|“||Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes - viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells - rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile - slaves of suggestion, builders of cities - more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative! Great God! What madness made even those blasphemous Old Ones willing to use and carve such things?||„|
|~ H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness|
In the words of Lovecraft himself:
"It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter."
The definitive description of shoggoths comes from the above-quoted story. In it, Lovecraft writes about them as massive amoeba-like creatures made out of iridescent black slime, with multiple eyes "floating" on the surface. They are described as "protoplasmic", lacking any default body shape and instead being able to form limbs and organs at will. An average shoggoth measured fifteen feet across when a sphere, though the story mentions ones of much greater size.
Mythos media most commonly shows them, although intelligent to some degree, dealing with problems using their great size and strength. For instance, the original one mentioned in At the Mountains of Madness simply rolled over and crushed giant albino penguins that were in the way as it pursued the characters.
The character of the Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, found the mere idea of their existence on Earth terrifying.
The shoggoths were created by the Elder Things. Being amorphous, they could take on any shape needed, making them very versatile within their aquatic environment. Though able to "understand" the Elder Things' language, they had no real consciousness and were controlled through hypnotic suggestion.
The shoggoths built the underwater cities of their masters. Over millions of years of existence, some shoggoths mutated and gained independent minds. Some time after this, they rebelled. Eventually, the Elder Things succeeded in quelling the insurrection, but thereafter watched them more carefully. By this point, exterminating them was not an option as the Elder Things were fully dependent on them for labor and could not replace them. It was during this time that, despite their masters' wishes, they demonstrated an ability to survive on land.
Within the Mythos, the existence of the shoggoths possibly led to the accidental creation of Ubbo-Sathla, a god-like entity supposedly responsible for the origin of all life on Earth, though At The Mountains of Madness brings up the possibility of the Elder Things being the creators, having made early life as discarded experiments in bioengineering.
At the Mountains of Madness
Geologist William Dyer and student Danforth explore the Elder Things structures in a range of mountains taller than the Himalaya. They learn of the Elder Things and the Shoggoths and how they used the Shoggoths to create their structures and how the Shoggoths rebelled against them.
As the two progress further into the city, they are ultimately drawn to a massive, ominous entrance which is the opening of a tunnel which they believe leads into the subterranean region described in the murals. Compulsively they are drawn in, finding further horrors: evidence of dead Old Ones caught in a brutal struggle and blind six-foot-tall penguins wandering around placidly. They are confronted with an immense, ululating horror which they identify as a Shoggoth. They escape with their lives using luck and diversion.
The Shoggoth has become one of Lovecraft's most well-known and popular creations. Thus, it has warranted various appearances.
- A small numebr Shoggoth appears as a boss in the video game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The World as protagonist Jack Walters aids in the FBI raid of the Marsh Gold refinery. It is ultimately disposed of when explosives take out the facility.
- One makes an appearance in the conclusion of Nemo: Heart of Ice, a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen spinoff, when an expedition to what is revealed to be The Mountains of Madness. A massive Shoggoth reveals itself and deals with two of the antagonists by devouring one and driving the other to insanity.
- In Magicka game DLC The Stars Are Left, which serves as parody for Chtulhu Mythos series, Shoggoths appears as the slow-but deadly enemies that could devour the protagonists as the instant-death attack.
- Charles Stross' novella "A Colder War" features Shoggoth being produced as weapons of mass destruction.
- Shoggoths are featured in the Pathfinder role-playing game.