Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos Characters

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Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos Summary & Study Guide Description

Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft.

Cthulhu, appears in multiple stories

Cthulhu is a fictional creature of enormous size and malevolent intent. The creature was created by H.P. Lovecraft and has since been featured in the writings of numerous authors. Cthulhu, one of the Old Ones, is generally described as having an octopoid head atom a grotesque and scaled humanoid body with rudimentary wings. Its hands are described either as claws or possessed of long talons. Cthulhu is most-fully described in The Call of Cthulhu; the name is spelled in alternate ways in some of the other stories in the collection. Cthulhu is significant for lending its name to the entire sub-genre as well as for becoming a sort of pop culture icon.

Nyarlathotep, appears in multiple stories

Nyarlathotep is a fictional creature with malevolent intent; it is frequently referred to as the Crawling Chaos and its identity is occasionally conflated with that of other Old Ones. Nyarlathotep is variously described as nearly human in appearance or an amorphous shifting cloud of inky blackness. Nyarlathotep is generally considered to be more active than the other Old Ones, and its motivation is generally more intelligible and anthropomorphic than the other Old Ones. Nyarlathotep is featured in Derleth's The Dweller in Darkness, among others. Often portrayed as a messenger or representative of the collective will of the Old Ones, Nyarlathotep makes more personal appearances than most of the other beings in the Cthulhu Mythos.

Hastur, Azathoth, and Shub-Niggurath, appears in multiple stories

Hastur is a fictional creature with malevolent intent; originally mentioned by Lovecraft only in passing, it gained prominence with other writers of Cthulhu Mythos tales. It is usually described as vastly large and unintelligible in motivation, though clearly evil and vile. Azathoth is a fictional creature with malevolent intent; originally created by Lovecraft, it gained prominence with other writers of Cthulhu Mythos tales including Derleth and Campbell. It is usually described as vastly gigantic, usually as large as a planetary body, and is usually said to have numerous servants orbiting about. Shub-Niggurath is a fictional creature with malevolent intent; originally created, but not described, by Lovecraft, it gained prominence with other writers of Cthulhu Mythos tales including Derleth, Bloch, and Campbell. Shub-Niggurath is unusual inasmuch as it is usually considered to be female; it is often also called the black goat of the woods with a thousand young, indicating flagrant fecundity. Bloch's Notebook Found in a Deserted House gives a quite exact description of Shub-Niggurath.

Arthur Machen, appears in multiple stories

Arthur Machen (1863 - 1947) was a Welsh author of supernatural and horror fiction. Machen studied history during early schoolwork and published poems and short stories at a quite early age. Machen's work through the 1890s featured Gothic and fantastic themes leading gradually into tales of decadent horror. Machen's literary output declined in the 1900s, though his early work saw a revival during c. 1922 as American writers, including the Lovecraft circle, began to rediscover his work. Authors in the current collection who are generally held to have been heavily influenced by Machen include Smith, Howard, and Campbell; Lovecraft considered Machen a master of horror and was heavily influenced by his writing. For example, Machen's The Novel of the Black Seal uses a narrative construction technique mirrored in The Call of Cthulhu. Machen is mentioned in several of the stories in the collection.

Edgar Allan Poe, appears in multiple stories

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849) was an American poet, writer, and critic. He is usually considered to be part of the American Romantic Movement, and is best remembered for his tales of the macabre. Most of Poe's work focused on mysterious or strange events and his literary influence is considered to be enormous. Poe was a favored source of inspiration for Lovecraft and nearly all of the other members of the Lovecraft circle, and Poe is mentioned in several of the stories in the collection.

H.P. Lovecraft, appears in multiple stories

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 - 1937) was an American writer of horror and fantasy tales then known as weird fiction. Lovecraft's central fictional preoccupation was the concept of a cosmic, irrational horror, such that the universe is fundamentally amoral, malevolent, and alien—and is beyond the ability of the rational, human mind to comprehend. Many of his stories feature this element of cosmic horror and share additional construction elements; these tales comprise what is often referred to as the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft's work was not particularly widely read during his lifetime but was popularized, posthumously, largely through the efforts of August Derleth. By the mid 20th century, however, his reputation had grown such that it was on a par with Poe. Lovecraft is generally considered to have held racist views and to champion an Anglo-centric world-view; such elements are in any case often evident in his fiction.

August Derleth, appears in multiple stories

August Derleth (1909 - 1971) was an American writer of horror and fantasy tales, as well as the founder of Arkham House, a company that published the writings of Lovecraft. Derleth was a friend and correspondent of Lovecraft and coined the phrase "Cthulhu Mythos" to describe the shared stories of Lovecraft, Derleth, and others. After Lovecraft's death, Derleth founded Arkham House in 1939 and published the collected works of Lovecraft. Later, Arkham House published Derleth's works and works of other authors. Derleth also utilized numerous Lovecraft outlines or partially completed stories in posthumous collaborations, leading to some criticism. Derleth's use of the Cthulhu Mythos varied considerably from that of Lovecraft. While Lovecraft proposed an amoral and unintelligible universe, Derleth favored a more codified and traditional approach. Thus, Derleth's writing positions the Old Ones as evil beings in opposition to good beings of roughly equivalent ability; this cosmic vision aligned more closely with Derleth's Christian beliefs. Derleth also codified the Old Ones and attempted to align them with various elemental forces such as earth, water, air, and fire. A fictionalized Derleth appears in some Lovecraft stories under the pseudonym 'le Comte d'Erlette'.

Robert Bloch, appears in multiple stories

Robert Bloch (1917 - 1994) was an American writer of various genres including horror. Bloch is remembered primarily for his novels, but also produced numerous short stories. He was a friend of Lovecraft and other members of the Lovecraft circle, and Bloch's early works are clearly heavily influenced by that association. Bloch made considerable contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos, first introducing the often-cited texts De Vermis Mysteriis and Cultes des Goules. A fictionalized Bloch appears in some Lovecraft and Cthulhu Mythos stories under the pseudonym 'Robert Blake.' Bloch's presentation of Lovecraft as the victim in The Shambler from the Stars was seen by both men as a humorous courtesy, or homage. Lovecraft returned the favor in The Haunter of the Dark. Bloch's most famous work, Psycho, relies on realistic horror rather than supernatural horror, but shares many construction elements with his earlier works.

Clark Ashton Smith, appears in multiple stories

Clark Ashton Smith (1893 - 1961) was an artist and author of fantasy and horror fiction. Smith was a friend of Lovecraft and other members of the Lovecraft circle, and Smith's early works in horror fiction are markedly influenced by that association. Smith's contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos include Tsathoggua and the wizard Eibon, whose book appears in the current collection. Lovecraft held Smith's work in high regard, particularly his sculpture and art. Smith is referred to in the current collection by name, and appears fictionalized in some Lovecraft stories as 'Klarkash-Ton.' Many of Smith's stories were originally published by Arkham House, though after Lovecraft's death Smith largely abandoned writing weird fiction for sculpture.

Frank Belknap Long, appears in multiple stories

Frank Belknap Long (1901 - 1994) was an American writer of horror and fantasy fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Despite a prolific and prolonged output, he probably is best remembered for his early contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. Long published a biography of Lovecraft and an autobiographical memoir. Long was a friend and correspondent of Lovecraft, known to have exchanged over 1,000 letters, some running to eighty pages in length. Some of this correspondence was published by Arkham House. Long was also a member of the Lovecraft circle, and is widely considered to have written the first Cthulhu Mythos story not authored by Lovecraft—The Hounds of Tindalos. Long's contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos are foundational.

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