"Cthulhu in the Moon" and Lovecraft

Question One: Do any of the rest of you see “Cthulhu in the Moon?” I couldn’t find any pictures of it, but here’s a picture of the full moon… The body of Cthulhu is the dark area to the left and below, and the tentacles stretch out to the right, above.

It’s easier to see when you’re looking at an actual full moon…

Question Two: Is it at all likely that H.P. Lovecraft saw it this way and it helped inspire the creation of Cthulhu in his stories?

(I’m also bemused by the fact that my spell-checker accepts “Cthulhu” without quibbling.)

I still don’t see it myself. Those dark patches have been interpreted by different people variously as a Man in the Moon, a Rabbit, a Horned Toad, a Crab, a Man Carrying a Bundle of Sticks, and other things. If I work at it, I can sorta make a Cthulhu, but it’s a stretch.

I have felt that Cthulhu was inspired in part by the Greek Gorgons – he’s got the wings attributed to them by some authorities, and his octopoid features correspond to the snakes in their hair/in place of their hair (It’s significant that between 1890 and 1990 a dozen different people independently suggested that the Gorgon’s head was inspired by cephalopods – I wonder if Lovecraft, a big fan of mythology and of science, was aware of any of these. One made a big splash in the journal Folk-Lore).

In any event, I’ve committed myself to that idea in print.

Cthulhu could have been inspired by any numbers of things, but Lovecraft had him entombed in the ocean, so he probably got his primary inspiration from the octopus. The Elder gods and their servants were all aliens capable of space travel without ships, so the octopus’s method of movement, uncoiling tentacles while hovering and then shooting straight in one direction with ink propulsion, seemed like a good fit.

The “Gorgon” theory makes more sense, I confess.

It took me years to finally be able to see the rabbit in the moon.

I agree with this. I have the image of a sketch HP did of Cthulhu (I’m trying to remember my PhotoBucket password so I can upload it and link to it). The image is extremely aquatic. Remember also that HP was sickened by the sight and smell of sea food and you have it.

Here’s the sketch

DocCathode: Most cool! Thank you! That’s a fun and obviously relevant source-material sketch! It ain’t great art – even I can draw better than that, and I can’t draw – but it indicates the author’s intention, and that’s absolutely priceless. I’m quite jazzed by this! Coolest thing I’ve seen all day! Gush gush!

Other Lovecraft monsters:

Starfish people
Crab fungus
Octopus trees

In addition to assorted other tentacled horrors.

You may be onto something.

Well, not just Lovecraft. I just re-read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (in the edition annotated by Martin Gardner). When the ship is becalmed, right after the “water, water everywhere” stanza, it continues:

As Gardner points out, part of the weirdness is that the slimy things in the sea crawled with legs. the next stanza is suggestive of the well water in Lovecraft’s The Colour out of Space.

Nice. Looks like School of Edward Lear.

On Saturday I visited Cthulhu
Who is odder than a Zulu
His home at R’lyeh
Is really a d’lyeh
And would frighten Cindy Lou Who.

You can see almost anything you want in the moon. It’s a vague-enough shape to make it easy to fill in the details, though I have to work at it to see anything. The rabbit seems like the best fit to me, but I don’t see it naturally. The bigger the image of the moon, the harder it is to see anything but geographic features. (Well, moon-ographic features. :slight_smile: )

As for Cthulhu… it’s an OK fit compared to some of the other things people see.

I don’t think it’s what inspired Lovecraft. I’ve seen the sketch linked earlier, but more importantly I think Lovecraft would have mentioned it. The story would be that much scarier if Cthulhu ruled from below and above. If Lovecraft saw him in the moon, it would be a monumental mistake not to have one of the characters say so.

Yeah, that does kinda kibosh the idea. Either a character, or the narrator, or Lovecraft himself in one of his many (!) letters. Best in the stories somewhere, as it’s too good a motif not to use. Lovecraft loved a good motif!

Oddly enough, Wholecloth Publishing’s Research division has recently unearthed an unauthenticated (and entirely unauthenticatable) story, which I will reprint as much of here as fair use rules allow, called

Cthulhu In The Moon
“Maxwell!” The old astronomer’s voice, crackling like old paper, summoned me with an urgency of which I hadn’t thought it capable. Certainly it harbored a greater degree of stress than had been present even at her most alarmed moments during the fiercest protests against the new thirty-meter telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea, from which we were expected to discover all the great and terrible secrets of the cosmos. The protests continued up to and after construction was completed in 2024, and kept on at a greater distance after the outer fence was completed, gated, and partially electrified. The protesters were, as it happens, completely in the wrong: we were disturbing no ancestral homeland violating no archaeological treasure, violating no ecosystem (save a dead volcano, which, were it not dead, would have been poised to destroy everything for miles around on land and sea). For all this, the dissidents continued their pseudoscientific and quasireligious posturing, including the invocation of dubious ancient deities of earth and air and ocean, gods that could be found in no one’s pantheon, living or dead. Still, I thought as I climbed the dark stairs from the imaging room domeward toward my superior’s voice, there may have been some new plea or threat presented instantly via the internet, a man-made herald that made a joke of Hermes, that latter-day, foolish, and obsolete god. If so, it would be my job to dismiss the new bogey from the Chief Astronomer’s attention with fact and cold logic. My boss was brilliant in her field, but too sympathetic to, and thus easily swayed by, the folktales of the weak-minded.

We had already been delayed too long, most recently not by human obstruction but because of a nearby unexplained disturbance on the ocean floor. So it was a month after optimum that we were today beginning the calibration of the TMT, and the Chief Astronomer would be supervising the aiming of the instrument at various nearby objects. It was a simple but necessary process, but it required her full attention. The TMT was to be Earth’s great single eye staring fearlessly, unblinkingly, into the void, and it would not do for it to wander, unfocused, for even an instant.

I reached the observatory floor, where the TMT dominated, alongside the massive humming engines ready to support vast or infinitesimal movement, at out whim. This floor was also darkened, and it took the span of a few heartbeats before I saw the Chief Astronomer.

“Professor Hakamura? Ma’am? What’s wrong?” That word, “wrong,” was not what I intended to say. According to my senses and the logic of my not inconsiderable intellect, nothing was wrong. And though I am not a fanciful man, “wrong” is the word that stuck in my head, because it described the tone of my superior’s voice, the particular color of the semidarkness, and the queer feeling of the cells in my body vibrating with the rotation motors (the TMT is insulated from them, the surrounding scaffold is not): they were all – wrong. As I thought it, a new and altogether disturbing definition of the word popped unbidden into my brain: wrong here was not merely unexpected or incorrect or indefinably bad: it is all of these, and in a way that should not be possible. It was as if I beheld a problem such that simply solving it would not, could not, be enough to make things right, not now, not ever.

I shook my head to dispel the unscientific thought (how long had it occupied me?) and spoke with assumed confidence: “All the images downstairs checked out at perfect resolution: Venus, Mars, Phobos, Deimos, Ceres, all centered. We’re just waiting for calibration on the Moon.”

Professor Hakamura answered, her voice stronger now but still sounding like twigs on a fire: “I think we have a problem involving last week’s oceanic event.”

I might have known. Some of the wilder internet protests had described it as an ancient sea creature disturbed by the TMT project. Completely silly, but as I remembered thinking at the time, perfectly designed to disturb an old woman who was a small child when Godzilla movies were all the rage. I presented a bland, reassuring expression: “That disturbance didn’t touch us: the seismometers said so, so did the GPS sensors. We are in exactly the place we should be, and all the measurements so far prove it.”

“Precisely.” Her tone now still contained anxiety but it was overlaid with a note that I knew and hated from a time when I was not yet her colleague but merely her student: the chirp that signified she knew something I had overlooked, and was about to hit me with it. “So why, after all that, is the Moon now a half-inch too far away?”

“Impossible,” I blurted, because my brain immediately told me, without explanation, that that must be the case. Meanwhile, however, all my other cells were still resonating: “wrong…wrong…wrong!

Professor Hakamura gently refuted me: “Were that so, recalibrating would result in optical and digital gibberish, not so? And yet we did, and it didn’t. Please, Maxwell, I would like you to use your very logical and unimaginative eyes and brain to look at the Moon. Start at a wide view, then refocus closer as you please.”

After that, I was again a newborn graduate student, unable to do otherwise. I moved to the closest video monitor but the Professor led me instead to the archaic optical eyepiece she always preferred, and I looked.

I saw the Moon. The same one everyone sees without the most advanced astronomical instrument on Earth. Bright circle, random shadows resembling the shapes I learned as a child: rabbit, owl, crab, man with bundle. Then the picture refocused, and the rabbit’s head and ears resolved themselves into a squidlike thing reaching out with its tentacles, atop the man’s body, with the bundle on his back separated into wings. I blinked, then increased the resolution to focus on the large dark spot, where there was an unexpectedly bright reflection. After careful adjustment I had found the problem, and breathed again.

I was looking at a whitish orb, encircling an elliptical opening containing a dark, reflective circle. And I now knew what I was looking at. “Professor!” I exclaimed. This is just an optical anomaly. The extra half-inch is accounted for by the fact that we are looking at a mere reflection of the TMT itself!" I laughed with relief. I looked again, in confirmation of my ingenuity and triumph over unreason, and at my onetime teacher’s foolishness.

And as I did, the Moon-sized reflection of my world’s giant unblinking eye slowly, wetly blinked.

SWEET! A delightful (horrific!) exploration of the theme! Thank you! I’m impressed as anything at this written-for-the-purpose story. Fun! Three Cheers and a Shoggoth!