Saturday, November 3, 2007

Cthulhu fhtagn!

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn". Translated (from the Necronomicon), this means "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming"... it continues... "yet He shall rise and His kingdom shall cover the Earth."

Cthulhu is a fictional being created by horror/science fiction/fantasy author H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). Also a Lovecraft creation, the Necronomicon has become so ubiquitous in horror fiction, film, and mythology, that many people believe it actually exists. Various versions of it have been published; you can even find it at Barnes and Noble or Borders.

I would like to feature three paintings of the great Cthulhu. The first, by illustrator Raymond Bayliss, is from the dustjacket of the hardcover version of Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror and Others, published by Arkham House. Notice the way that Cthulhu is nonchalantly dropping an unfortunate soul from his left hand, and the tiny figures in the foreground fleeing in horror!

(As usual, click on images to zoom in.)

The next two paintings are by illustrator Michael Komarck.

Lovecraft's fiction was very atmospheric, and has been particularly difficult to translate into film; a number of really bad movies based on Lovecraft stories have been made. A couple of them, Re-Animator and From Beyond are kind of cool in a cheesy sort of way, but Lovecraft's stories tend to work better and be more horrific when you just picture things in your mind as opposed to seeing them on screen. Really, I think, the same often goes for artwork of Lovecraftian entities such as Cthulhu. In other words, this is a is a pretty good example of the notion of "less is more". That being said, these paintings are pretty darn cool!

You may have gathered that I am something of a Lovecraft fan. Let me put it this way: in 1990, temporarily low on cash, I sold one of my guitars to finance a trip to Providence, Rhode Island to attend the H. P. Lovecraft Centennial Conference-- I have never regretted it for a minute!

Cthulhu fhtagn!


Grim Blogger said...

Beautiful art. You made the right choice attending the Centennial Conference, I've always heard good things about it.

Mats Halldin said...

Very interesting article and wonderful images.

I must admit I never shared your love for Lovecraft or horror. However, that notion of less is more in fiction must have been around since before Homer's monsters were being recited - no Hollywood production will ever surpass our own imaginations. I'm sure Lovecraft's stories are a proof of it.

The other day I ran into this very Cthulhu-like monster. A fair guess should be, the last Cthuhlu has not seen the light of creation. :)

Thanks for posting
/ Mats

Michael Keller said...

Nice article. I always wonder why people use the "flipped" version of Bayliss' work.
One can see in the lower corner his signature, which if the image is flipped horizontally reads correctly.
Was that the way it was used on the book?

RJ said...

Michael-- thanks! Yes, that is how the art appears on the book. That's probably why you typically see it that way, because that's how it is on the book. Apparently an art director or editor decided it looked better that way!