Homecoming of Cthulu

Man I hope I spelled that right. anyway, after searching half-assedly for the past year or so, I finally managed to procure a book of H.P. Lovecraft stories (thank you again, Fionn :slight_smile: ). Now, this particular book is a collection of three shorts, all seeming to deal with cosmic monsters, but I’m interested in his more famous creation as well, so I’m curious if someone can help me:

What was the first book to introduce Cthulu? And is there any progression to the stories involving it after that?

The book I have can be read as a stand alone, so I intend on reading it soon as I’m done with my current book, but as soon as I start up on any others of Lovecrafts work, I’d like to start from the beginning and move in the correct order. So, anyone out there with some advice?

Cthulhu first appeared in the short story Call of Cthulhu. He is mentioned in other Lovecraft stories but is not central to any of them other that that one.

There is no “progression” as such to Lovecraft’s stories; they can all pretty much be read in any order.

I’m sure others will be in to offer their suggestions but I would recommend reading The Shadow Over Innsmouth, At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Out of Time.

There are several collections of Lovecraft’s work out there. I would recommend looking for a pair of books edited by S.T. Joshi titled The Annotated Lovecraft and The Annotated Lovecraft 2. Joshi has gone back and restored Lovecraft’s stories to their original manuscripts and the annotations help with Lovecraft’s rather archaic and adjective-heavy writing style.

It took you a year an a half to find a book by H.P. Lovecraft?

Did you try Amazon, you could find one real quick that way…

Lovecraft actually introduced Cthulhu in the short lived series of childrens books, “Cthulhu and Friends”, in which the loveable hell-beast and his group of farm animal buddies solve mysteries and learn valuable life lessons while helping people. One memorable story involved the gang going to Italy where Cthulhu is mistaken for a dish of calamari and chased around venice by a homeless man named Antonio. In the end the gang teaches Italian gypsies how to read and Cthulhu 's friend Lenny, a canadian goose has a street in Rome named after him. The books were a big success spawning such products as "Cthulhu Crunch cereal and Cthulhu No Tears shampoo.

Those silly rascals!

One thing to be careful of when buying books “by HP Lovecraft” is to make sure that the book is actually by HP Lovecraft. Lovecraft wasn’t the sole originator of the Cthulhu Mythos, it was a shared world created by a number of authors such as August Derleth, Robert Howard, and Ramsey Campbell. Lovecraft himself was an enthusiastic collaborator, who worked with dozens of writers and would be writers (including Harry Houdini) in his career. However, there is no doubt that Lovecraft was the ringleader and primary creative force behind the Mythos. The downside to this are all the story collections billing themselves as “The Horrors of HP Lovecraft,” which contain only one of his more well-known stories and a bunch of Mythos stories by people you’ve never heard of. Not that this is always bad; it’s a good way to get introduced to new authors, but it is annoying when you’re specifically looking for stuff by Lovecraft. More annoying are the less-than-scrupulous publishers who have printed new editions of works by lesser writers, such as Derleth, under the name HP Lovecraft, because the book mentions Cthulhu once or twice. The actual author often won’t be listed on the front cover at all.

In the interests of helping you avoid the hangers-on, at least to begin with, here are the major short stories that every Lovecraft fan is required to have read, lest the Shoggoths come and take away your membership card:

“The Call of Cthulhu”
“The Haunter in the Dark”
“The Dunwich Horror”
“The Whisperer in the Darkness”
“Shadow over Innsmouth”
“Pickman’s Model”
“The Colour Out of Space” (My personal favorite of his stories)
“The Rats in the Walls”
“Cool Air”
“The Terrible Old Man”
“At the Mountains of Madness” (Also my personal favorite of his stories)
“The Shadow Out of Time”
“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”
“The Dreams in the Witch House”
“Randolph Carter’s Statement”

These are available in literally hundreds of short story collections, but all can be found in the books The Dunwich Horror and Others and At the Mountains of Madness, both of which, AFAIK, are still in print.

Lovecraft also wrote some interesting things about horror literature. Check out Supernatural Horror in Literature if you’re at all interested in that sort of thing.

Actually, there is a kind of progression to the Cthulhu stories, although not in a plot sense.

Lovecraft’s earlier work tends to fall more into the horror category; i.e., there are strange things in the universe, and they’re scary. His later work edges more towards science fiction; that is, there are strange things in the universe, and they fill us with wonder.

Obviously, I am oversimplifying bigtime here, but the earlier Cthulhu stories present the strange beings almost as demons. Later, they are reinterpreted as aliens from outer space and/or another dimension. Along the way, one could argue that some of the menace is diminished. For example, in “Through the Gates of the Silver Key,” it is suggested that the limitations of human perception lead us to regard Yog-Sothouth (“the key whereby the gates meet”) as a monster. (On the other hand, perhaps this is simply cosmic “spin-doctoring,” since the story doesn’t turn out too well for poor Randolph Carter.)

Anyway, Lovecraft seems much more eager to embrace the alien and the strange in later stories. More and more, the inhuman appearance of the creatures is shown to hide a worthy intellect that is superior to that of man, and in many cases we’re supposed to admire them, not shirk in fear.

Okay, maybe I am imagining this about the short story mentioned earlier, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” Wasn’t that the name of the serial killer who became Brother Edmund in an episode of Babylon 5?

The animated “Cthulhu Kiddies” series ran on NBC Saturday mornings during the early '70s. The marketing tie-in dolls, lunch boxes and action figures command a high price on Ebay in their original packaging.

The daytime serial based upon Lovecraft’s work (Shuggoth’s Way) lasted less than a year, but the series of romance books starting from “Love’s Eldritch Ichor” proved to be a strong franchise.

“I’m Cthulhu. I tried to call, but I kept getting your machine…”

A bunch of Lovecraft.

El Elvis RoJo: I would stay from the Cthulhu Mythos stories done by other authors, with the exception of Colin Wilson’s The Mind Parasites and The Philosopher’s Stone. The original horror fiction of Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell, and Robert E. Howard is much superior, IMO, to their Cthulhu Mythos stuff. Brian Lumley and August Derleth’s stories are pretty standard, IMO, although the minor writer J. Vernon Shea did write a pretty good thriller in “The Haunter of the Graveyard” and Stephen King’s “Jerusalem’s Lot” is decent.

Miller: You left out four of Lovecraft’s best stories: “Imprisoned With the Pharoahs,” “The Quest For Iranon,” “In the Vault,” and “The Outsider.” Yog-Sothuth will not forgive you. :smiley:

Please Note—

Lovecraft was inspired by Edward, Lord Dunsany. His work in the field of fantastic fiction straddles the lines between horror, fantasy & science fiction, with a strong sense of wonder, & a truly amazing prose style.

I’d like to add “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” and “The Dream-quest of Unknown Kadath” to Miller’s list. No mention of Cthulu in either of them, as I remember, but when I think of Lovecraft, these are the first stories to come to mind.

Peyote Coyote: Oh, right. For not including those, Yog-Sothoth will consume my body, shatter my mind, and destroy my soul. Whereas if I had left them in, he would have…consumed my body, shattered my mind, and destroyed my soul. There’s just no pleasing that non-Euclidiean bastard.

Actually, I left them off because I’m not paticularly fond of those stories, except for “Quest for Iranon,” which I haven’t read. However, Hamish, or possible matt_mcl (you can never tell with those two) is entirely correct in chiding me for leaving out the Dreamlands stories, for which offense I fully expect to be fed to a pack of ravenous dholes.

My personal favorites:

“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”
“The Shadow Over Innsmouth”
“The Mound” (hard to find, possibly co-authored)

The Hounds of Tindalos is another good one.

I still think that’d make an excellent deathmetal/goth band name.


Except that The Hound of Tindalos was by Frank Belknap Long, not H.P. Lovecraft. Great story, though.

Damn. It’s been years since I read it. I must have been caught by one of those “inspired by Lovecraft” collections.

jayjay (sci-fi geek, ashamed) :slight_smile:

Not dealing with Cthulhu directly, but in the Mythos universe (Arkham, Mass, Miskatonic U, etc…), so I’ll go ahead and reccomend Herbert West: Reanimator.

The movie Reanimator was based on it (Them? Hard to tell from the collection I had it in…), though altered some.

Yeah, okay…I read some Lovecraft way back in the day, and I remember almost none of it, although I was always strangely drawn to the illustrations of Cthulhu as a giant green guy with an octopus in his mouth/for a mouth. So, I know this is asking a lot, but you all seem pretty knowledgeable about such things, so I’ll ask: can anyone just sorta sum up for me just what the whole “Elder Gods” thing was all about? Who is Yog-Sothoth, other than some unspeakable horror from another dimension? And what is a Shub-Niggurath? What exactly does Cthulhu do? Isn’t he dead, but dreaming in some sunken city in Antarctica? And what the hell do those fish people at Innsmouth have to do with all of this? Also, the famed Necronomicon: invented by Lovecraft, but I’ve seen a little paperback version- did he write this? And isn’t the dhole a wild dog of the Indian subcontinent, closely related to the asiatic wolf?