Can You Fight the Mythos? Special Cthulhu Edition

Right now I’m reading The Best of H.P. Lovecraft, which is a comparatively weighty tome to the first two volumes. But it contains a certain tale some of you may be familiar with, and the story which is the reason behind this series entire. That story goes by the title of Call of Cthulhu.

It’s a complex and winding tale. A young man comes into possession of a distant relative’s manuscripts, and a strange idol. The narrator travels about, piecing together clues and anecdotes to reconstruct what had previously happened. This primarily concerns two different occurrences: a federal raid on a Cthulhu-cult in the Louisiana bayou many years previous, and a shipwreck and survivor of an encounter with dread Cthulhu himself.

For our purposes, the rest of the tale can be set aside for now. Let us look at the facts concerning the encounter with Cthulhu:

*A storm, caused by Cthulhu’s awakening forces a ship, the Emma off its course. It cannot be directly concluded which event caused the other- if the Emma’s simple presence caused Cthulhu to psychically reach out, or if the Emma was simply a victim of being in the wrong place at the same time.
*Almost a month later, the lost Emma encounters a ship (the Alert) crewed by (presumable) Cthulhu cultists, and bests them in battle, what with the Emma crewed by hearty Norwegians and the cultists racial degenerates.
*Soon after, they land on Cthulhu-island (aka R’yleh). There’s similarities to the island in Dagon, but it can’t be said for sure if it’s the same place- there is vastly more architecture in R’yleh.
*Captain Johansen arrives with eight men, who explore the strange city.
*They find an “immense carved door,” “like a great barn door,” at a generally strange angle to the ground and land. “Men wondered how any door in the universe could be so vast.” The man who opens the door from the far side rather quickly rejoins the group, before any other action occurs.
*Cthulhu comes out of the door.
*Two perish in fright immediately, and three more are “swept up by flabby claws” before any further action can be taken. Another falls on the strange terrain while attempting to escape. The remaining two explorers reach the boat.
*The other survivor looks back and goes mad, seeing Cthulhu pursuing, and eventually dies of exposure.
*Johansen brings the boat around and rams Cthulhu, doing significant, but non-lasting damage. Cthulhu sinks beneath the waves, and Johansen escapes.

How Big is Cthulhu? Big, but not that big. Cthulhu is described as “A mountain walked or stumbled.” The door it arrives through is massive. Yet it’s also small enough for a man to slide down safely and quickly. A scope of miles does not make sense. A scale similar to Godzilla or King Kong does Cthulhu justice: massive.

How Deadly is Cthulhu? Deadly, but not that deadly. Cthulhu is famously stated as “Damage: 1d6 Investigators per round,” but I think he just had a good first round. After the first round, Cthulhu’s damage output significantly decreases: 1 Investigator during the entire chase sequence on the island (and it must have taken them more than one round to get back to the boat), and then nothing.

(Interestingly, in my research I found that Cthulhu’s original statblock had him doing 22d6 damage with a claw, or 16d6 with his tentacles, with 100% accuracy- certainly enough to take out a hero each action. The later editions added a special attack: “if the investigators are unlucky enough to meet Cthulhu, each round 1d3 investigators are scooped up in Cthulhu’s flabby claws to die horribly.”

Clearly, if you can get away from the man himself, you have a fair chance of launching a counter-attack.

How Tough is Cthulhu? One would have to imagine with all that bulk, shotguns and dynamite just won’t do the trick. (Call of Cthulhu places is armor above the damage output with most weapons, and allows him to regenerate. Editions of the game that give stats for mortars and field guns, as well as investigators patient enough to whittle down Cthulhu’s hit points are victorious, but then he reforms in 1d10 + 10 minutes.)

But enough blunt force trauma may be, surprisingly all you need. Johansen turns his boat around and rams it into Cthulhu, doing rather more damage to Cthulhu than to the boat:
“[Johansen] drove his vessel head on against the pursing jelly… there was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler would not put on paper.”
However, it’s clearly not a killing blow: “the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form.” But it gives Johansen enough time to get away.

But Maybe Cthulhu Destroyed the World Later: No, he didn’t. The narrator, by this point, is writing months and months after the events.

But Maybe the Stars Were Wrong: Was Cthulhu woken up on accident, and thus Johansen only defeated a groggy version of the Elder God? Possibly. The narrator assumes so. However:
The Call of Cthulhu (which gives strange dreams, and causes some further insanity, but presumably only in the already mentally unbalanced), is accompanied by earthquakes- likely from R’yleh rising to the surface, weeks before the Emma arrives at R’yleh.
During this time, artists around the world have strange dreams. It stops on the day that Johansen escapes Cthulhu.

A more likely interpretation of the events suggests that the Stars Were Right, and the Call of Cthulhu was unleashed, but Johansen’s timely intervention stopped the entrance of Cthulhu on earth. If he and his crew were responsible, the Call would have happened when the vault was opened.

One can’t reasonably conclude the Emma’s presence was solely responsible for awakening great Cthulhu; the text mentions specific latitude and longitude: boats know where that spot is, and can find it, and have been there before.

Can You Fight Cthulhu? Yes. All you need is enough blunt force trauma. But that won’t kill him.

However, one wonders what one might be able to do with more advanced technology.

Lovecraft never lived to the nuclear age, (which is a shame, because the fears of the time would have resonated with him) but one of his colleagues did, a man who collaborated with him strongly on the Cthulhu Mythos. You might have heard of him: August Derleth.
And according to Derleth, the answer to the age old question of “what happens if I nuke Cthulhu” is not “he reforms next round, but now he’s radioactive.”


11 thoughts on “Can You Fight the Mythos? Special Cthulhu Edition

  1. oberonthefool says:

    The argument I keep hearing from my Lovecraftian friends is that the physical manifestation is merely an avatar of the cosmic being called Cthulhu, the spiritual essence of which is beyond the reach of mortal comprehension, let alone attack. Cthulhu is an omnidimensional being, and what we see of him is merely the portion of him that extends into those few narrow dimension we can apprehend.

    It may be noted that human sorcerers (notably Randolph Carter) in Lovecraft’s earlier proto-Mythos works are capable of such transcendent cognition and action with proper training and guidance from the higher planes (in Randolph’s case, guidance from his own dissociated omniplanar aspect).

  2. Willow says:

    Yet Cthulhu’s call ends with his physical defeat. Cthulhu may not be killable, per se, but you can fight him and win. (Though the odds of survival aren’t great, no matter what stats he has.)

    I have a whole additional post planned on the possibilities for nuclear-age mythos, but I will be the first to admit it branches in speculative directions.

  3. oberonthefool says:

    It is indubitable that Lovecraft’s contemporaries and fans have expanded the Mythos far beyond what Lovecraft himself might have envisioned. I suspect some of the “unfathomable cosmic horror” and despair that Lovecraft is known for may be a product of this phenomenon more than it is of his actual artistic intent. The degree to which this may or may not be the case is a subject of debate that has no foreseeable end.

    Looking forward to the next post ^_^

  4. […] This Way Lies Madness Willow’s Random Thoughts « Can You Fight the Mythos? Special Cthulhu Edition […]

  5. zach says:

    The idea behind the boat managing to delay Cthulhu was not meant to be taken as most people take it. The idea behind it that a steam boat, one of the mightiest machines on the face of the Earth, ran him over and he survived. It was meant to mean that not even the most powerful machine humans can create at any time has a chance at stopping the being. There is also a theory that the creature that attacked the ship may have also been a star spawn of Cthulhu, as hinted in the Mountains of Madness. The reason the dreams and visions stopped was because it only happens once every few years when the city rises from the ocean. Cthulhu can adjust his size to whatever he wants to be. It’s a non-euclidean being which means it exist in more then three dimensions. So you can disrupt it’s form, but the being still lives. I go by the idea that humans walking on the island city activated the awaking of the creatures within.

    • zach says:

      I also don’t mean to imply that I’m right, it is merely my theory given the description of an extra-dimensional being. This is just my personal theory.

      • Zach says:

        Non-Euclidean geometry consists of any geometric shape that doesn’t follow Euclid’s rules. A sphere is one such shape. It is actually mentioned in the story that the stars were in fact right. Cthulhu is able to be defeated, as are his kin, the Cthulhu Star Spawn. They actually war with the Elder Things in ITMOM. It seems to me the insanity factor, besides those who die of fright, is more of an existential issue than an actual problem against incomprehensibility. In fact, sufficiently knowledgeable humans, such as Carter and the Witch from the dream house, are able to handle transcending dimensions and viewing beings like Yog-Sothoth and Azathoth (who is not omnipotent, as far as I’ve interpreted). Anyway, cool article.

  6. webspidrman says:

    Personally, I think that Darleth did a lot to accidentally mundane-ify several mythos beings, like Yog-Sothoth and Azathoth, especially when conceptions of them conflicted with his Christian views. For example, the “collaboration” between Lovecraft and Derleth called ‘The Lurker at the Threshold’ is NOT a collaboration: I was at a panel discussing this at NecronomiCon, and the Lovecraft scholars assembled all agreed that it was written entirely by Derleth with no input from Lovecraft: Derleth added Lovecraft’s name to the story to sell more copies; this explains why Yog-Sothoth is significantly less profound in that story than in ‘Through the Gates of the Silver Key’. Also, Lovecraft explicitly states that Azathoth is located at the “center of all infinity” NOT the “center of the universe” as Derleth states. People like the latter conception, because it allows for a “higher” and a potentially more benign God than Azathoth and/or it’s just easier to grasp, but Lovecraft in stories such as ‘The Colour Out of Space’ and ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’ among others presumes that our universe is not the only one and that there are existences outside of our universe, which pans out with modern scientific theories and multiverse theory. Limiting Azathoth to a single universe being destroyed and remade limits its scope considerably. In one of the poems in ‘Fungi from Yuggoth’, Azathoth is sloughing off whole realities like nobody’s business.

    In ‘Through the Gates of the Silver Key’, “Yog-Sothoth” states that the Outer Gods, in their highest form, are just archetypes, which makes a TON of sense. Therefore, it may be perfectly logical that various “lesser” Yog-Sothoths and Azathoths exist throughout the omniverse (which is to say everything and nothing), but that these are imperfect avatars of the types themselves which transcend all such physical manifestations: therefore there could be an Azathoth at the center of the universe, but if so there may be additional ones operating in the Mythos and/or beyond our knowledge, and all of these are but the smallest facets of the infinitely greater Azathoth which is the same as creation/destruction of reality itself.

    • Zach says:

      I would like to state that even ‘‘Through the Gates of the Silver Key” was a collaboration that benefited Price originally. As he was the on who came up with the mathematical dimensions and the metaphysical archetypes. Yog-Sothoth from Lovecraft’s stories seemed to be far more of a being that exist in hyper-space than the infinite dimensioned creature in ‘Through the Gates of the Silver Key’. I digress, it is all a matter of interpretation. Well, one may very well conclude that the universe at that time was thought to be infinite, so placing Azathoth at the center of it all could mean exactly the same thing. I do not thing that just because Azathoth is ‘limited’ to one universe that that makes it somehow less powerful than another being. In fact Azathoth’s power isn’t really something that we should focus on for the character. In the end, Azathoth represents destruction and entropy in the universe. He may not be the manifestation of a greater force, but he/it is probably responsible for said forces.

      • webspidrman says:

        I can understand your issue with the presentation of Yog-Sothoth in ‘Through the Gates of the Silver Key’; I mainly mentioned that to offer the “multiple avatar” theory as a consolation to conflicting views (even ones I disagree with strongly ;D ). I can agree to the possibility that Yog-Sothoth may in fact be a being rather than an archetype (notably in ‘Through the Gates of the Silver Key’ the being is described as MAYBE being Yog-Sothoth, not that it is Yog-Sothoth), and I can see that as consistent with Lovecraft’s canon. My main issue with the “centre of the universe” interpretation for Azathoth is that Lovecraft always, and in several different stories, described Azathoth as existing in a space that was not the centre of the universe, and Lovecraft not once said that it was in the centre of the universe. Instead Lovecraft wrote that Azathoth resided, ‘Outside the ordered universe’, ‘in the centre of all infinity’, and in ‘the centre of Ultimate Chaos’. On top of that, Lovecraft unambiguously has Azathoth creating, destroying, and ‘sloughing off’ universes in both ‘Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ and ‘Fungi from Yuggoth’.

        I can’t understand why people passionately insist that Azathoth is something less than what Lovecraft described him. Maybe you can tell me what the appeal is of having him be at the “centre of the universe”? 🙂 Maybe it’s because August Derleth and later authors described him as such. (Curse you, Derleth!! xD ) At the end of the day Azathoth’s a fictional entity; I’m worried that the only reason people insist so strongly about this point is because they somehow think this fictional entity needs to be “knocked down a peg” to be less powerful than God, when (assuming God is real) God is already more powerful than Azathoth by virtue of existing. I just feel like Lovecraft deserves credit for having the vision to imagine a multi-verse before there was even a word for it. And yet this can’t be accomplished without acknowledging what Lovecraft wrote. :p

  7. Zach says:

    I can agree with your statement about Yog-Sothoth, as I recall it implied to be the being without saying it outright. Again it’s all an interpretation. In regards to Azathoth residing in the center of the universe, I was just trying to supplement the possibility of the scope that some people are trying to claim he exist in. I would like to mention that the quote about Universes being born/destroyed in ‘Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ never actually referenced Azathoth doing so. I would also like to mention that this took place in the Dreamlands, and seemed to be worded in such a way as to be far more a description for how long Carter fell. The quote from the ‘Fungi from Yuggoth’, a poem, talks about Azathoth giving “each frail cosmos its eternal law” through chance combining. You can interpret that how you wish. The poem also elaborates on the terrible rumor that the Universe is Azathoth’s dream (A misconception that came about when Prince made the comparison between Azathoth and MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI) as it states ‘dreamed’ in past tense form, implying that the entity is awake (as awake as the blind, idiot god can be). In regards to my personal thought as to Azathoth’s location, I feel that he exist in a place only accessible through Hyper-space, where he exist outside of what we consider to be the Universe. This is supported by both ‘Dream Quest…’ and ‘Dreams in the Witch house’. There is also a quote implying that while many of the Other Gods are as old as the Universe (Space), Azathoth is actually older. As per Azathoth being less than God, I don’t know. Azathoth is the God of Lovecraft’s mythos. My issue comes in when people automatically assume Azathoth is victorious in battle forums on sites such as Comic vine. Especially when they reference Demonbane as well as take thing extraordinarily out of meaning and context. Pitting Azathoth up against a comic book world is very unfair considering the amount of being in comics who have actually operate above Azathoth’s level. This is not me insulting Azathoth, this is me just saying that some forms of fiction really are not compatible with each other. Azathoth isn’t terrifying because of the idea some creature could beat him. He’s terrifying because he embodies realities nature towards everything. Uncaring, unknowing, and indifferent. Remember the terrible fate of the Yith when their home world was destroyed, or the insects of Shaggi, the colony of Elder Things in the Mountain’s of Madness? Each of them needlessly destroyed for no purpose. That’s what is scary about Lovecraft’s universe, and to some extent, our own. Beings like Cthulhu, Rhan-Tegoth, Nyarlathotep, etc. they are all part of an uncaring universe and are inevitably subject to the same purposeless fate. Just like humans and ants, whether or not the ants can overwhelm and kill the human is pointless, because in the end, both die a meaningless death. I feel that the point of making his creatures so odd and “inhuman” (something I will elaborate on next) was to show humanity the universe is a far stranger place than we dare to dream. I would like to touch on Lovecraft’s humanity as well. Specifically in regards to people assuming that any human looking upon any of the beings causes one to go completely mad. This is really only true for the cowering fearful intellectuals that happen to be Lovecraft’s protagonist. When in actuality, many of the times the beings are defeated and or outsmarted by a human in the story. Carter is a perfect example of this (without getting into arch-types). The defeat of Chaugnar Faugn is another example. The short story “Beyond The Wall of Sleep” alludes to humans being not so ‘human’ after all. Anyway, that’s my short rant on this subject. Head over to comic vine if you wish to continue our conversation. I will leave you with a Lovecraftain description of a glass of milk.

    ” I wouldn’t trust a Lovecraftian description of a glass of milk, let alone of their alleged cosmic horrors.” – Foamy

    “Like distilled madness, the ghastly white fluid was of a viscous quality quite unlike anything that could truly be called ‘liquid’ by contemporary man.
    This pseudo-fluid was contained, yet not contained, within a transparent barrier like the purest ice, yet its temperature was not cool. This container was not a square, but a thing of unnaturally precise curves.” -Pooka

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: