Yes, Cthulhu is a big fellow. But he’s still just a little guy is the scheme of things. We all are.
The Call of Cthulhu
By H.P. Lovecraft —
“In the elder time chosen men had talked with the entombed Old Ones in dreams, but then something had happened. The great stone city R’lyeh, with its monoliths and sepulchres, had sunk beneath the waves; and the deep waters, full of the one primal mystery through which not even thought can pass, had cut off the spectral intercourse. But memory never died, and high-priests said that the city would rise again when the stars were right. Then came out of the earth the black spirits of earth, mouldy and shadowy, and full of dim rumours picked up in caverns beneath forgotten sea-bottoms. But of them old Castro dared not speak much. He cut himself off hurriedly, and no amount of persuasion or subtlety could elicit more in this direction. The size of the Old Ones, too, he curiously declined to mention. Of the cult, he said that he thought the centre lay amid the pathless deserts of Arabia, where Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched. It was not allied to the European witch-cult, and was virtually unknown beyond its members. No book had ever really hinted of it, though the deathless Chinamen said that there were double meanings in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred which the initiated might read as they chose, especially the much-discussed couplet:
‘That is not dead which can eternal lie,
and with strange aeons even death may die.’ “
LIke Jesus, Cthulhu could return at any time. Unlike Jesus, He isn’t going to care what kind of life you’ve lived. He (and whether or not “he” is male is open to debate) will call out to His fellow Old Ones and they will be awakened and return to rule the world as they once did. So the cultists believe. But human beings have been twisting and misinterpreting the words of seers and prophets ever since there have been seers and prophets. Who knows what Cthulhu will want or what he will do when he arises? Will he be a morning person? Will he be hungry? What do beings who exist beyond space and time like to eat for breakfast?
The Tillinghast Resonator makes identifying and, to some extent, capturing the lifeforms that live in the Beyond relatively easy. In earlier ages interested parties had to rely on magic and alchemy – not the most reliable methods. Is it any wonder that most early harvesters of the Beyond got harvested instead themselves?
When Lovecraft wrote his stories in the 1920s and 1930s the world still seemed to be full of hidden, unexplored places. Hidden cities and lands forgotten by time seemed possible. Now, in 2017? The world is mapped. Maybe not completely but with enough detail that any current Cthulhu Mythos authors have to work harder to explain how a place manages to stay undetected. “The government is covering it up” might work for something relatively small that exists within the borders of that country but how would “they” cover up the existence of an entire city (much less a range of mountains taller than the Himalayas) on a continent that is owned by no one? That would require a lot of cooperation between governments and a lot of people who are willing to be silent about that cooperation.
Some authors suggest that the Mythos entities hide from us. That seems unlikely. They can travel between the stars. Some of them can travel between the places between the places between the stars. We can’t be a threat. So if they’re hiding, perhaps they’re hiding from each other. Or from something even bigger and scarier.
In At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft a group of antarctic explorers discover the evidence of an ancient, prehuman civilization. While exploring the ruins of a vast and abandoned city the explorers find and interpret a series of carvings and hieroglyphs that seem to tell a history of both the “Elder Things” and, basically, the evolution of life on Earth. I say “seem to tell” because the explorers are only able to spend a few days in the city and are forced to leave it under terrifying and sanity disturbing circumstances. Their understanding of the story told in the carvings shouldn’t be assumed to be perfect. It might be missing important information. It might be completely wrong. Human beings have a hard enough time understanding the languages and art left by extinct human cultures. It’s unlikely that a human could get an accurate reading of non-human culture without being able to interact with representatives of that culture.
That’s one of the things that I enjoy about the Cthulhu Mythos. Humanity and the Earth itself are not central. Sure, most Mythos stories feature human protagonists and deal with human adventures but that’s because human authors are writing the stories for human readers. But the Mythos features beings and species and civilizations that existed long before mankind learned to make fire and who will exist long after mankind’s story ends. Earth is just one of the places these creatures have visited. The Universe is vast and full of strangeness and wonder. (Or terror and madness, if you’re a xenophobic New Englander.)
The Elder Things came from the stars to the Earth, presumably, before fish evolved in the seas. Their civilization here lasted for millions of years. That civilization might continue, somewhere in secret, here on Earth. In all likelihood there are Elder Things civilizations scattered across this and other galaxies. If humans made it out to the stars, would we find the Elder Things welcoming? Threatening? Dismissive? All of the above?
Lovecraft described some of his creations in great detail. Others are described in ways that are give the reader a vague sense of the thing and leave the specifics to his/her imagination. And others are left as vague eldritch monstrosities, barely comprehensible to the human mind. Shub Niggurath is one of those. So she (it) can be depicted however seems most appropriate.