Architect of the weird fiction movement of the early 20th century, H.P. Lovecraft was a pretty crazy dude. Hating conventionality in deities almost as much as he hated black people, Lovecraft went about forging his own outlandish pantheon of alien gods of all shapes and sizes; each with their own approach to fucking with humanity. In reality, Lovecraft’s “gods” (known better as “Old Ones”) were really just advanced alien creatures that decided to come chill on Earth and mess with the little pink things that think they’re hot shit.

Let’s explore some of my favorites.

5: Cthulhu

You’ve probably heard of this dude; he’s kind of a big deal.

Because he was in those ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequels.

The most famous of all the Old Ones, even having the “Cthulhu Mythos” named after him, the guy’s actually one of the dullest of all of Lovecraft’s exotic jerk-faces. Cthulhu takes a much more passive approach to humanity than some of the other space creatures, pretty much being ambivalent to their existence unless they set foot on his lawn (the submerged continent of R’lyeh). Then he goes straight-up Texan on their asses. Really, all the dude wants to do is sleep at the bottom of the ocean, watching people’s dreams for his own amusement, occasionally psychically convincing them to worship him because he hasn’t got shit-else to do.

Well, aside from the occasional cameo in Steven Spielberg’s Freakazoid:

Where he was voiced by Richard Moll.

Everyone and their devil-worshipping grandmother has read Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu; his most famous publication. In case you haven’t, though, then you might be disappointed when you get to the end and find that the Great and Powerful God Cthulhu gets defeated the same way Ursula did at the end of The Little Mermaid; he gets impaled with the mast of a ship. What, it’s that easy? Didn’t the shark die the same way at the end of Jaws: The Revenge? Man, Cthulhu’s such a lightweight.

Though he does translate to stop-motion rather well:

Iä! Iä! Ghumbhy fhtagn!

4: Shub-Niggurath

Okay, let’s do some compare/contrast for a moment.

This is how Steven Spielberg imagines a fertility goddess:

And this is how H.P. Lovecraft imagines a fertility goddess:

Both horrifying in their own ways, but I think Lovecraft deserves bonus points for conceiving rape-tentacles over half a century before the Japanese. And they’re usually so ahead of the rape-curve, too.

Known alternatively as “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young”, she’s technically an “Outer God” (the deities and monsters most prevalent in Lovecraft’s series of stories dubbed the “Dream Cycle”). She never made any physical appearances in any of Lovecraft’s stories, instead just being referenced a whole lot.

Despite that, she developed quite a following of worshippers throughout Appalachia.

“Stop firing! It’s just a West Virginian!”

3: Nyarlathotep

Nyarlathotep is basically Lovecraft’s interpretation of what the Anti-Christ would be like if he co-opted his manifestation between a swarthy Egyptian soothsayer and a gargantuan blob that hangs around in church steeples, luring narcoleptics into sleepwalking through busy streets for the sheer fun of it.

The handsomest of all Lovecraftian deities, even in blob-form.

Known as the Crawling Chaos, Nyarlathotep was one of Lovecraft’s favorite creations, appearing in more substantial roles than any of his other deities. As such, he has quite a bit of distinct characterization. As the star of the story “Nyarlathotep”, the pharaoh-clad stud begins amassing a cult following like a modern day Pied Piper of Hamlin.

No, I mean he actually uses a pipe to sway people to join his ranks. Stop laughing, this is supposed to be scary.

Nyarlathotep is the emissary for Azathoth, the “blind idiot god” who exists at the center of all reality, splitting the rent with Yog-Sothoth, who *is* reality. Nyar-Nyar, though, is kind of like that henchman character you see in cartoons and comic books who works diligently for the main villain while loathing them every step of the way; like Snively from “Sonic the Hedgehog” because I can’t think of a better cartoon to use as an example.

And like Snively, there is no room in Nyarlathotep’s court for furries.

Fed up with having to take orders from a blind idiot, he tends to take his frustrations out on humanity, one shmuck at a time. In “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”, he befriends the protagonist near the end, only to double-cross him and try to feed the dude’s sanity to his blind idiot master the way you would try to shove a spoonful of Coco Puffs into the gaping maw of a wall-eyed microcephalic. In another story, “Dreams in the Witch House”, he disguises himself as a terrifying negro in order to coax a college student into signing a blood pact with his master (and when that doesn’t work out, he sends a man-faced rat to tear the kid’s throat out). He took on his blob-form in “The Haunter of the Dark” for no other purpose that I can deduce other than to make a sleepy guy miserable.

He hates his job and he’s taking it out on YOU.

2: Elder Things

The Elder Things are like the Native Americans of the Cthulhu Mythos. They were the first aliens to inhabit the Earth; staking out their territory undersea, creating shoggoths as a slave race, building vast Cyclopean cities and using every part of the buffalo. Sadly, other Old Ones decided to journey to Earth and encroach upon their civilization. Cthulhu pretty much kicked them out of the water and those damn space-crabs, the Mi-Go, broke treaty after treaty, corralling them all onto reservations in Antarctica.

The Elder Things got a pretty raw deal, which is a shame, as they basically look like cucumbers wearing Batman costumes.

Winner of the Third Annual “Veggie Tales” Costume Contest.

All things considered, the Elder Things were pretty mellow. According to “At the Mountains of Madness”, they lived in family-units and even decorated their own houses and apartments (it says nothing about casinos, but can you imagine?). And getting kicked out of the ocean depths by Cthulhu probably turned out to be a boon, too. If they’d stayed, they’d have had to have shared the joint with Dagon and the Deep Ones; fish-people so horny they’ll mate with just about anything. Even New Englanders.

If you ever do visit their city in Antarctica, don’t touch their collection of giant albino cave-penguins. They’re pretty touchy about those things.

They keep a shoggoth around for just such emergencies.

1: The Great Race of Yith

You see, the Great Race of Yith aren’t like the other advanced alien lifeforms that populate Lovecraft’s universe of weirdos and jerks. These guys are actually pretty alright.

They’re also librarians.

The Yith exist as disembodied spirits that can traverse time and space by sheer willpower, possessing the bodies of corporeal lifeforms for their own survival. Their modus operandi is to live out the entire existence of a planet in the bodies of its inhabitants until that planet’s time runs out. Then they play the body-exchange game en masse as a race, swapping digs with another race on another planet and then chilling there until the time comes to switch meat trains again.

But what happens to the spirits of the people already inhabiting the bodies they jack, you ask? Well, they get shunted back to the Yith’s previous carcasses, left to die inside an alien form a moment before planetary destruction. Yeah, it sucks, but compare their treatment of other lifeforms to some of Lovecraft’s other cosmic douchebags. There’s Nyarlathotep, who parades you around for the amusement of a drooling mongoloid while secretly hating his life. Or the Mi-Go, who like to put your brain in a jar and wear your skin as a mask just to prank your penpal. Or Cthulhu, who sits at the bottom of the ocean, voyeuristically peeking at all your wet dreams.

I mean, sure, one day you’re walking to Dunkin’ Donuts and in the blink of an eye, suddenly you’re trapped inside a fungus monster’s body on a world of molten tungsten. But on the bright side, before you can use the sprig of broccoli you have for a mouth to mewl, “What the fu–” the sun explodes and you die. And not alone, either; everyone you know dies right there with you. Compared to Lovecraft’s other space-assholes, the Yith are pretty merciful.

They’re the kind of genocidal space-librarians you’d like to have a beer with.

On the other hand, when they decided to come to Earth, they had the option of either inhabiting the bodies of humanity, or the bodies of a bunch of upside-down ice cream cones with tentacles at the top decorated in eyeballs, lobster claws and, what is that? A honeycomb? It’s kind of insulting. They then spend the next million years possessing the bodies of humans across Earth’s history, exploring each era in that person’s body while forcing the individual now trapped in a crazy Yith cone to write books for them. But just because they’re a pretty cool bunch of dudes, they give you your body back once they’re through with it. Would Tsathoggua do that? Not likely.

  • Love the article Mark. 

  • Great read.

  • Thorse

    I read this as it was linked from reddit, you tried FAR too hard to be funny and therefore messed up facts about the mythos. Cthulhu is both dead and alive, in a state of quantum flux until the stars are aligned and he awakens to bring destruction to man. He somewhat awoken in Call of Cthulhu, but he was not yet fully awake. 

    The Elder Things are NOT Old ones. They also had nothing for or against the giant white albino penguins. Also, they were NOT kicked out of the ocean by Cthulhu, but Cthulhu’s Star Spawn. Creatures borne of Cthulhu, but without his extradimensional power. And they were fought out of the water, so they made their vast cities on land where, forgetting to fly into space, stayed there until killed off by the Shoggoths. Your conception of Nyarlathotep is just plain wrong. He is the ONLY one of Lovecraft’s creatures in the Cthulhu mythos to care about the going on of man. He is able to talk to the higher powers that exist in the unfathomable upper realms of existence, yet gets a twisted enjoyment from torturing lowly life forms. A more apt analogy would be a scientist’s assistant who still enjoys frying ants with a magnifying glass. 
    And I’m not even sure if you READ Shadow out of Time or not. The Yith have a BODY. The giant pyramid like shapes with tentacles and many eyes thing in the picture. THAT is a Yithian. They swap minds across time and space. So for as long as the Yithian is in your body, you are in theirs. And it was just the Yithian’s city being destroyed by the Star-Spawn of Cthulhu. They also had one on earth as they are an advanced race. You don’t get your mind swapped as their planet blows up. If the Yithian’s body dies, you get swapped back, that’s why the main character in that story had lingering memories of what was in the forgotten city and they saw an aluminum cylinder with alien writings but in his handwriting. 

    I really don’t like this top5 list since you either haven’t done the research or just read the books once a really long time ago. Either way, pretty bad article. 

    • I could write an extensive counterpoint to all this, but after reading your reply, the general gist seems to be that you take your mythos far, FAR too seriously.  You seem mostly irritated over the fact that I took a humorous stance on things to the point of splitting hairs over minutia, semantics and your own personal fanon. 

      I mean, really; “It washn’t CTHULHU that forshed the Elder Thingsh out of the shea!  It wash Cthulhu’s SHTAR SHPAWN!  GAWSH!”  Calm yourself, Comic Book Guy.

      Really, I suppose my only suggestion to you would be… Lighten up?  If you can’t have a little fun with your mythos, then again, you take this stuff much, much too seriously.

      • Dr Nobody

        That’s really your response?  Someone points out your ignorance of the subject of an article you wrote, and you reply with ad hominem attacks calling him out as a fanboy?  That discredits you further.

        At the risk of piling on, I’ll point out that in addition to not knowing enough to write an article about Lovecraft, you don’t know enough about Japanese tentacle erotica to reference it in your articles.  The Japanese were drawing that freaky stuff well before Lovecraft’s birth; thirty seconds at Wikipedia could have told you that.

        In the future, do your research before your writing, and learn to respond to criticism like an adult.

        • Ah, a “Legend of the Overfiend” enthusiast.  *That’s* someone worth getting into a long, drawn-out internet argument with.  You’re dissecting a one-off caption joke about tentacle rape?  Really?  You’re pretty much making my “taking the joke too seriously” argument for me, at this point.

          • But okay, I’ll take a swing at the critiques.

            “Cthulhu is both dead and alive in a state of quantum flux until the stars are aligned and he awakens to bring destruction to man.  He is somewhat awoken in Call of Cthulhu, but he was not yet fully awake.”

            Honestly, arguing his level of alertness seems like a fairly petty thing to bring up, but sure.  I guess he was still “drowsy” and my use of the word “awake” was semantically inappropriate.  Ya got me.  Though really, this goes back to the “splitting hairs” thing I mentioned before.

            “The Elder Things are not Old Ones.”

            That was my mistake by using the phrase “other Old Ones”.  I relied on a reference book, “Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials” for some art references and they were misinformed on the subject (as you can see, the picture I used even identifies the Elder Things as “Old Ones”).  My bad.

            “Also, they were NOT kicked out of the sea by Cthulhu, but Cthulhu’s Star Spawn.”

            This sentence got a chuckle out of me, made clear by my mocking it earlier.  Not very mature of me, I admit, but really, we’re arguing “Cthulhu” vs. “Cthulhu’s Star Spawn”?  Yikes.  That’s like splitting hairs over a general and his armies.

            “The Yith HAVE a body.”

            I know that and stated as such.  I was not aware my phrasing was so confusing.  While “Yith” identifies them in the cone bodies, I used the term to refer to them in their etherial entirety to prevent confusion.

            Hell, I’ll even pile on a glossing over that YOU MISSED.

            The second image I used for Shub-Niggurath is of a Shuggoth!  I used an HP Lovecraft artbook by Chaosium for reference to get the image, whichw as titled “The Black Goat of the Woods”.  As it turns out, Chaosium repurposed what were clearly Shuggoths in Robert Bloch’s “Notebook Found in an Abandoned House” as children of Shub-Niggurath for their roleplaying game where the art originated.  I didn’t find that out until after I wrote the article.

            So that was 100% my bad, guys.  But even still; “never read the source material” my ass.

            As for the picking apart of a caption joke about Japanese tentacle rape cartoons… Honestly? You counter a “taking this stuff too seriously” argument by criticising a caption gag about tentacle rape?

            Bottom line is that this was a humor article. You seem to enjoy making assertions about me “not reading” the material and don’t seem to enjoy being contradicted in your argument.  By that same token, I’m as justified in standing by my assertion that you are taking the material far too seriously.  Yes, I simplied aspects (reducing “Cthulhu’s Star Spawn” to “Cthulhu” and refering to the “Yith” as an all-encompassing moniker, etc) but this isn’t a Lit Class 101 term paper and you really ought to loosen up.

            Accuracy IS important, but you also need to understand the medium and the genre of an article in which you are reading.  Do you hold a grudge against “Evil Dead” for its portrayal of the Necronomicon?  I should hope not.

          • RAWRBoyANGRY

             Sometimes people take their passions way too seriously.  As a result, they’ll take a slightly humorous or tongue-in-cheek perspective on something as one would take a personal attack on their very family.  Baffling really.

            Pretty sure curmudgeony Alan Moore and Lovecraft’s personalities combined would have had a better sense of humor.

            The article is fine IMO.  Excessive nitpicking isn’t going to have Lovecraft rise up from the grave and pin a tentacled-medallion on your chest.

        • A Donald Flair

          Dr Nobody, .. i suggest you look into Valium and try to get out more….

        • Maximiliano Bartomucci

          Just two things to add to the discussion, and not to be nitpicky, but because they’re actually important details that lead to misconceptions.

          Cthulhu and his Star Spawn kicked the Elder Things INTO the water, so they could keep the land for themselves. Despite of his seafoodish appearance, Cthulhu isn’t aquatic, which is one of the reasons why he’s “dead” while his city is sunken in the ocean.

          The Great Race aren’t disembodied spirits, they had an original body long ago (But not the cone-thingies, those were native lifeforms of our own planet), and then started to use tech to swap bodies with others with the method you described (You forgot to mention they can do it through time as well as through space). But certainly, they cannot survive as disembodied minds.

    • 1) Lovecraft called them Old Ones in both At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow out of Time, later authors used the Elder Things moniker to avoid confusion with the Old Ones from The Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror etc.

      2) Cthulhu ruled over his spawn, saying he didn’t wage war on the Elder Things is like saying Hitler didn’t invade Poland because it was actually the Nazis.

      3) Relax a bit, it’s all just meant to be a bit fun. Even if doesn’t fit in with Lovecraft’s conception of him the idea that Nyarlathotep “parades you around for the amusement of a drooling mongoloid whilst secretly hating his life” is hilarious, it doesn’t need to be accurate. Besides, anyone who’s read the books will know what the incorrect points are and anyone who hasn’t and is intrigued by the article can read them and find out for themselves what they actually say.

    • A Donald Flair

      thorse, you a mistaken. the article is quite amusing. and your ‘errata’ has more errors than the original article….at least the article didnt take itself seriously…. i suggest you look into Valium and try to get out more….

  • TentacleEroticaRulz

     “Tentacle rape!  It originated in the 400s, NITWITS!  A cursory surveyance of several ancient bamboo scrolls could tell even the biggest atavistic lunkhead that!  I have no sense of humor whatsoever and have body odor so offensive that my own mother can’t bear to embrace me… BUT THAT MUCH I KNEW!”

  • A Donald Flair

    A really great article. I enjoyed it. I missed the migo tho.