The Architecture of R’lyeh

R’lyeh is the sunken city where Cthulhu is entombed.  In a previous article on non-Euclidean Geometry I briefly mentioned R’lyeh; however, here I want to go into more detail on this sunken alien city described in HPL’s great tale The Call of Cthulhu.

A vision of R’lyeh by Paul Carrick

As described in The Call of Cthulhu, the crew of the Emma landed on an unknown island on the 23rd of March 1925.  The island was the alien Cyclopean city of sleeping Cthulhu and his Spawn.  The first thing observed as the crew approached the island was a “great stone pillar sticking out of the sea.”  As they approached it, the crew found a coastline of mud, ooze and weeds (I am assuming the “weeds” were a combination of seaweed, tubeworms,  crinoids, coral and other sessile marine life).

R’lyeh by Paul Mudie

The narrator of the story, Francis Wayland Thurston, hypothesized that the city the sailors landed on was “only a singlel mountain-top, the hideous monolith-crowned citadel whereon great Cthulhu was buried, actually emerged from the waters.”  Everything was incredibly huge – greenish stone blocks of unbelievable size and colossal statues and bas-reliefs (in the image of Cthulhu) were observed.

In addition to the immense size of the structures the geometry or the “angles” of the city were all wrong, at least for the human species whose architecture is firmly grounded in Euclidean geometry.  The city seemed to made of non-Euclidean geometry and loathsomely redolent spheres and dimensions apart from our own.  As I mentioned in a previous article, non-Euclidean is simply geometry not confined to straight lines at right angles, triangles, squares, circles, etc.  Any example of what this non-Euclidean geometry looks like in R’lyeh was given in the sailor’s account – “….in those crazily elusive angles of carven rock where a second glance shewed concavity after the first shewed convexity.”

Concave is simply curved inward like a cave, where convex is the opposite and a shape stick out (from

So, look at the two sets of buildings below – the buildings on the left are concave, while those on right are convex.  So imagine looking at one set of those buildings and at one moment the structure is convex and the next it is concave.  Or imagine looking at the structure and as you are walking by it actually changes before your eyes from concave to convex, simply based on your point of view.  In addition, unlike a hologram this is a real structure and the shift from concave to convex is not consistent or predictable.  Some structures look the same while others are shifting in shape and structure, with no repeatable pattern.   Still others may change in shape at one point in time and then stop such changes.

Concave and Conex buildings (from

One can see how such strange, chaotic changes in the city of non-Euclidean geometry would certainly make one uneasy.  You would question both your sanity and reality.  Is this city, which originated from the bottom of the sea and obviously not built nor designed for humans some strange hallucination?

Angles of R’lyeh by Marc Simonetti (from The Art of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos).  This piece of almost “Escher-like” artwork seems appropriate in conveying the confusion and disorientation associated with being at R’lyeh.

Such confusion and disorientation on R’lyeh did result in the death of at least one of the sailors on 23rd of March 1925.  Johansen swore he saw Parker slip and was “swallowed up by an angle of masonry which shouldn’t have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuse.”  Thus, if we are to accept the testimony of Johansen, this shifting or phasing of the buildings and structures on R’lyeh was actually manifested in our reality and not an illusion.  This was beautifully demonstrated in Andrew Leman’s incredible movie “The Call of Cthulhu”, which was filmed as a silent, black and white movie.  I strongly recommend anyone who is interested in Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos in general to see that movie – it is fantastic and amazing that they produced such a high quality film on such a limited budget.

At R’lyeh – from Andrew Leman’s The Call of Cthulhu (H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society)

To conclude, R’lyeh not only exhibited non-Euclidean geometries but also exhibited quasi- or alternative forms of quantum mechanics that occurred at the macroscopic level.  This is why poor Parker slipped through an angle he thought was solid.

Next time will discuss the link between R’lyeh and HPL’s story Dagon.  Thank you – Fred

Another view of R’lyeh by Mr. Loach


5 thoughts on “The Architecture of R’lyeh

  1. Wow, what a fascinating article. Non-Euclidean geometry seems to be a frequent “tool” in Lovecraft, and R’lyeh seemed to be a perfect place to use it.

    Really looking forward to that “Cthulhu”/”Dagon” comparison. “The Call of Cthulhu” seems to be a longer, more complicated version of “Dagon,” in fact, the latter seems to be a DRAFT of the former.

    Wonderful stuff.


    1. Hey Brian – thanks; yes, I agree. Dagon seems to be the initial seed that blooms in both Call of Cthulhu and (to a lesser extent) the Shadow Over Innsmouth! Fred

      1. True – the Esoteric Order of Dagon worships Dagon and Cthulhu. So there is definitely a link…


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