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And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished, for the small hours were rent with the screams of nightmare.
~ H.P. Lovecraft about Nyarlathotep.

Nyarlathotep, also referred to as the Crawling Chaos and as many other names, is an evil Outer God mentioned from the works of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos, first appearing as the titular main antagonist of the 1920 short story, Nyarlathotep, ​and the main antagonist of the 1943 fantasy novella, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. He has appeared in numerous stories by the late H.P. Lovecraft.

He is seen as a shapeshifting agent of madness, chaos and ruin who serves the other Outer Gods, specifically his father, Azathoth, the Blind Idiot God, who he is subservient to him, fulfilling his wishes without question as his messenger and emissary, though he sometimes enjoys manipulating his master.

He often visits Earth and enjoys bringing madness and suffering to inferior beings (humans are among them). It is said that he will bring destruction to Earth and he spends his time manipulating and deceiving humans for his own sadistic pleasure.

Appearance

Nyarlathotep is described as a master shapeshifter with over a thousand forms, many of which are seen as monstrous and capable of driving mortals insane - a trait common to Lovecraftian monsters, however unlike many of the other Outer Gods, he also frequently takes on a human form as an enigmatic male fashioned on an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh.

Personality

Nyarlathotep is shown to be cruel, sadistic, and destructive. He enjoys driving people insane and finds the act to be more enjoyable than simple death and destruction and is an altogether more human-like evil than the other Outer Gods, frequently employing deception and manipulation, even propaganda, to achieve his goals and often mingling with humans in order to seal their doom. These traits combined with his ability to walk freely amongst mortal life may make him the most unpleasant and terrible of all Lovecraftian monsters, as he averts their unknowable and amoral nature, and it has been suggested by some that Nyarlathotep may be the creature that will ultimately destroys the world.

History

Nyarlathotep's first appearance is in the eponymous short story by Lovecraft, in which he is described as a "tall, swarthy man" who resembles an Egyptian Pharaoh. In this story he wanders the earth, gathering legions of followers through his demonstrations of strange and seemingly magical instruments, the narrator of the story among them. These followers lose awareness of the world around them, and through the narrator's increasingly unreliable accounts the reader gets a sense of the world's utter collapse. The story ends with the narrator as part of an army of servants for Nyarlathotep.

Nyarlathotep (usually referred to in conjunction with the subnomen, "The Crawling Chaos") subsequently appears as a major character in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, in which he again manifests in the form of an Egyptian Pharaoh when he confronts protagonist Randolph Carter. He is here depicted as an avatar of the Other Gods, executing their will on Earth and in Dreamland. The twenty-first sonnet of Lovecraft's poem-cycle Fungi from Yuggoth – not to be confused with the entities identified as the fungi from Yuggoth, or Mi-Go in "The Whisperer in Darkness" – is dedicated to Nyarlathotep, and is substantially a poetic retelling of the short story Nyarlathotep.

In The Dreams in the Witch-House, Nyarlathotep appears to Walter Gilman and witch Keziah Mason (who has made a pact with the entity) in the form of "the 'Black Man' of the witch-cult," a black-skinned avatar with the appearance of the Christian Devil associated with New England witchcraft lore.

Finally, in The Haunter of the Dark, the being of pure darkness dwelling, possessing a "three-lobed eye", in the steeple of the Starry Wisdom sect's church is identified as another form, or manifestation of, Nyarlathotep.

Though Nyarlathotep appears as a character in only four stories and one sonnet (still more than any other Great Old Ones or Outer Gods), his name is mentioned frequently in numerous others. For example, in "The Whisperer in Darkness" Nyarlathotep's name is spoken frequently by the fungi from Yuggoth in a reverential or ritual sense, indicating that they worship or honor the entity.

Despite similarities in theme and name, Nyarlathotep does not feature at all in Lovecraft's story The Crawling Chaos, an apocalyptic narrative written in collaboration with Elizabeth Berkeley.

​Powers and Abilities

While nowhere near as powerful as his creator Azathoth, nor the cosmic entity Yog-Sothoth, he remains to be an Outer God and as such Nyarlothotep is immortal and incredibly powerful while also being highly complex to be understood. It is believed that Nyarlathotep is able to control mystic energies of the cosmos to varying effects at an undefined level, both cosmic and demonic as well. He is able to manifest as a vast multitude of avatars. While the god's near-boundless intelligence is behind all of them, each avatar varies greatly in appearance, power, and purpose. Some avatars are even worshiped as their own beings, the followers unaware that it is merely part of a much greater being. He is also capable of shapeshifting and can take the form of a human man. Like Cthulhu, his mere presence induces madness and insanity to mortals such as humans and can communicate with them via telepathy. He is also able to freely travel across every plane of existence and exists beyond the "archetypal infinity".

Nyarlathotep's Family Tree

Relationship with the Other Outer Gods

Nyarlathotep acts as the messenger of the other Outer Gods and seems to hold disloyalty to any particular being - instead serving them everything in some fashion, though he is said to be especially loyal towards Azathoth - whose wishes he will fulfill without any questions.

Other Appearances as a Villain

  • Nyarlathotep appears in the Megami Tensei series as a recurring demon and as a villain, particularly as the main antagonist of the first and second Persona games.
  • M, a major character in the visual novel Shikkoku no Sharnoth who initially uses the codename of James Moriarty, is revealed near the end of the story to be a manifestation of Nyarlathotep.
  • Nyarlathotep is a boss in the game Cthulhu Saves the World.
  • Nyarlathotep is the main antagonist in the story Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute.
  • Nyarlathotep is also linked with the Slender Man because of his humanoid appearance, sadistic desires, and also Slender Man has the same name: "G'hor Nyarlathotep".
  • Fake Kashihara becomes Nyarlathotep, the final boss in Persona 2: Innocent Sin.
  • Leland Gaunt, the main antagonist of Stephen King's novel Needful Things, is hinted to be an avatar of Nyarlathotep.
    • Likewise, Randall Flagg is also greatly hinted to be an avatar, and was even called by the name Nyarlathotep at one point. Despite the similarities, the Dark Tower series reveals at one point Flagg was once a mortal human.

Quotes (pertaining to Nyarlathotep)

Don't fail to see Nyarlathotep if he comes to Providence. He is horrible — horrible beyond anything you can imagine — but wonderful. He haunts one for hours afterward. I am still shuddering at what he showed.
~ Samuel Loveman (about 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.
~ H.P. Lovecraft (about Nyarlahotep of the Outer Gods).
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.
~ H.P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the Witch House
It was the eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born rats, always questing for new horrors, and determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth's centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players.
~ H. P. Lovecraft, The Rats in the Walls

And at the last from inner Egypt came

The strange dark One to whom the fellahs bowed;

Silent and lean and cryptically proud,

And wrapped in fabrics red as sunset flame.

Throngs pressed around, frantic for his commands,

But leaving, could not tell what they had heard;

While through the nations spread the awestruck word

That wild beasts followed him and licked his hands.

Soon from the sea a noxious birth began;

Forgotten lands with weedy spires of gold;

The ground was cleft, and mad auroras rolled

Down on the quaking citadels of man.

Then, crushing what he chanced to mould in play,

The idiot Chaos blew Earth’s dust away.

~ XXI. Nyarlathotep (of the Fungi from Yuggoth collection)

Gallery

Trivia

  • The name of this deity is noted for its Egyptian suffix -hotep, which gives its name an Egyptian tone.
  • Nyarlathotep is the third most powerful god in the Cthulhu Mythos, behind Azathoth and Yog-Sothoth.