Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the man behind Cthulhu
The life story of Howard Phillips Lovecraft is a devastating tale of an unfulfilled talent and a lost soul of a dreamer trapped in the revolutionary world of the twentieth century. He lived a poor, short and unhappy life filled with disappointments, financial troubles and finally illness which took him away in his forties. As a person, he was secluded and almost afraid of every human contact. His father, a salesman and a jeweler, died in the psychiatric institution of acute psychosis when Howard was only eight years old. Even his mother suffered from depression and hysteria, which finally brought her to that same asylum where her husband died to spend her last years writing letters to her son. H.P. himself spent his last days in an absolute poverty, hungry and ill, and even in his last days he starved himself on purpose so that he could save money for mail stamps.
Howard wasn’t very keen on self-promotion. Although he loved writing, the very thought of commercializing his work seemed unthinkable to him. He managed to publish quite a few stories in his lifetime, but mostly for pulp fiction magazines that would often leave him underpaid. Personally, I like to believe that Howard would’ve been treated better if he had the opportunity to live in the modern day and age, although I do realize that the man of his stature had to set an example and create a way for the newcomers. Without Lovecraft we wouldn’t have Stephen King, Alan Moore, Mike Mignola and many other sci-fi and horror authors who were inspired by the work of this isolated, mystical artist. The sacrifice of this man was imperative for further development of the genre. What is more important for our story, we wouldn’t have the amazing creation of Cthulhu, a mythical being that has outgrown its “physical” proportions and became a giant in the contemporary world of pop culture.
Cthulhu, the Great Old One
Although Howard’s work was impeccable, and his stories of extraterrestrial beings and forces have inspired countless movies, stories, games even, not a single one of his characters could compare to the cosmic entity that goes by the name of Cthulhu. Lovecraft loved to daunt scientists and lecturers, and mocked our understanding of the universe in the stories such as The Colour out of Space, and in his letters to professors where he would repeatedly express his concerns regarding Einstein’s theory of relativity and fearsome possibilities of science. In the end, he believed that the universe is a horrific sum of all possibilities and fears combined. In that darkness he spotted the opportunity to create the world of his own. In the prehistoric time of this unique universe, one of the older gods was his most famous aforementioned creation.
The inspiration behind the creation of this being is unknown, although there are some clues which suggest that Lovecraft was inspired by the 1830s sonnet The Kraken, written by the British poet Lord Tennyson Alfred. Lovecraft rarely mentioned space travel and alien beings explicitly, his references always implied that celestial beings were among us already and that they can be reached within our world in alternate dimensions. The mighty Cthulhu for example could be reached by sea, because this ancient being was a sort of a Water God, a prehistoric dweller that devours humans who oppose him. Part human, part dragon with tentacles surrounding his mouth, this giant is one of the most original conceptions of the 20th century sci-fi and horror novel. There is a whole world built around this unique persona, and today our world still loves and fears the monstrous child of H.P. Lovecraft.
Commercialization and Global Acceptance
The fame of this character has inspired artists, it moved people and even served as a tool of political propaganda on a global scale. Certainly, this renowned image sold a product or two, but there are also video games, playing cards, and you can spot those recognizable tentacles from a mile away on coffee mugs, posters and even toys. It seems that the entire world has fallen under the influence of this false god. Why? Because it is a depiction of pure, ancient and absolute evil. The embodiment of the devil, a figure of horror, a monster that we dread and love to fear has provoked many to use this character for both promotional and almost humane purposes.
Although it is unknown who got the idea to employ this character as a political tool first, we’ve all stumbled upon t least one of the Why Choose a Lesser Evil posters. No matter where you are in the world, even people who are not certain who H.P. Lovecraft is have definitely heard about Chtulhu. The poster presented here, for example, comes from Poland.
Discussing how much products this mythical creature actually sold is probably a daunting task by itself, and I personally fear the amount of search needed to list every piece and product in particular. You can probably buy a T-shirt with this motive in your local shop. A mug, a poster, a toy, there are thousand of items on Amazon alone with this character as a lead protagonist. But did you know that there is even a species of spider named after this very same mythical creature? Also, a type of protist that live in the guts of termites are named Cthulhu macrofasciculumque, after the same.
For this, he remains a figure of authority in the world of written world, as the American author who didn’t just started a genre but created an entire universe of aliens and mythical beings that we all know and fear. And his master piece continues to grow still, out of its gigantic proportions into an unifying symbol of the new era.