Cthulhu's origin is typically mysterious as it is a creature far older than the universe; it is one of the Great Old Ones, a collection of god like beings that roamed the multiverse far longer than we as humans could ever comprehend. Although it's gender is unknown (and is assuredly not one we can classify) it is generally referred to with a more masculine tone, if ever addressed in that context. Due to the limitations of human comprehension, Dread Cthulhu is given the title of omnipotence by our understanding of it; however, it is still but a high priest that worships beings that, by grand measure, transcend our concepts of omnipotence.
Cthulhu settled on earth and was imprisoned beneath the oceans in his sunken city of R'lyeh. The first appearance of the Cthulhu was in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu" published in Weird Tales in 1928.
Cthulhu was originally created by early horror author H.P. Lovecraft. The character has since been adapted to many other works but has always severed as an enormous presence in the world and a source of incomprehensible horror and power that is always a looming threat in the background that could destroy our world, our sun, and reality as we know it at whim. In all works, the fear the character derives, is not from its physicality or the god-like potency of its ability, but of it as a concept. Once a character discovers Cthulhu's existence, everything is thrown violently into perspective: humans are almost literally nothing compared to beings such as the Old Ones, we are to them even less than a virus is to us. If a human comes in contact with enough viruses, it can ultimately die; however, no matter how many of humans there are, we are still not even worth noting in the Eyes of the Old Ones- we might as well not even exist. Therefore, the protagonist's beliefs and faiths are shattered as they realizes human kind is simply an easily correctable mistake in a harsh, uncaring universe given no higher meaning than to be utterly dominated.
Although it wasn't his favorite creation (that would be the colour out of space), Lovecraft was enormously proud of his character Cthulhu and universe and encouraged others to develop it and use his characters. This was most obvious in his works as editor and mentor to other authors and was said to often suggest total re-writes of horror tales around his own characters or in their universe.
August Derleth, one of Lovecraft collaborators, went on to further the mythos after Lovecraft's passing and would collect stories into anthologies further encouraging the use of Lovecraft's creation.
Cthulhu and the Cthulhu Mythos was championed by several famous authors in the 1980's, most notably Stephen King and Brian Lumley (Necroscope), and interest in his works remained strong with many movies, comics, novels and other media dedicated to the myths. Metallica lyricist James Hetfield is famously inspired by Lovecraft using his works as basis or song lyrics and titles.
Bluntly stated, applying a personality type to an Old God does not work, as they are driven by motives and plans that are much bigger than humans. Cthulhu is sometimes regarded as "evil", but this is not how it is depicted in "The Call of Cthulhu" and other works. Cthulhu is amoral, with an ethic that transcends conventional notions of good and evil. Cthulhu only seems evil to humans, as he has his own purposes which we don't know and cannot comprehend. He regards humanity as of trivial importance, that being just as a potential source of food and slaves (and not very useful slaves at that).
S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz describe this amorality as the "anti-mythology" of Lovecraft's fiction. In most mythologies, man's significance in the universe is validated by his connection to divine agents with similar moral values. However, Lovecraft shattered this conceit by basing his stories and mythos on the "premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large... To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of space or time or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all... [W]hen we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold." Throughout all works, Cthulhu's nature seems to be consistent with this view.
It should be noted that although by human comprehension Cthulhu is both omnipotent and omniscient, he is not close to the top of the power hierarchy of Lovecraftian lore (he is dwarfed by beings such as Azathoth and Yog Sothoth), and therefore carries the title of "High Priest". Even though Cthulhu is hinted at being omnipotent, it rarely (if never) uses remote fractions of said power; it can be assumed that since Cthulhu is neigh-immortal in terms of both being eternal and 'un-killable', the being does not need to put forth any effort as no matter what happens it will eventually get what it wants. In addition, the "type" of immortality that Cthulhu has is beyond what most can comprehend, as he is said to outlast death itself. It should be noted that although many "powers" are listed, Cthulhu only has its physicality and psychic ability at it's disposal. However, Cthulhu's psychic ability is, by every definition of the word, limitless. This limitlessness combined with a knowledge of everything across the multiverse (including all spells) allows Cthulhu the ability to control every facet of reality at will with ease.
Arguably Cthulhu's most notable trait is the fact that he, alongside the rest of Great Old Ones, cannot be comprehended by humans; when a human so much as looks at a visage of Cthulhu, they will almost certainly be driven mad.
There is a misconception among many that a boat killed, or banished, Cthulhu. As amusing as that sounds, it is simply not the case. The boat, however, was able to temporarily harm Cthulhu since Cthulhu was left in a weakened state after briefly 'waking up' from its death-like hibernation. Further, the main reason that Cthulhu did not pursue the ship was that it was simply disinterested. It is cited that Cthulhu went back to sleep because the stars were not right; it wasn't time for him to awaken.
There is another misconception that Cthulhu it "trapped" in R'lyeh. It should be noted that this is not true, as evidence by it's emergence when Gustaf Johansen and his companions came close to R'lyeh, as Cthulhu came out to investigate their arrival with his own eyes, before going back to sleep. In any work, it is never said that Cthulhu is captive or imprisoned in his own sunken city. However, it is regarded in the work as a tomb, which might have brought about the misconception. R'lyeh is considered Cthulhu's tomb due to the death-like way Cthulhu "sleeps" whilst he dreams and waits.
Cthulhu is said to have a world-wide 'doomsday cult' centered in Arabia. The Cult of Cthulhu has followers scattered across the entire world (as it is extremely effective at recruiting new members), and the cult itself has survived through the centuries. The cult's behind-the-scenes activities play a major role in both H.P.L and Derleth's stories, and through them Cthulhu can continue to implicitly exert his influence while it dreams in R'lyeh. The supposedly immortal leaders of Cthulhu's cult are said to reside in the secluded mountains of China. This cult is portrayed as nihilistic in nature and seeks to awaken the Old Ones and bring about an apocalyptic age of darkness in which, according to some stories, men would be reduced to screaming and ripping both themselves and each other apart in fits of madness. Though humans might worship Cthulhu as he lies sleeping, they are immaterial to his grand design. Cthulhu is also worshiped by the horrific Deep Ones and the Mi-go, other alien beings in Lovecraft's world.
Cthulhu also has numerous "star-spawn" at his disposal, as the star-spawn of Cthulhu (or Cthulhi) are beings who arrived on Earth with Cthulhu. Like Cthulhu, they can mutate their shapes, but always retain their master's distinctive outline albeit smaller. The nature of the "star-spawn" and their relationship with Cthulhu is not widely known. After coming to Earth, the star-spawn built a great basalt city called R'lyeh on an island in the Pacific Ocean. They warred briefly with the Elder Things (the creators of mankind), but thereafter established a treaty. When R'lyeh sank, most of the star-spawn became trapped beneath the sea with Cthulhu.
Cthulhu has several avatars, including B'moth (Beh'moth, the Devourer) and Chorazin.
- Azathoth (great-great-grandfather)
- Yog-Sothoth (grandfather)
- Shub-Niggurath (grandmother)
- Nug (parent)
- Hnargu (brother)
- Kthanid (brother)
- Hastur (half-brother)
- Cthaeghya (half-sister)
- Idh-yaa (wife)
- Ghatanothoa (offspring)
- Ythogtha (offspring)
- Zoth-Ommog (offspring)
- Cthylla (offspring)
- T'ith (offspring)
Major Story Arcs
He is a being of power unimaginable to mere mortals. The very sight of him drives mortals mad. On 2012, at the rise of the Gibbous moon, on the end of the Mayan Calendar, he will awaken from his slumber and teach man a new kind of fear. He will arise from the lost city R'lyeh in the furthest Reaches of the sea. His spawn are the foul deep ones, smaller versions of the great one and the people of the lost city of R'Yeh. A place with structures built with non-euclidean geometry, the very likes of which cannot be imagined by mere mortals, and to lay eyes on it is to be driven to the depths of Insanity. His cult is centered in Arabia, with members all over the world, from Greenland to Chile. The leaders of the cult hailing from China. Among the Great Old Ones his main rival is his half brother Hastur.
Cthulhu was born on the planet Vhoorl, located in the 23rd nebula. He traveled to the star Zoth where he spawned his offspring. Along with his children and the Star Spawn of Cthulhu, Cthulhu traveled to Saturn and then to Earth. They landed on a continent in the Pacific Ocean and built the city, R'lyeh. Cthulhu received resistance from the Elder Things who also lived on the planet. They waged war for the planet Earth until a truce was made. Cthulhu then went into a deep hibernation within R'lyeh. Humanity then evolved on Earth and Cthulhu communicated with several through dreams, resulting in the Cult of Cthulhu. Disaster then struck R'lyeh, sinking it into the ocean. R'lyeh has risen from the ocean for brief amounts of time. However, it is fated that R'lyeh will rise from the ocean permanently and Cthulhu will retake the world.
A famous phrase about Cthulhu is "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" which roughly translates into "In his house at R'lyeh Dead Cthulhu lies dreaming". He inspired the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred to create the Nercronomicon, a book bound in human flesh, the pages made of skin, and the words written in blood, that describes many gory rituals to awaken the great old ones and describes them in horrific detail. Perhaps the most famous Couplet from it is " That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange æons even death may die".
He has many minions, not the least of which are the horrific Deep ones. He has divine servants such as Dagon and Hydra, though it is debatable whether or not that they are Divine or simply just really large Deep ones. But his favored minions are The Star spawn of Cthulhu, also known as the Cthulhi, they are like Miniature versions of their great and dark Master. Cthulhu's Consort is Idh-yaa and she bore him four children. In order from oldest to youngest they are, Ghatanothoa, Ythogtha, Zoth-Ommog, and Cthylla. The first three being his sons, and the last being his only daughter. Cthylla is guarded by deep ones and far worse creatures as she is vital to the Great one's plans. For if somehow Cthulhu were to ever be destroyed beyond his healing factor's ability to repair, she would give birth to him again.
- He has power beyond mortal comprehension and is able to nearly instantly regenerate his body if it is ever to be damaged the wound will heal faster than it is made.
- He is the ruiner of countless worlds, the devourer of innumerable souls (and suns), and ender of hope.
- He also has immortality beyond what most can comprehend, for it is stated that he will outlast death itself. If this is true then he can never be truly destroyed.
- He is as large if not larger than any earthly mountain, being able to stand well above sea level in some of the deepest parts of the sea.
- It is unknown whether or not he can fly using his massive wings, but it is probable.
He is also capable of shape shifting, as he has taken multiple forms over the years; however, the Octopus headed, Dragon winged, Human caricature is the most familiar. Some more obscure forms include a gigantic pulsing blob of writhing tentacles and mountainous pseudopod and a huge mass of constantly changing colors. All will cause a man to go insane upon glancing it.
In fact Cthulhu's power is so tremendous that when he is to awaken everything in 1,000 miles of R'lyeh will either be destroyed in mind, body, and soul which is the fate of the more fortunate ones, or go irrevocably insane as you see the truths of the omniverse. Unlike most beings who are limited to one multiverse, Cthulhu exists in the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse as well as the Lovecraft mythos at the same time. His mastery of magics, technology, and psionics have few equals anywhere in existence and the simple fact that he has mastered all three of these rather than just one is truly a feat. He also is capable of reality, matter, energy, time, and space manipulation on a truly massive scale. His age is stated to be in the vigintillions of years, or 120 zeroes. By this count, Cthulhu already has a lifespan that dwarfs our own universe's, as the universe is merely 13.772 billion years old and is predicted to last for only five billion more years (according to the theory of eternal inflation, which states that our universe is part of the multiverse); this therefore implies that he has seen many many universes come and go and that ours is merely the latest one to him.
More of his powers include: the ability to ignore nuclear weapons as if they were nothing, knowledge and mastery of every single spell, and much like the vast majority of the great old ones, is able to summon Azathoth (chiefest God with all immeasurable, even compared to Cthulhu). Azathoth is the ruler of the outer gods, beings above the Great old ones and equals of the Elder gods in the books of August Derleth.
Cthulhu's resources also are practically as endless as his power. He has an army of truly massive proportions at his disposal, consisting of untold legions of insane horrors all over the multiverses he exists in. R'lyeh was merely the tip of the iceberg of the resources at his disposal, so to speak. As mentioned he has mastered sciences mankind has never seen (or will never for that matter), and he has mastered magics well beyond the reach of any man, and his control over psionic forces has few peers, as it is truely limitless. His allies are many and his enemies are few. For who would in their right mind challenge something that is madness incarnate?
While he has only starred in one book of Lovecraft's stories and has been merely a minor monster in his books, other authors soon increased his powers, from a world threat, to a universal threat, to a multiversal threat, in a few decades. He has spawned perhaps the most spin offs and rip offs of any Fictional Entity in existence. Shuma Gorath, The Illithids, Aboleths, and Elder Evils of Dungeons and Dragons, The Nameless things of Tolkein, and Virtually every madenning thing of a near unknowable age. As he is now public domain, he is commonly put into modern works, such as the justice league cartoon in terror from the stars, which featured a toned down version called Icthulhu as the producer mistakenly thought Cthulhu was still under copyright, the grim adventures in Billy and Mandy, and is a major subject in Nox arcana's necronomicon album.
His impact is undeniable and exploded upon the expiration of the copyright, as writers could finally use him in their works. Hollywood has been slow to notice and only in 2005 did they create a true to the book movie of Cthulhu, but that was but a test of the sellibillity of a Lovecraft movie. In the next decade a new saga of Lovecraft book based movies will be released. The next movie is to be The Mountains of Madness, where Cthulhu is referenced as being a mass of pulpy tentacles on an amorphous blob.
Cthulhu in Pop-culture
TV shows and movies
This being was parodied in Darkwing Duck as a being known as Duckthulhu.
Cthulhu appeared in two episodes of South Park: "Mysterion Rises" and "Coon vs. Coon and Friends." Eric Cartman, while in costume as the Coon, befriends Cthulhu and convinces him to remake the world in his image. Cthulhu is eventually defeated by Mint Berry Crunch.
For the episode Treehouse of Horror XXIV, when Bart Simpson rides his skateboard across Springfield, Cthulhu picks him up on its tentacles. It makes a background cameo at Krustyland in Halloween of Horror. It is also the main antagonist from the story Cthulhu? Gesundheit! which is featured in a comic book The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #19.
He appeared in the Real Ghostbusters episode "The Collect Call of Cathulhu" as "Cathulhu."
One of the heavy metal band Metallica's popular songs in their album Ride the Lightning was a song called "Call of Ktulu," which obviously is in reference to the beast. The named is intentionally misspelled due to the belief that if you say Cthulhu's name verbally, he will come closer to you. Another song by Metallica that is inspired by Cthulhu is "The Thing That Should Not Be" from their album Master of Puppets.
The Cabin in the Woods has characters that pay homage on Cthulhu: the Ancient Ones, which are direct homage to him, especially being ancient deities.
Cthulhu is featured in the opening credits of Rick and Morty.
In the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy episode "Prank Call of Cthulhu", Cthulhu is literally called on a telephone by Billy, and uses him to start sending prank calls to people that turn them into squid monsters. He is seen playing miniature golf.
Leela goes on a date with it at the start of Futurama comics #58 story Dummy up which ends in him fighting with Bender and deleting his sense of humor.
He has multiple appearances in The Nostalgia Critic's reviews.
Books, Comics, and Manga
Cthulhu shows up in the manga of Aoi House.
Has appeared in the Hellboy comics.
Cthulhu was the main protagonist in the Indie RPG "Cthulhu Saves The World", where he must do a great deed to get his godly powers once again.
In the videogame Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Cthulhu is the name of a minor enemy with a strong fire breath attack and he is seen at the bottom of the Marble Gallery and again in various parts of the Inverted Castle. However, due to localization misplacing, this enemy is originally "Devil" in the Japanese release of the game while the enemy "Malachi" is the representation of the actual Cthulhu. Due to both monsters being minor henchmen for Dracula, technically Cthulhu does not qualify as a Castlevania villain.
He was parodied in World of Warcraft as C'thun.
In Magicka DLC called The Stars Are Left, Cthulhu appears as the final boss. Though his portrayal in the game depicted him to be smaller than his original counterpart whom depicted begin larger, if not having equal size with mountains but remain larger than the protagonists (this Cthulhu portrayed with height around 10 meters tall). He can summon minions includes Deep Ones and Dagon in battle, summoning squid-like tentacles as means to attack in distance, conjures deadly Pink Ball Of Death which slow but highly devastating, and able to suck in everything in front of him with his mouth.
In the online videogame "AdventureQuest World", popularly known as AQ, Cthulhu is a major boss called a Chaos Beast, seemingly working for Chaos Lord Iadoa, under the name Kathool, while actually having ulterior motives, and wants the player to defeat him and Iadoa, so he can achieve his goals.