Cover art from Shadows Over Innsmouth (edited by Stephen Jones) – artwork by Dave Carson, Martin McKenna and Jim Pitts
Through the development of the pervious articles on the Deep Ones, as well as some conservations I have had with a number of individuals, I have come up with a series of hypotheses on the origin of these entities. Before the hypotheses are described, I want to outline some assumptions I have used for their development. First, the hypotheses assume that the Elder Ones are the creators of complex life on Earth (At the Mountains of Madness). Second, we are only considering HPL’s story The Shadow Over Innsmouth in exploring the origins of the Deep Ones.
1. The Deep Ones are members of the Spawn of Cthulhu – Under this hypothesis the Deep Ones came down to Earth along with the Spawn of Cthulhu. While the Spawn can be considered to be members of Cthulhu’s “aristocratic court of R’lyeh”, the Deep Ones can be thought of as the “minions” to Cthulhu. Under this hypothesis, the Deep Ones are just as alien as the Spawn and Cthulhu himself. I do not support this hypothesis since the Deep Ones can freely breed with humans. Again, this is why humans and Deep Ones are in the same genus because they can breed. Even if their offspring are sterile, they must be very similar on a genetic level for offspring to be produced in the first place. In addition, this breeding is very conventional for Terran life.
Compare this to when Lavinia Whateley gave birth to Wilbur and his “twin” in The Dunwich Horror. The sexual act, birth and offspring in that tale are very different and not at all similar to the Terran biological mechanisms employed in The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Thus, while Yog-Sothoth had “hybrid” offspring with a human this was an extremely rare event, which was an inter-dimensional mating, not following the rules of Terran biology. Thus, I feel the Deep Ones are of Terran origin and not aliens from other planets or dimensions like the entites they worship.
A Member of the Spawn Worshipping Mighty Cthulhu (by the great Steve Maschuck)
2. The Deep Ones were bioengineered by Others (possibly by the Spawn of Cthulhu) – The Elder Ones created complex (eukaryotic cells) life on Earth. Their “failed experiments” crawled away and evolved on their own (most of life on Earth). The “pinnacle” of Terran evolution, at least from the perspective of the Elder Ones, are the Shoggoths, which can be thought of as super-eukaryotic organisms. Were the Deep Ones another experiment conducted by the Elder Ones, or perhaps even by the Spawn of Cthulhu?
Again, I do not subscribe to this hypothesis due to the fact that humans and Deep Ones can breed. If the Elder Ones made the Deep Ones in an entirely different experiment, they could not breed with humans. Shoggoths and humans do not breed (at least there is no known case of such breeding). If the Spawn of Cthulhu bioengineered the Deep Ones, possibly with technology borrowed or stolen from the Elder Things, their creations would probably have been at least partially made of the same alien matter as themselves. In any event, I find this hypothesis unlikely.
Old One (also known as an Elder One or Elder Thing). Were they the creators of the Deep Ones? (artwork by Jeff Remmer; www.templeofdagon.com)
3. The Deep Ones and humans share a common ancestor they way that humans and the Great Apes do – I find this hypothesis more plausible since (and I know I sound like a broken record but this is a REALLY big deal in terms of species, evolution and taxonomic relationships), humans and Deep Ones can inter-breed. It only takes a few changes in the millions of genetic code to “convert” one species into another. For example, below is a figure showing that two simple substitutions in a critical gene used for speaking and language separates us from most of the Great Apes. Now this figure is for only one gene (FOXP2) but the taxonomic relations are fairly close. Are the Deep Ones an off-shoot of humans or is the separation further back, below the separation between the Great Apes and the monkeys? Probably not since breeding can occur between humans and Deep Ones. In other words, Deep Ones are more closely related to humans than the Great Apes are.
Relationship among various organisms for the FOXP2 gene (from http://www.bio.miami.edu)
4. Humans are part of the Deep One Life Cycle – While this hypothesis may seem very strange, it would explain the ease with which reproduction occurred between Deep Ones and humans. It would also explain the general absence of breeding among the Deep Ones (at least none has been documented). Perhaps this is a bizarre form of neoteny and metamorphosis, where the Deep Ones must go to land to breed and then go back into the sea (sort of a reverse, saltwater amphibian?). Is humanity nothing more than the tadpole stage of the Deep Ones life cycle? If this hypothesis is true then we are Deep Ones and they are us. There are no hybrids – humanity returns to the sea to truly complete its life cycle.
Innsmouth by the talented artist Tom Jenkins
To test any of these hypotheses, some DNA and RNA samples need tp be collected from Deep Ones. Some additional tissues / protein analyses would help as well but some gene sequencing and subsequent phylogenetic comparisons should be made. Maybe such a comparison between humans and Deep Ones would end up like that scene in Prometheus where they are comparing the “engineer” DNA to human DNA – “My God – it’s us – it’s everything!”
Deep Ones by Dave Studzinski (from HPL, 2nd printing)
Scene from Prometheus, 2012 by Ridley Scott (on the Blu-Ray; extra / modified scene)
Next time I will be talking about the Shoggoths of Innsmouth. Thank you – Fred