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In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.
~ H.P. Lovecraft, the most famous quotation about Cthulhu.

Cthulhu is a creation of the famed horror author H.P. Lovecraft, who serves as the titiular character and a major antagonist of his fictional universe, the Cthulhu Mythos​, first appearing as the main antagonist in the 1928 story, The Call of Cthulhu​.

He is one of the primary Great Old Ones of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, a race of alien deities that are comparable to cosmic beings and archdemons in other works of fantasy. Cthulhu is infamously known for his grotesque appearance and gigantic size, as well as his ability to drive any human that gazes upon his form to insanity.

While he is not the most powerful of Lovecraft's creations (dwarfed by Outer Gods like Yog-Sothoth and Azathoth), he is easily the most famous, and his name has become associated with evil and Lovecraftian horror ever since the creature was first brought to public attention in the 1920s.

​History

Background

Cthulhu was born on the planet Vhoorl, located in the 23rd nebula. He traveled to the star Zoth where he spawned his offspring. Along with his children and the Star Spawn of Cthulhu, Cthulhu travelled to Saturn and then to Earth. They landed on a continent in the Pacific Ocean and built the city, R'lyeh. Cthulhu received resistance from the Elder Things who also lived on the planet. They waged war for the planet Earth until a truce was made. Cthulhu then went into a deep hibernation within R'lyeh. Humanity then evolved on Earth and Cthulhu communicated with several through dreams, resulting in the Cult of Cthulhu. Disaster then struck R'lyeh, sinking it into the ocean. R'lyeh has risen from the ocean for brief amounts of time. However, it is fated that R'lyeh will rise from the ocean permanently and Cthulhu will retake the world.

He Waits Dreaming…

In most of the stories, Cthulhu lays dormant deep under the ocean within the sunken city of R'lyeh, but can still influence the world via many telepathic powers and, of course, his many cults and otherworldly minions. It is said that once Cthulhu is fully awakened, he shall rise from the depths and end the world; thankfully for humanity, Cthulhu has yet to do so. However, he came close in the 1920s when a group of sailors came across his sunken city of R'lyeh, which had been brought to the surface by the alignment of the stars.

They opened up one of the strange buildings, only for Cthulhu to exit it and attack them. The creature only halted its attack when the sailors used their ship to cut him in half. As they sailed away, they could see Cthulhu reforming into a whole being again. The world would have ended then but for the fact that R'lyeh suddenly sunk as the stars moved out of position. The resulting powerful current not only dragged Cthulhu into the building he had been trapped in, but also closed the door behind him, thus trapping him yet again.

Appearance

Cthulhu's appearance can change from story to story, but he is most often portrayed as a monster of vaguely humanoid shape with a squid-like face and wings. He is also considered terrifyingly large and apocalyptic, being the size of a mountain (or bigger in some accounts). Most descriptions of him stem from statuettes found in the possession of cult members; they are usually around a foot high and depict Cthulhu in a crouching position.

Following

Cthulhu is said to have a worldwide doomsday cult centered in Arabia, with followers stretching everywhere in the entire world. The supposedly immortal leaders of Cthulhu's cult are said to reside in the mountains of China. This cult is nihilistic in nature and seeks to awaken the Old Ones and bring about an apocalyptic age of darkness in which, according to some stories, men would be reduced to shouting and killing each other in fits of madness. Cthulhu is also worshipped by the horrific Deep Ones and the Mi-go, other alien beings in Lovecraft's world.

Cthulhu also has numerous "star-spawn" (Xothians) at his disposal; these creatures seem to share his general appearance but are much smaller and less powerful, though the nature of the "star-spawn" and their relationship with Cthulhu is widely unknown.

R'lyeh

R'lyeh

R'lyeh

The nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh […] was built in measureless eons 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 […] until the end.
~ H. P. Lovecraft, "The Call of Cthulhu".

R'lyeh (pronounced /ˈɹu.li.a/ or /ɹɪl.ˈai.ɛ/) is a nightmarish supernatural city featured in the Cthulhu Mythos by author H. P. Lovecraft, which makes its first appearance in the 1928 short story "The Call of Cthulhu". R'lyeh is also referred to in Lovecraft's "The Mound" as "Relex". R'lyeh is a sunken city located deep under the Pacific Ocean and is where the godlike being Cthulhu of the immortal Great Old Ones is buried. R'lyeh's bizarre architecture is characterized by its non-Euclidean geometry.

When R'lyeh rises in Lovecraft's short story "The Call of Cthulhu", the only portion of the city that emerges is a single "hideous monolith-crowned citadel" in which Cthulhu is entombed. The human onlookers are awed by the sheer immensity of the city and by the frightening suggestion of the gargantuan statues and bas-reliefs.

The city is a panorama of "vast angles and stone surfaces [...] too great to belong to anything right and proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images and disturbing hieroglyphs". The geometry of R'lyeh is "abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours".

In Lovecraft's stories, R'lyeh is sometimes referred to in the ritualistic phrase "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn", which roughly translates to "In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.".

Lovecraft said that R'lyeh is located at 47°9'S 126°43'W in the southern Pacific Ocean. However, August Derleth placed R'lyeh at 49°51'S 128°34'W in his own writings. Both locations are close to the Pacific oceanic pole of inaccessibility (48°52.6'S 123°23.6'W), the point in the ocean farthest from any land. Derleth's coordinates place the city approximately 5,100 nautical miles (5,900 statute miles or 9,500 kilometers), or about 10 days journey for a fast ship, from the real island of Pohnpei (Ponape). Ponape also plays a part in the Cthulhu Mythos as the place where the "Ponape Scripture", a text describing Cthulhu, was found.

Charles Stross' 2000 novella A Colder War implicitly locates R'lyeh in the Baltic sea, describing Cthulhu as being "scraped from a nest in the drowned wreckage of a city on the Baltic floor.". In Nick Mamatas' 2004 novel Move Under Ground, it is located off the coast of California.

​Powers and Abilities

While not as powerful as many other Great Old Ones and being dwarfed in scale by the Outer Gods that he serves, Cthulhu is still a very powerful entity. Being near godlike to humans, Cthulhu is immortal and has great strength and can endure great amounts of damage and can only be killed by a near-omnipotent power. Using his wings, he is capable of true flight. He possesses vast intelligence and awareness, as he knows all that is occurring in the Universe at once and he has great psychic abilities as he can communicate telepathically.

Arguably, Cthulhu's most notable trait is the fact that he, alongside the rest of his kin, cannot be comprehended by humans; when a human so much as looks at Cthulhu, they will almost certainly be driven mad by his visage. Cthulhu was also able to create a city out of nowhere.

​Cthulhu's Family Tree

Quotes

Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity.
~ H.P. Lovecraft.
Children will always be afraid of the dark, and men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulse will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck can glimpse.
~ H.P. Lovecraft.
The Thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled.

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; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful.

~ H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu.
When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live.
~ H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.
(In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.)
~ H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu.
That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.
~ H.P. Lovecraft, Necronomicon.

In other fiction

Cthulhu has appeared in pop culture many times:

  • In the online videogame AdventureQuest World, popularly known as AQ, Cthulhu is a major boss called a Chaos Beast, seemingly working for Chaos Lord Iadoa, under the name Kathool, while actually having ulterior motives, and wants the player to defeat him and Iadoa, so he can achieve his goals.
  • In the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy episode "Prank Call of Cthulhu", Cthulhu is literally called on a telephone by Billy, and uses him to start sending prank calls to people that turn them into squid monsters. He is seen playing miniature golf.
  • He appeared in the Real Ghostbusters episode "The Collect Call of Cathulhu" as "Cathulhu".
  • He was parodied in World of Warcraft as C'thun.
  • Leela goes on a date with it at the start of Futurama comics #58 story Dummy up which ends in him fighting with Bender and deleting his sense of humor.
  • In the videogame Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Cthulhu is the name of a minor enemy with a strong fire breath attack and he is seen at the bottom of the Marble Gallery and again in various parts of the Inverted Castle. However, due to localization misplacing, this enemy is originally "Devil" in the Japanese release of the game while the enemy "Malachi" is the representation of the actual Cthulhu. Due to both monsters being minor henchmen for Dracula, technically Cthulhu does not qualify as a Castlevania villain.
  • One of the heavy metal band Metallica's popular songs in their album Ride the Lightning was a song called "Call of Ktulu", obviously referencing the beast. The named is intentionally misspelled due to the belief that if anyone says Cthulhu's name verbally, he will come closer to you.
  • Another song by Metallica that is inspired by Cthulhu is "The Thing That Should Not Be" from their album Master of Puppets.
  • Cthulhu shows up in Aoi House.
  • Two characters in the 2012 horror film The Cabin in the Woods pays a homage on Cthulhu: the Ancient Ones, which are direct homage to him, especially being ancient deities and another one of the monsters bears a striking resemblance to him, as seen in the behind the scenes.
  • Cthulhu will appear in a future Rick and Morty episode considering that Rick, Morty, and Summer fly away from it holding a baby Cthulhu during the opening credits.
  • Cthulhu was the main protagonist in the Indie RPG "Cthulhu Saves The World", where he must do a great deed to get his godly powers once again.
  • Cthulhu simpsons

    Cthulhu in The Simpsons

    He has mad repeated appearances in The Nostalgia Critic's reviews. see Cthulhu (TGWTG).
  • When Bart Simpson rides his skateboard across Springfield, Cthulhu picks him up on its tentacles in the opening scene for the episode Treehouse of Horror XXIV, It then makes a background cameo at Krustyland in Halloween of Horror. It is also the main antagonist from the story Cthulhu? Gesundheit! which is featured in a comic book The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #19.
  • In the South Park Coon and Friends three part episode, Eric Cartman manages to tame Cthulhu after he escapes from his universe, he then uses him to do his bidding, first banishing his friends to the Netherworld, then killing people he doesn't like including Jewish people, hippies, and Justin Bieber among others, he is eventually defeated by Bradley Biggle as Mint Berry Crunch who was initially thought to be the most useless member of their superhero team, who then banishes him back to his dimension.
  • In Magicka DLC called The Stars Are Left, Cthulhu appears as the final boss. Though his portrayal in the game depicted him to be smaller than his original counterpart whom depicted begin larger, otherwise having equal size with mountains but remain larger than the protagonists (this Cthulhu portrayed with height around 10 meters tall). He can summon minions includes Deep Ones and Dagon in battle, summoning squid-like tentacles as means to attack in distance, conjures deadly Pink Ball Of Death which slow but highly devastating and destructive, and able to suck in everything in front of him with his mouth.

Gallery

Images

Videos

​Trivia

  • Cthulhu is the most famous of all of Lovecraft's creations, so much so that the entire mythos is named after him.
  • H.P. Lovecraft based Cthulhu off of his fear of water.

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