I confess I had never really heard of the fearsome, primordial entity called Cthulhu before Scott’s Jugglinks on a really funny T-shirt that he bought, “Call of Snoophulhu.” (By the way, that male model with the tousled hair is a total hottie.) I got the Peanuts gag, of course; however, the sublime humor of combining Snoopy with Cthulhu escaped me- until some Pagan Buddies happened to mention “Cthulhu” while we were hanging the other night. “Hey, who is this ‘Cthulhu’ anyways,” I asked. They explained, and even pulled up some pictures for me (“Eew, don’t want to bring him home after the bar,” I thought). Anyway, now I “get” why “Snoopy as Cthulhu” makes an amusing and clever cartoon.
I conducted some research by looking up stuff on Wikipedia, as well as “Cthulhu, Images of” (the following presents a pop-culture representative sampling of interpretations of Cthulhu), all of which stimulates some interesting questions about “invented mythology” (such as, can “invented mythology” be as potent as “real mythology”? How does one distinguish “invented mythology” from “real mythology,” anyways?) More particularly, what intrigues me is the extent to which this fictional creation has taken on a “life of his own”- and the extent to which this frightening and intimidating being is nonetheless interpreted humorously.
The “dread Cthulhu” was created by the famous writer of the supernatural H. P. Lovecraft, in a 1920s’ short-story called “The Call of Cthulhu” (explaining the many satiric “takes” on the title). The being was some “ancient-beyond-measure” creature of malevolent intention, currently imprisoned beneath the sea, but whose inevitable liberation would surely spell destruction and misery for humanity. A portion of the world await the prospect with trepidation; while others abandon themselves to the worship of this ancient, terrifying being- who is famously depicted with a pulpy, octopus-head.
Lovecraft went on to construct a fictional mythology around Cthulhu, called “the Cthulhu Mythos,” which expanded elsewhere into popular culture, inspiring role-playing games, films, music, fiction, and television, in an intriguing example of a fictional being invented as a magazine short-story, acquiring a literal mythic proportion of its own. However, for all that Cthulhu represents the terrifyingly primitive aspects of a dim and remote human past- he often is invoked in a quite amusing fashion (seen in the T-shirt cartoon discovered by Scott above), the humor deriving from the juxtaposition between supernatural horror and satiric silliness.
For instance, check out this “take” on the title of Lovecraft’s original story “The Call of Cthulhu”: imagined here as a Dr. Seuss children’s book. Sublime, meet the Ridiculous.
Or this, connecting Cthulhu with Richard Nixon and suggesting a Lovecraftian demon as a political candidate.
But perhaps the most famous (although possibly unconscious) take on the character is the sea-ghost Davy Jones, villain of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie-series- demonstrating that the sub-conscious mind can respond to both horrific fascination, as well as merry-minded foolishness, as long as it can find something provocative enough to stimulate its recesses.