and hate it like only someone who is dear to the subject can hate.

And that level of personal sadism is uncommon if not absent from Mr. Lovecraft’s work. The great Nyrlanhotep, the Crawling Chaos and Man in the Woods, is the closest to a devil figure. He is often the patron of witches and nightmares, and in some tales it is he who brought us the atomic bomb. And when Azazoth decides it is time to undo all creation, it will be he who heralds the end of the universe.

But Cthulhu certainly is not such a subversive entity. Firstly, his direct influence on the world is rather limited (a few days span, when he rises from the deep), and secondly, he is more a destroyer by accident than intent. Cthulhu rising is a terror, but it is a terror because his mere prescence is toxic. And while his draconic features imply impish and hellish mind, he appears to lack it past the rousing of his children and perhaps his extended kin of Great Old Ones.

It would be easy to blame Derleth. Derleth attributed to Cthulhu an evil disposition, and arrayed against him gods that might be called angelic (although later writers made them just as horrible, if perhaps less abrasive). But we cannot blame him alone. There is, as they say, at least one other. Simon.

cthulhunecronomicon

Simon’s real name is unknown, but what is known is that he penned a work claiming to be the legendary Necronomicon. Within, he writes a mythology that attempts to weave Babylonian narratives together with ones of the mythos. As well as promote an idea of magic and occultism that will trump all other such organizations.

The book links clear Satanic imagery with Tiamat, Azazoth, and Cthulhu, placing them as the greatest of evils in the cosmos and the masters of innumerable demons. To those who know the mythos, this is head-scratching on a number of levels, with several orders of being represented as the same. Further, the presentation of the Mad Daemon Sultan as an ally or lieutenant of Tiamat seems more bizarre. Perhaps Simon was some foolish cultist who misunderstood the Mad Arab.

But the book became famous, as books of sin and darkness that assert they grant mastery of the universe are want to do. I will spare my readers the questions of its authenticity, given that Mr. Lovecraft himself never asserted the Necronomicon was real, and instead present a second notion for this conflation of the Devil and Cthulhu: Modernity.

The devil, with his horns and brass tridents has become, perhaps, to familiar. The dragon has likewise suffered, no longer an alien beast of horror and terror, but a creature that is familiar in its own faerie way. The Mythos, and the squid headed Cthulhu in particular, are similar enough to step in as devils, yet bear an air of strangeness often lacking in modern demons (granted, this is enhanced by leaving the strangeness out of devils and angels. But I digress).

cthulhusavestheworld

The comparisons to Godzilla and similar large monsters rest almost on the other end. Many seem to believe that what renders Cthulhu terrifying is his sheer girth. His mass and his ability perhaps to regenerate are what makes him a threat to human kind. This is likewise mistaken.

Firstly, in the Mythos, the threat of Cthulhu clearly transcends the physical. He sends forth dreams and visions across the glob, and if some sources are to be believed, he is quiet a knowledgeable beast. He has flown from distant stars after all, and command wars. We know he lays dreaming, and the Dreamlands of Lovecraft are no small matter. Lastly, some texts call him high priest of his own kin, a child of that dread creature Yog Sothoth. Such a pedigree and position implies a more calculating and expansive threat then mere mass.

Secondly, Godzilla in particular is peculiar. In most renditions of giant monsters, there is a tone of punishment. These are holy avengers let loose, either for the dead or the environment or the mistreated scientist and so on. They have come because man has grown proud, to remind us of our smallness and teach us to respect something or another.

And while Cthulhu shows our smallness in the vast cosmos…he does only that. There is no primeval wrong he is undoing, and the advent of technology has little to do with his ascent. There is no morality to the Great Old One that we know of (except, of course, the disagreement over whether he will liberate or destroy the world, but that is a matter of mortal debate). If there is some cosmic significance to his conflict, it has little to do with our fate in particular. The threat of Cthulhu is amoral – it seeks neither destruction or aid to mankind. Merely to pursue its own agenda regardless of the effects on the world.

I will here make mention of a few other modern treatments of Cthulhu that my fellow brothers might find interesting, if unusual. Mr. Neil Gaiman wrote an autobiography of Cthulhu, as well as a British mystery story. There is of course the now famous video game Cthulhu Saves the World. And lastly, the wonderful people at Extra Credits have compiled a video honestly could have replaced this.

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Ia Ia: What A Terrible Phrase

This weeks prompt: 25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

Related Research: Part 1,Part 3

Related Stories:Part 1,Part 2,The Finale

We’ve discussed some of the mythic resonance of mighty Cthulhu last time. This time we will delve into some of the more …forgotten portions of The Call of Cthulhu. Some of the, frankly, uglier portions as well. For The Call of Cthulhu in many ways resembles that potent primeval ocean, containing within it an embryonic form of all sorts of ideas for the mythos. And sadly, one of those ideas has not aged well.

It is in this prompt as well. You might, fellow brothers and sisters of our esteemed society, have noticed something odd about the nations cited. Egypt and Babylon, not Greece or Rome (nations of great antiquity in other works), nor China or India (who’s age equals Egypt and Babylon’s). What is peculair about these states? Simply put, they are nations of sorcerers.

book-of-the-dead

The magic of Egypt was well documented for an Anglephile such as Lovecraft. Not only was their familiar references in the Exodus story, but the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which contains number of rituals for passing through the afterlife unscathed gained Egypt a reputation of sorcery for many years. The form of Nyrlanhotep as the “Black Pharaoh” show signs of this notion. Not that, perhaps, it was undeserving. Egyptians certainly practiced magic to a remarkable degree compared to others.

pyramids

Further Egypt had a reputation in older mysctisicm. In Kabbalah, Egypt is often metaphorically tied to the lower realms of existence, inhabited by strange demons and dark magics. It ought not be surprising, then, that Lovecraft ascribes that land a special place with regards to dreams and age, as dreams and magic are often joined.

But garden-girdled Babylonia? What has that have to do with sorcery? The same text damns them both. Firstly, it should be understood that Babylonia might refer to Babylon itself – which has a dark reputation in Bibical works and those works influenced by them, producing the centuries old Emir who fights Charlemagne in The Song of Roland, supposedly building the Tower of Babel, the Biblical Beasts of Revelation – or a general region of the Middle East, a stand in for the notions of Zoroaster, the Magi, and similar learned men.

babylon

Claiming the Middle East is mystical is not novel. Not even for Lovecraft (note, it is a mad Arab who unearths the Necronomicon, and it is Irem the City of Pillars he dies in, and Azazoth we will see is the Demon Sultan). This sort of Oriental-ism was in vogue at the time.

And even the notion of a nation of sorcerers is far from rare. Gulliver, in his travels, finds a nation of necromancers. The Persian epic the Shahnameh includes such a nation under the White Div and Afraisib. Many in Scandinavia attributed (according to James Frazer) the power to command the winds exclusively to the Fins. Giants the world over have hidden powers. The Greeks believed (to a point) that the priest of Zoraster could preform magic. The Rakshasa and Danavas of India were mortals with magical powers. Even elves and fae, it could be said, resemble a magical tribe of men more than a strict divinity.

the-white-div

But I mentioned ugliness before, didn’t I? And I’d rather not delve into this, but no discussion can hide from this forever. So, I will conjure a spirit rarely raised when observing the Call of Cthulhu. In the second portion of the story, we hear talk of an ancient conspiracy of sorcerers and madmen who eagerly await the return of Cthulhu. This becomes common in many such stories. The more troubling part is the language:


negro fetichism”; Esquimau diabolists and mongrel Louisianans”; and that these are all organized around “undying leaders of the cult in the mountains of China.”

Yes, it’s time to talk about the racism portion of Lovecraft, as well as the uncomfortable conspiracy his story engages in. It must be noted that in a short space of time, Lovecraft associates the Cthulhu cult not only with Africa, Native Americans, East Asians, and Arabs, but further that he distances it from European witch cults. The intent, apparently, being to show how alien and strange this new(old) cult is.

Which is functional, and other authors have corrected the imbalance, but it certainly comes off as Mr. Lovecrafts own paranoia that every non-Caucasian ‘race’ is scheming against civilization. I’m not sure if that was the intent, but in this day and age sadly that is the take away. I will allow the fine Mr. P.H. Lovecraft to talk a bit about this detail of Mr. H.P. Lovecrafts life:

Many movements have sprung up regarding conspiracys and the power they have. And while some are amusing (the Illuminati conspiracy, which was started in the middle ages, existed to promote democracy, womens rights, and literacy; the fears of Satanism are also unfounded), others have disturbing tinges. The fears of a New World Order and the Elders of Zion conspiracy reek of anti-semitism. The Freemasonry conspiracy, while slightly more grounded, seems to have started from a fear of deism as opposed to more tradtional religions. Many truther attempts likewise are more concerning for implications than nothing else (including, for example, the Kennewick man).

That is not to say such things have no place in horror. Mysterious lodges and secret societies are excellent venues for horror. And the notion of magical conspirators is hardly modern. The old Gnostic tradition with its mighty Demiurge and Archons who manipulate the world certainly subscribed to something akin to a conspiracy theory. More recently, the Rose of the World presents a similar conspiracy (a Satanic one at that) to maintaining communist power. It is sometimes, however, necessary to be aware of where things come from. 

With that delightful thought I will have to leave you, brothers and sisters. Next week, part two of Mr. Derelth’s tale. I do wonder what comes next from his old bones.

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Ia Ia, Cthulhu F’taghn. What A Wonderful Phrase.

This weeks prompt: 25. Man visits museum of antiquities—asks that it accept a bas-relief he has just made—old and learned curator laughs and says he cannot accept anything so modern. Man says that ‘dreams are older than brooding Egypt or the contemplative Sphinx or garden-girdled Babylonia’ and that he had fashioned the sculpture in his dreams. Curator bids him shew his product, and when he does so curator shews horror. Asks who the man may be. He tells modern name. “No—before that” says curator. Man does not remember except in dreams. Then curator offers high price, but man fears he means to destroy sculpture. Asks fabulous price—curator will consult directors. Add good development and describe nature of bas-relief.

Later Research:Part 2,Part 3

The Resulting Stories: Black Sun Part 1,Part 2,Part 3

This prompt gifts us with a rather clear cut outline. I will dwell very rarely on the specific here, however, and entire into something a bit more deep of a dive. For the stars have aligned, my good brothers and sisters. Firstly, we approach the fiftieth post (our twenty fifth story). Secondly, fortuitously, this stands as perhaps the prompt for the most famous story of Mr. Lovecraft. The Call of Cthulhu.

For such an occasion, we cannot simply go without celebration. So, we will be extending both the story and the research into three parts. Here, we shall discuss the great priest of the Old Ones himself, his mythic ties, his modern depictions, and ia ia. Our story will like wise be in three parts, such that in six weeks time our revelry will be done. And then our normalcy will return.

If by some luck you are unfamiliar with the story of the arch-squamous one, I recommend reading it now. It is a delight and a classic of horror, if a bit weighty as most of Lovecraft is. The nature of the tale is (like ours) split into three sections, and runs about a novella long.

UndeadAuthorSocietyCthulhuSketch

Cthulhu stands as an interesting character in horror. He is an odd personality, a monster that stands as an icon now…but is rarely present in his own tale. So vast and huge is the difference between himself and his appearance in the popular mind that establishing where his stands from a myth or arch typical perspective is necessary.

While there are hold outs that attest to his nature as an alien power (The Mountains of Madness confirm this), and originally seems to lack any mystical proprieties, he none the less taps into a mythic mold. Namely, a force of Khaos, defeated and sealed ages back.

By this I mean, Cthulhu is (by all accounts) a thinking entity. He is not human, and thinks in a way alien to us, but he is not himself a gibbering god like Azazoth or a massive and mighty Shoggoth. He is alien and disturbing, but he is not insane. And in myth we have plenty of similar creatures.

We have of course mighty Tiamat, mother of monsters, and her lawgiver Kingu. Both, like Cthulhu, bear a resemblance to aquatic lifeforms, and both bear an association with dragons. And both further are defeated by a younger age of similar entities (the Elder Things and the likes of Marduk). Kingu as a subordinate servant with still great power resembles Cthulhu in particular, with Cthulhu being pontiff and grandson of Yog-Sothoth.

UndeadAuthorSocietyLeviathan

Such creatures also bear Lovecraftian description (many heads) things with all description (containing mineral, animal, and vegetable qualities) or even as Hundun, a Chinese entity who walks like a man with no nose, mouth, or eyes. The primeval entity Leviathan in some midrashic lore likewise predates the current creation, and capable of waging war on the almighty YHWH alone.

In the lore of the Aztecs a great crocodile prevented the current creation, with a mouth on every joint, named Cipactli who devoured the foot of one of the great gods. In Greek myth, the Titans lack a clear oceanic link, but Typhon (a mighty dragon like creature that stands like a man) rose from the deep to make war on Olympus. So tall that the stars were knocked aside by his head, the great last son of earth made war on Zeus, driving all other Olympians to flee before him. If it weren’t for a nearby shepherd saving Zeus’s sinews, he would be driven out. Again like Cthulhu he is a descendant of a mightier set parents (Gaia and Erebus for the record).

UndeadAuthorSocietyCipactli

All this is to say, fear of the sea and great creatures in it extends past song. The sea is often acknowledge as a primeval lord. Poseidon, the great Greek God of the Sea, unleashes storms and rages against the authority of Zeus in the Illiad. In the Oddessey he fathers monstrous races like the Cyclops and worse. The sea goddess of the Netsilik like wise sends terrors and misery when left unappeased, and is mother of all creatures from the sea as well.

The dragon kings of the sea are mighty enough to earn respect from the Jade Emperor in the Journey to the West. Uncheliga emerges from Lakota myth likewise, She was described at first as having no real shape or form; she had eyes of fire, and a fanged mouth that was shrouded in a smoky or cloudy mass. As time went on further, her form was exposed as being massive, with a long scaly body whose natural armor was almost impenetrable. Her eyes burned with wrathful hunger, her claws were like iron, and her voice raged like thunder rolling in the clouds.

UndeadAuthorSocietyTyphon

Typhon

From the sea comes the enemies of the gods, then. And Cthulhu fits this initially in a symbolic sense, at first anyway. He towers as a draconic-squid-man from the sea, who’s rising would end the age of human dominance (which is also the age of the gods). This notion is reinforced with later inventions by August Derleth, who sets the forces led by Cthulhu against as the Elder Gods (yes, yes the naming is a tad confusing). While Derleth’s connections remove some of the horror and utter alien-ness of Cthulhu and sometimes impose a morality, there is an underlining reason.

UndeadAuthorSocietyDerleth

Cthulhu’s nature, and what sets him apart from all others (and what ties him to this prompt), is his more than active mind. Cthulhu, when he begins to rise, effects and infects other minds with messages. As we’ve said countless times, visions and inspiration from dreams has divine connotations. This makes Cthulhu’s rise more like a volcanic erruption (which is often called the breath of Typhon) than anything else. It should be said that this is an unusual incident. Only at the right time is something so terrible glimpsed.

Cthulhu bears one more trait akin to those older beings: His kin are terrors. Cthulhu bears four known children by his own kind: Cthylla, Ghatanothoa, Ythogtha, and Zoth-Ommog. Each is worshiped in its own right. And then there are his subjects, the alien star spawn who shift shape and size at will like demons or djinn.

Cthulhu’s presence as a divine terror glimpsed in a moment of inspiration ties him to those dread Muses we once discussed, as well as some diabolical tales of musicians making deals with for inspiration. But all that is for another time. For now we will leave the great god below. For now.

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