6 Times Monsters Sprung From H.P. Lovecraft’s Mind

By: Sam Fletcher, July 19th, 2023 11:07 am.

Howard Philips Lovecraft is a name synonymous with cosmic horror. Writing during the early twentieth century, he inspired a universe of horrific creations.

It’s a testament to his imagination that his mythology continues to inspire expansions. But here, we’ll focus on his original monsters.

I’ll also look at when Lovecraft first mentioned the monsters. His publication dates and chronology can get a little bit convoluted after all.

Dagon – First mentioned in ‘Dagon’ (1919)

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The Esoteric Order of Dagon worships this deity who rules over the Deep Ones.

It’s likely Lovecraft fashioned Dagon on the Mesopotamian god of the same name. A part of the Cthulhu Mythos, Dagon’s a colossal entity taking charge of an amphibious race deep in the ocean. Consorting with Mother Hydra, they rule together, living for eternity.

‘Dagon’ itself was first published in ‘The Vagrant.’ The early short story featured a World War One marine officer escaping Germans on a lifeboat. He then encounters the monster in an encounter that haunts him for life.

Regarded as one of the Great Old Ones, he’s an ancient entity terrifying unlucky seafarers.

Night-gaunt – First appeared in ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath’ (1943)

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Residing in the Dreamlands, Nigh-gaunts tickle their prey into submission.

A winged race of creatures, they worship Nodens as their lords. Faceless, there’s black flesh where their features should be. Populating countless locations across the cosmos, they remain silent even in flight.

They first arrived in ‘Night-Gaunts’ from the 1929 collection ‘Fungi from Yuggoth.’ Later they appeared as a Dreamland inhabitant in 1943’s ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.’ Since then, they’ve become a fixture of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Best to keep out of their way, Night-gaunts make for deadly hunters. But they don’t like water, so you’re safe at sea.

Yog-Sothoth – First mentioned in ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward’ (1941)

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Omniscient and telepathic, he’s all-seeing and all-knowing.

Yog-Sothoth encompasses time and space as a cosmic entity that’s existed forever. Said to manifest as a swarm of glowing orbs, he has massive tendrils. Called upon by worshippers performing rituals, Sothoth is a mighty Outer God.

And there’s no escape.

He first made his terrifying debut in the short story ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.’ The tale was written in 1927 and finally saw publication in 1941’s May and July issues of ‘Weird Tales.’ In it, Charles Dexter attempts to resurrect his wizard ancestor Joseph Curwen.

As you’d expect, a series of terrifying events ensues. Yog-Sothoth itself gets a brief mention during an incantation of Dexter’s. He also served as the antagonist in the stories ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ and ‘The Dunwich Horror.’

Nyarlathotep – First appeared in ‘Nyarlathotep’ (1920)

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A tall, shadowy, sinister individual brings wondrous inventions and horrifying nightmares.

Said to resemble an ancient Egyptian Pharoah, he has neither hair nor beard, moving from city to city. Gifted with a profound understanding of advanced science, he performs to enraptured crowds. Following these public displays, he traps his audience, dooming the world.

H.P. Lovecraft wrote and published the poem ‘Nyarlathotep’ in ‘The United Amateur’ in 1920. Nyarlathotep also appears in ‘The Dreams in the Witch House’ and ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.’

As one of the Outer Gods, many believe Azathoth is his father. Differing in that he assumes a human disguise, he walks the Earth searching for victims.

Cthulhu – First appeared in ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ (1928)

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How can we forget one of Lovecraft’s most enduring tentacled creations?

Beneath the Pacific Ocean within the city of R’lyeh, Cthulhu remains in a deep slumber. As one of the Great Old Ones from outer space, many know him for his infamous octopus head. Worshipped by cultists, he’ll one day rise from below and bring his reign of terror with him.

‘The Call of Cthulhu’ was first featured in a classic ‘Weird Tales’ magazine. Inspired by dreams and Tennyson’s poem ‘The Kraken,’ Lovecraft wrote of an entity rising from the sea.

Let’s hope Cthulhu remains dreaming. Or ‘Cthulhu fhtgan’ as some of the more devoted might say.

Azathoth – First appeared in ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath’ (1943)

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All supreme ruler of the Outer Gods, he’s creator and master of the universe.

We’re all his dream, ceasing to be once he wakes. When Nyarlathotep returns, so too will Azathoth and his armies. In the meantime, he remains at the center of the universe, with drummers keeping him in an eternal slumber. Nobody is quite sure what he looks like, but rest assured, it’s vast and terrifying.

Written in 1922, the short story ‘Azathoth’ was a fragment of an unfinished novel. Published after Lovecraft’s death, it would be the first mention of the monster. In 1927 he wrote the complete novella ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath,’ later published in 1943.

A testament to the power of dreams, Azathoth highlights our collective imagination. But again, please don’t wake the sleeping giant.

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