Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Organic Growth of Cthulhu

"The Raven" is unquestionably one of the most well-known slices of the macabre. Every kid in America gets a direct order from a teacher to read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". References to the poem pop up frequently; TV, Halloween paraphernalia - and I would guess the majority of Americans know the poem well enough to recognize "Nevermore."

I write all this because I recently received a Cthulhu cookie-cutter as a gift (the benign, cute Cthulhu), and could only marvel at the improbable stature Lovecraft's creations have reached; all without official sanction from the education system. Except for specialized college courses, Lovecraft does not appear in classroom study.

Hollywood hasn't helped. There have been no blockbuster films* based on Lovecraft's works. Probably the most famous (and they weren't that famous) Lovecraft adaptations for television were on the '70s show Night Gallery, remembered mainly because Rod Serling hosted it. Meanwhile Edgar Allan Poe's name has been a selling point on several movies (including many high profile ones) since the beginning of film.

Yet Lovecraft's creations, Cthulhu in particular, seem not only to enjoy sprawling popularity, but also to inspire an unutterable number of homages.

Type "Cthulhu" into Google Images. In addition to many creepy and varied portraits of the monster itself, you will find a nameless array of clever parodies:

Keep in mind, this is without typing "Cthulhu funny" or "Cthulhu parody."

Typing "R'Lyeh" - the non-euclidean city from whence Cthulhu came - generates witty results like this:

Punch "non-euclidean" into Google Images; Lovecraft is the fourth entry. Even if you type "non-euclidean geometry buildings," you get at least as many Lovecraft references as you do serious ones.

The miscellany of Cthulhu merchandise that can be found online is enough to make someone flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. Try it for yourself; most any product you can (un)name has an effulgent variety of Cthulhu incarnations.


Typing "The Raven" into Google Images doesn't begin to produce comparable results. Other prominent fantasy staples like Lord of the Rings also don't appear to inspire a following quite as eclectic as Cthulhu's. And the ubiquitousness of Cthulhu was mostly achieved outside the standard avenues of pop culture immortalization.

All this humor linked to a man who was a bit of a stiff. All this affection for a tenebrous fellow who confessed to fellow writers: 

Of course, I am unfamiliar with amatory phenomena save through cursory reading.

Much like the writers who codified, continued, and spotlighted the Cthulhu Mythos (spotlighting Lovecraft himself along the way), thousands of others continue using H.P.'s motifs as inspiration. What had sunk has risen, and what has risen will continue rising.

*Ironically, Re-Animator, based on a tale Lovecraft probably composed as semi-parody, is so far the most commercially successful Lovecraft adaptation.

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