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Lovecraft and his inhuman places

Guide to the Universe of Cthulhu

By Ford KiddPublished about a year ago 6 min read
by dante-cg on DeviantArt

On Earth, according to the Cthulhu Mythos, there are many cyclopean buildings and cities erected by creatures beyond human understanding. Tremble, for we are going to cities not meant for man!

Nameless City

Remote in the desert of Araby lies the nameless city, crumbling and inarticulate, its low walls nearly hidden by the sands of uncounted ages. It must have been thus before the first stones of Memphis were laid, and while the bricks of Babylon were yet unbaked. There is no legend so old as to give it a name, or to recall that it was ever alive, but it is told of in whispers around campfires and muttered about by grandams in the tents of sheiks so that all the tribes shun it without wholly knowing why.

Lovecraft first described the city in the 1921 story of the same name. The Call of Cthulhu says that the main center of the cult of the Ancients is located in the same area - the sinister grimoire of the 8th century Necronomicon comes from here. It was after the author of it, the mad Abdul Alhazred, dreamed of the Nameless City that he composed the famous couplet:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,

And with strange eons even death may die

Arabs eschew ancient ruins and speak of them only in whispers. The temples and caves of the Nameless City hold the story of a quadrupedal, crocodile-like race that lived on Earth for ten million years—even before Africa rose from the waters. These creatures were immortal - but now the city serves them as a crypt, which stores their mummified bodies. However, the spirits still guard the city: it seems that they were the whirlwinds that once, before the eyes of the inhabitants of Damascus, tore Alhazred to pieces. Are they related to the flying polyps that controlled the winds, or is this ability not uncommon for alien races? History keeps silent.


The sunken island of R'lyeh is probably known to everyone - the famous Call of Cthulhu (1926) is dedicated to it. In unknown times, this abode of the Ancients plunged into the ocean and should rise from the abyss only when the stars converge. In the story, the cultists approached the hour when Cthulhu, the priest of the Ancients, would wake up from eternal sleep and let the entire Lovecraftian pantheon into our world. And unsuspecting sailors in the Pacific Ocean found an island whose geometry looked terrible and impossible.

The nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults until the end.

Call of Cthulhu

The idea of ​​a sunken island primarily echoes Atlantis. The main difference is that R'lyeh was originally inhuman: only some of the people were allowed to go there and communicate with the Great Old Ones lying in the tombs.

Apparently, when the characters of the tabletop Arkham Horror roam the halls of R'lyeh, it means that they have been transported into the past. In the story, Cthulhu woke up only briefly, and R'lyeh did not have time to fully rise from the abyss and plunged back. However, since then, in the works on the world of Lovecraft, someone - some with hope, some with fear - says: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" - "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming".

R’lyeh by Pal Carrick

City of Old Ones

As you know, advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - and Lovecraft, behind the scenery of spells and demonic grimoires, hid sci-fi concepts. In later works, he described in detail the history of the Earth at the dawn of time, when it was colonized by advanced alien races in turn. It was knowledge about them that formed the basis of the passages from the Necronomicon, permeated with sacred horror. The first of these races were the Elder Things, or Old Ones, described in detail in the story At the Mountains of Madness (1936).

The Elders came to Earth about a billion years ago when there was not even multicellular life on the planet. They founded their first city, which became the center of their civilization, on the territory of modern Antarctica, on a huge mountain range that surpassed the Himalayas in height. They erected part of the buildings right on the mountains, crowning them with huge cubic structures and piercing them with a network of caves, and the part they built on a wide plateau.

Tom Ardans, CC BY-SA 3.0

It was the Elders who created life on Earth - first for food, and then, perhaps, for experiments. One of their most terrible creations was shoggoth - huge clots of protoplasm that could change their appearance and perform tasks under hypnosis. Civilization was based on the slave labor of the Shoggoths, but the creatures mutated, got out of control, and began to hunt the Elders. The icy abandoned city is still best avoided: giant predatory shoggoths still roam the caves.

Arkham scientists Dyer, Danforth, and Lake, having discovered this settlement in the Mountains of Madness, decided that the snow-covered plateau is the legendary Plateau of Leng, mentioned with trepidation in the Necronomicon. Behind the Ridges lurked another mountain range - the sacred mountains, which even the Elders feared. Dyer believed that the legendary Unknown Kadath was hiding there - the main focus of earthly evil.

Pnakotus (The Great Race of Yith)

The skies were almost always moist and cloudy, and sometimes I would seem to witness tremendous rains. Once in a while, though, there would be glimpses of the sun—which looked abnormally large—and of the moon, whose markings held a touch of difference from the normal that I could never quite fathom. When—very rarely—the night sky was clear to any extent, I beheld constellations which were nearly beyond recognition.

The aliens from the planet Yith and their incredible city Lovecraft dedicated the story The Shadow Out of Time (1935). This race was called "Great" because they were able to transfer their consciousness into other people's bodies, millions of years into the past or future. Their civilization was built on this: wandering through the epochs, they borrowed other people's inventions and knowledge; those with whom the Yithians exchanged bodies ended up in their cities and were required to replenish their libraries with their records.

The Yithians moved to Earth before the death of their planet - for this they captured the bodies of giant intelligent cone-shaped earthlings, combining animal and plant features. After that, the cities of the Great Race arose all over the planet and stood at least until the end of the Paleozoic era - it ended 150 million years ago.

It is believed that the city of the Great Race is Pnakotus, although its name is not mentioned in the story.

Despite the peaceful disposition of the Yithian (compared to other Lovecraftian creatures), danger lurks in their city too. Among other buildings, black basalt towers without windows and wells made of the same black blocks, reliably sealed with metal strips, stand out sharply. These structures were not built by the Great Race - the Yithians are frankly afraid of them. Even before the Great Race, 600 million years ago, the Earth and three other planets of the solar system were owned by creepy aliens from another universe, resembling polyps and able to control the winds...

While you are studying the Great Race, the Great Race is studying you!

Paul Carrick for Call of Cthulhu LCG)


About the Creator

Ford Kidd

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