Saturday, January 11, 2014

Day 11: Knowing Your Elder Gods (A Guide to Worshiping Cthulhu)

The Dread, Dead, Dreaming God Himself
Playing Eldritch Horror (mentioned on Day 1!), I've found myself wanting to re-read and hunt down some new Cthulhu Mythos. Many nerds are well aware of Elder Gods, Cthulhu, and his gang o' merry monsters. Not one "mundy" has a damn clue.

This is for you, not-particularly-nerdy-guy. I'm going to give a break down on what you need to become hip with your insanity-causing beings from outer space and beyond. Pretty soon you'll be saying, "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," with all the other cool cultists--err, kids.

First, the crash course:

H.P. Lovecraft introduced the cosmic-octopus-thing known as Cthulhu in 1928 in his short story, "The Call of Cthulhu." From there, he built up a warped pantheon of twisted, madness dwelling/causing beings, ranging from Yog-Sothoth to Nyarlathotep. The have been many and they generally come from outside our dimension and are busy trying to get in, get back in, or wake up.

All of these gods are generally bad. Lovecraft didn't give a good vs evil split, though later authors have shifted things a bit. Cthulhu is especially bad for he drives folks insane while he's only dreaming -- if he were to wake up, the entire world would suffer.

These are horror stories, but not usually written with shock value. Instead, these are supposed to be the horrors at the edge of your mind, things that can only exist in dreams and, if fully witness, are sure to drive the viewer insane. Paranoia and delusions are the enemies, not machetes or chest-bursters. There are less omni-potent beings and monsters that serve the Great Old Ones, and there are even many weak-minded humans that fall under their sway as well.

Lovecraft wasn't a greedy guy, and he had no problem with friends of his using or adding to his work. The Cthulhu Mythos (Lovecraft Mythos, and probably more names) have many contributors, including contemporary writers such as Neil Gaiman. Many works include references to or were influence by the Mythos, including movies such as the Evil Dead series.

Alright, you've now got a rough knowledge of what's going on. Here's how to learn more and some tips or suggestions for branching out of the normal prescribed reading.

1. For the classics, I will strongly suggest you read, "The Call of Cthulhu," "At the Mountains of Madness," "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," and "The Dunwich Horror." These are all by Lovecraft and my personal favorites. There are plenty others to enjoy, but this is a crash course. I will give one word of warning -- the reading can be very, very dry. Approach this with interest but be prepared for a study sessions. Treat it as the characters generally do -- they're uncovering truths from the past and fearful portents of the future. Rarely do issues come to a head. The climax generally comes when the characters have simply had enough.
You learn about these guys at the Mountains of Madness.

2. Read some of the works by other authors. To keep this list short, I'll simply suggest looking for the writings of Brian Lumley, which include, "The Burrowers Beneath." Then jump to something from Neil Gaiman, such as, "A Study in Emerald," which combines the Mythos with Sherlock Holmes.

Difficult, but artfully done.
3. You've now got a solid background. You can delve into more reading, but I'll leave that up to you. My next suggestion is to find something more engaging. I suggest looking into board games such as Arkham Horror, a game with many, many rules, the similar-but-updated Eldritch Horror, or the video game The Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. You can find it on X-Box or PC. It's a touch dated, but captured the terror behind the Mythos fairly well.

3a. Fallout 3 has a side-mission that references "The Dunwich Horror" heavily -- it can be found in the Dunwich building at the South-Western edge of the map, and even gets an extension in the Point Lookout expansion.

4. Now it is time to make some connections! I strongly suggest looking into, a website devoted to Cthulhu fans. I don't much read the fan-fiction (I'm a canon kind of guy), but there is a lot to love on this website and I appreciate the weekly gaming live-chats (even if I don't watch them particularly often).

5. Go back and read more Lovecraft. Find which Elder thing interests you the most and hunt down stories for it. It's a large list, I've simply given you a starting point. I've skipped many classics, such as "Dagon," and ignored non-Mythos stories all-together. I've personally enjoyed, "The Rats in the Walls," and "The Colour Out of Space."

1 comment:

  1. Oh goody, I liked this one. Sadly I've never actually read any Lovecraft myself. Thanks for your suggestions - I will *eventually* read some of them when my current backlog is a big less daunting.