|In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. Image from Mental Floss.|
So, one day, instead of going through my usual Spotify haunts, I decided instead to check out the Word section, just to satisfy the craving for something new. What caught my eye was The H.P. Lovecraft Compendium, a 23-hour playlist of Lovecraftian tales read by great narrators. Since I hadn’t really read much of H.P. Lovecraft yet, I decided to take the plunge and check out one of his most famous works to date: The Call of Cthulhu.
The Call of Cthulhu is a classic Lovecraftian story, but, even today, its horror and detail still manage to elicit chills, despite Cthulhu’s wild popularity (and consequent bastardization) in popular culture.
Published in 1928, The Call of Cthulhu is among the many stories written on the Cthulhu mythos, a collection of writings set within the Lovecraftian universe by Lovecraft and his author friends. This story, in particular, gives plenty of detail on Cthulhu, a creature whose “pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings.”
The story is told through Francis Wayland Thurston, a man who discovers intriguing notes and a very curious bas-relief among the papers of his deceased granduncle, Professor George Gammell Angell. Out of curiosity (and in hopes of recognition), Thurston decides to pick up where his granduncle left off and piece together the mystery of the frightening image. What he first believed to be a simple quest into an unknown culture will soon become a voyage into madness, cult worshippers, and the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh.
Perhaps the image of Cthulhu has now become too familiar that its origin story may seem unimpressive and dull, but the words of Lovecraft are still haunting and utterly provocative despite the beast’s omnipresence in popular media. So, while The Call of Cthulhu may be styled as a supernatural mystery story, you can’t help but experience a tingling sense of dread as Thurston slowly stitches together the blood-tainted tale about the High Priest of the Great Old Ones.
|“They all lay in stone houses in Their great city of R’lyeh, preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the Earth might once more be ready for Them.” Image by jbrown67.|
The imagery in the story itself is troubling, as it is beset with out-of-this-world monstrosity, constant death, and horrible cult practices. It may be difficult for the human mind to comprehend the depth of the beast that is Cthulhu, but the fanaticism he incites, the sacrifices his worshippers offer, and the slither, stench, and sliminess that permeates his being give a taste of what horror The Great Dreamer may bring upon this world.
(But there is something disturbing about the men in The Call of Cthulhu that have founded secret societies to honor Cthulhu and protect his secrets. With odd carvings on otherworldly materials, ancient rites in unpronounceable words, and a probable hand in the timely demise of the people involved in Thurston’s narrative, the cultists themselves are a force to be reckoned with, and a reminder that humans may just be the true monsters in this world of flesh.) Ph’nglui mglw’nafh C’thulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
Overall, The Call of Cthulhu may be centered around a vile winged god, but, in its heart, it is about a man who wants to discover the facts behind a supposed myth. Lovecraft painstakingly takes his time here when giving out each progressing detail, but the slow walk towards the truth concerning Cthulhu may be akin to the trudge of a man towards his own noose, and with the same unavoidable and spine-tingling dread.
Read this story to invoke images of an eldritch monster that has lain asleep for many years (though there are those who whisper that it is soon to wake in a future to come). Beware, as many a man have gone mad in worship – and in his presence. So tread lightly now. C’thulhu fhtagn.
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
– Peterson, Britt. “101 Masterpieces: ‘The Call of Cthulhu'”. MentalFloss.com. Mental Floss, 20 Aug 2014. Retrieved 22 Sep 2016. [Link]
– “The Call of Cthulhu”. Wikipedia.org, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Sep 2016. Retrieved 22 Sep 2016. [Link]
– Strickland, Jonathan. “How Cthulhu Works”. HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved 22 Sep 2016. [Link]
– “Cthulhu Mythos”. Lovecraft.wikia.com. Retrieved 22 Sep 2016. [Link]