Cthulhu 101

I suppose it’s time for me to explain the title of my blog. Not a lot of people really know what the hell Cthulhu is or what that gibberish is in the right sidebar.

Mention the name of Cthulhu in mixed company and you’ll find that most people look at you as if you’ve obviously had one to many Bacardi-and-Cokes. You’ll occasionally encounter someone who knows that Cthulhu is the name of a fictional god created by American author Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and that person will often argue that you’re pronouncing the Great Old One’s name incorrectly.

Proper Pronunciation of Cthulhu

So perhaps the best place to start is with the proper pronunciation of “Cthulhu”. The fact of the matter is everyone pronounces his name incorrectly because humans, according to Lovecraft, lack the ability to do so. Another reason is that people will think you’re coughing up a lung. Consider these quotes from letters written by Lovecraft to a friend:

“The actual sound – as nearly as human organs could imitate it or human letters record it – may be taken as something like Khlul’-hloo, with the first syllable pronounced gutturally and very thickly.”

“The best approximation one can make is to grunt, bark, or cough the imperfectly formed syllables Cluh-Luh with the tip of the tongue firmly affixed to the roof of the mouth. That is, if one is a human being. Directions for other entities are naturally different.”

Even armed with this knowledge, I still tend to pronounce it kuh-THOO-loo. I’m a huge fan of Lovecraft’s work, but I’m not such an anal-retentive loser that I’m going to insist on performing glottal barks whenever I mention the name of my blog to someone.

Physical Appearance of Cthulhu

Many depictions of Cthulhu exist; I’ve created several myself. He is a beloved muse of morbid artists everywhere. And although the tentacled head is always present, other aspects can vary wildly from rendering to rendering. I’ve seen images of Cthulhu without wings and others where he has a chiseled torso like Brad Pitt.

Thus the second issue we’ll consider is what Lovecraft saw in his mind when he imagined his most famous creation. Fortunately for us, the man was not stingy with the details. He even drew us a picture, despite the fact that he was an abysmal sketch artist.

Here is Lovecraft’s description of Cthulhu which makes it pretty clear that even though Cthulhu is a god, he’s also a bloated fat-ass:

“The figure, which was finally passed slowly from man to man for close and careful study, was between seven and eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship. It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular block or pedestal covered with undecipherable characters. The tips of the wings touched the back edge of the block, the seat occupied the centre, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way down toward the bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the facial feelers brushed the backs of huge fore paws which clasped the croucher’s elevated knees.”

— H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

Another description in the same story describes the wings as “rudimentary,” giving the impression that they look almost silly on such a massive frame.

Cthulhu Kept in Check

According to The Call of Cthulhu, the gods known as the Great Old Ones, which of course includes Cthulhu…

“…were not composed altogether of flesh and blood. They had shape – for did not this star-fashioned image prove it? – but that shape was not made of matter. 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. But although They no longer lived, They would never really die. 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. But at that time some force from outside must serve to liberate Their bodies. The spells that preserved them intact likewise prevented Them from making an initial move, and They could only lie awake in the dark and think whilst uncounted millions of years rolled by. They knew all that was occurring in the universe, for Their mode of speech was transmitted thought. Even now They talked in Their tombs. When, after infinities of chaos, the first men came, the Great Old Ones spoke to the sensitive among them by moulding their dreams; for only thus could Their language reach the fleshly minds of mammals.”

Which brings me to the gibberish in the right sidebar of this blog. It reads Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. The translation of this is “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

Cthulhu is my Copilot

The meaning of the title of my blog is multi-layered. At its simplest level, it is an obvious mockery of the sickeningly complacent “God is my Copilot” take on life. At its most complicated, it serves as a reminder to me that none of us are in complete control and that no matter how powerful we become, we’re helpless in and of ourselves. Whether or not one chooses to believe in God, one needs, at the very least, the support and companionship of others. Even mighty Cthulhu can’t do dick without people believing in him.


About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
This entry was posted in All Things Eldritch, The VOX Years and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Cthulhu 101

  1. Morgan says:

    Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!If Cthulhu is your copilot you should switch seats.

  2. sonyaseattle says:

    Thanks for the pronunciation help! I always stumble over the name when using it in casual conversation, and that's just embarrassing. Very informative post. I'd never seen that sketch before.

  3. Chaz says:

    http://www.supportourribbons.com/m/9764Bumper stickers for his 2008 presidential campaign are out.Same slogan, "Cthulhu '08: Why Settle for a Lesser Evil?"

  4. Chaz says:

    http://www.supportourribbons.com/m/9764Bumper stickers for his 2008 presidential campaign are out.Same slogan, "Cthulhu '08: Why Settle for a Lesser Evil?"

  5. Chaz says:

    (frakkin elder god induced time distortion!) 😛

  6. Kirk says:

    Yeah, don't ever say Cthulhu doesn't have a sense of humor.

  7. Chaz says:

    "You know that Cthulhu, he sure doesn't have a sense of humor…oh my god…my god…NOOOOOOOO!!!!! ack ""hello, Joe? You there? Joe?"Don't ever. You sure got that right.

  8. Pingback: Cute Cthulhu Crash Course | Cthulhu is my Copilot

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