Alternative Hypotheses on the Origin of the Great Race

Jack Skeleton reviewing the Scientific Method, from The Nightmare Before Christmas (

What I love about both science and working on this WordPress page is that I am always learning something new.  I like to say science is not math.  While 1 + 1 will always equal 2 (at least in our known part of the Universe), science works by making observations, developing a predictive hypothesis to explain how something works, and then testing that hypothesis.  If the resulting data supports the hypothesis, additional tests are done for further validation.  However, if the resulting data to not support the hypothesis, it has to be either modified or thrown out for a new hypothesis.  This has been the case for my analysis on the origin of the Great Race.

Based on the available data at hand, I hypothesized in the first article that the cone-shaped beings (CSBs), were either related to one of two Class of Mollusks (Gastropods or Cephalopods) or that they need to be in their own separate phylum.  I concluded the second article citing the bizarre life forms that were identified in the Burgess Shale, which is dated between 530 and 510 million years ago .  I then hypothesized that maybe the CSBs were the decedents from a species that resided in the Burgess Shale.

The Great Race (some fantastic artwork by Steve Maschuck)

However, Tom Ardans brought to my attention a specific quote in the text of HPL’s The Shadow Out of Time:   “The beings of a dying elder world, wise with the ultimate secrets, had looked ahead for a new world and species wherein they might have long life; and had sent their minds en masse into that future race best adapted to house them – the cone-shaped beings that peopled our earth a billion years ago.”

The key to that passage is the CSBs were on Earth a billion years ago.  Thus, the CSBs are approximately twice as old as the multi-cellular residents of the Burgess Shale (maybe the CSBs have been on Earth longer than a billion year ago)!  Additionally, according to HPL’s At the Mountains of Madness, the Elder Ones (or Things) came to Earth in the Archaean Aeon.  Following S.T. Joshi’s approach, I will use the more up-to-date age estimated for the Archaen Aeon.  Thus, the Archaen Aeon is estimated to be between 2.5 and 4 billion years ago (cited in both M.J. Benton’s The History of Life and in the explanatory notes by S.T. Joshi for At the Mountains of Madness, found in The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories; 2001).

The Great Race examining some text on a future civilization (more great artwork by Tom Ardans)

When the Elder Things arrived on Earth in the Archaen Aeon life was limited to prokaryotic cells (bacteria).  It was the Elder Things, through elaborate forms of bioengineering and endosymbiosis, who created more complex eukaryotic cells, which eventually gave rise to dinosaurs, humans and Shoggoths (which were probably the pinnacle of success for their experiments).  Is it possible that the Elder Things also created the CSBs?  Were the CSBs an early experiment that slithered away to evolve on their own, only to have the Yithian minds invade their bodies approximately 400 million years ago (this date was identified in the 2nd edition of The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana by Daniel Harms; 1998)?

Unponderable Elder Thing by Henning (

To summarize, we know based on HPL’s writings that the CSBs were not aliens.  They were natives of Earth.  If that is the case, and the Elder Things arrived on Earth before the CSBs appeared, then more than likely the CSBs were a by-product of the Elder Things experiments on life.  This strange geologic relationship between the Elder Things and the Great Race will be discussed in more detail in the next article.  Thank you – Fred.


40 thoughts on “Alternative Hypotheses on the Origin of the Great Race

  1. Fascinating stuff! It is interesting to think that the CSB were products of the Elder Things…but you made that pretty clear.

    Awesome article!


  2. (I am copying this from Part 2, where I posted this comment)
    I wonder if their evolutionary precursor was a fourplex being, possibly even colonial, with four modules doing similar jobs. Later, each ‘lobe’ specialized into feeding, grasping/defense, and sensory. That was kind if my thinking behind making the cone body four-lobed. As for the oddity of three eyes when all other features are fourplex, it could be one eye atrophied when the head started to be carried in a favored orientation. The ancestral form looked, maybe, more like a carnivorous plant, with four stems waving about, with no obvious front or back.

  3. If the CSB really are native to Earth then the Elder Things, as the ultimate creators of all terrestrial life, must be ultimately responsible for them.

    This creates problems because the CSB must have been an intelligent race in their own right, otherwise they would not have been suitable subjects for the Yithians to take over, but this brings up the question of why the Elder Things allowed the CSB to exist in the first place. A billion years ago the Elder Things were still quite vigilant and would have exterminated any species that showed signs of being a possible threat to their dominance of the planet. The CSB may have evolved ‘by accident’ but surely the Elder Things would have noticed them at some point before the Yithian minds arrived. This makes me think something else was going on.

    Possibly the CSB were, like the Shoggoths, a deliberate creation of the Elder Things, but this also brings up the question of ‘why?’ Were they created as another kind of slave-race, one designed to be more intelligent (if less versatile) than the Shoggoths?

    There is another idea that occurs to me, an idea that is far more tantalizing: what if the CSB were meant to be a new form of the Elder Things themselves? In ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ we learn that the Elder Things had tried a kind of ‘mechanized’ form on other worlds, only to abandon that mode of life as unsatisfying. What if the CSB were created in a similar experiment, this time using biological means?

    1. That’s…fascinating. The idea that the CSB were supposed to be a new form of the Elder Things…wow!

      If not for the eventual fall of the Elder Thing Antarctic civilization, perhaps the Yith might have chosen to possess THEM.

      Just a comment!


    2. Hey Julianus – really interesting stuff you presented here. Some of it I was going to bring up in future articles and some of this stuff I never even thought of! I love to hear perspectives and hypotheses from others on HPL’s work! Thank you. Fred

      1. Glad you liked it, Fred!

        The Haunter brings up an interesting point though: why didn’t the Yithian minds take over the Elder Things en masse? I don’t think the Elder Things’ wars would have been an insurmountable complication as the Cthulhu-spawn, Mi-Go, Serpent Men, etc. would have given anyone problems. Moreover, the Great Race did wind up with its own special enemy in the form of the Flying Polyps, whose territory in Australia they wound up occupying. (An aside: is there a connection between the Cthulhu-spawn and the Polyps? They seem to have shared an origin outside our own space-time, after all.)

        Perhaps the explanation is really one of numbers. Perhaps there were simply too many Elder Things alive on Earth at the time for the Yithians to take them all over, whereas there were just enough of the CSB available.

        And perhaps, since the Yithians could do their mind exchanges with the Elder Things, it was the Yithians who secretly gave the Elder Things the idea of creating the CSB in the first place…

      2. Some interesting questions! It may have been as simple as biological compatibility in a species wide transfer of Yithian minds into the CSBs. HPL mentions that the CSB’s mind was compatible with the Yithian mind. I am reading Michio Kaku’s new book – The Future of the Mind – and it presents some interesting concepts relative to how the mind could travel out of the body; some of these concepts are actually linked to quantum mechanics relative to someone’s consciousness traveling through time and space. Such mind projection is obviously an important part of The Shadow Out of Time. Fred

      3. Those theories are FASCINATING. While the Mi-Go and the Star Spawn would have certainly caused trouble for the Yithians/Elder Things, the “electrical energy” that was used to with-hold the immense and powerful flying polyps would certainly do for the Mi-Go and possibly work for the Star Spawn. As you suggested, the Star Spawn and polyps have some relation in the sense that they are made up of alien matter. If they could with-hold the polyps in pits, they might be able to with-hold the Spawn. Perhaps not Cthulhu himself, but the Spawn.

        The CSB were compatible with the Yithian mind AND they lived incredibly long. However, the Elder Things would have also been a good choice, as they can withstand almost anything – deep seas, harsh weather (not Ice Age harsh, but harsh), and so on. Their intelligence and technological advancements would have been selectable for the Great Race.

        Another interesting idea would have been the shoggoths! Immensely strong and large, almost invulnerable because they’re made of protoplasmic jello, and clearly entities that live long since they survived to the events of “At the Mountains of Madness,” the only disadvantage to the Yithians would be that they were somewhat…well, stupid. However, I think that the Elder Things and possibly shoggoths would have been an interesting choice for the Yithians.

        Fantastic stuff! You bring up some interesting points, and I hope we can talk more about them in the future.

        BRIAN a.k.a. “The Haunter of the Dark.”

      4. It may be simply biological compatibility, but as we mentioned, they can switch minds with the Elder Things. Again, I will cover this in the next article! Thank you for the great comments!

    1. Possible. Let us not forget S’gg’ha, the star headed Elder Thing captured by the Great Race.

      Now that I think of it, the Elder Things would have been slightly more suitable for the Great Race. The CSB don’t really have any signifigance – no sexes, reproduction by spores, et cetera. They were only selected because they lived very long…


      1. Since the Great Race could look forward in time to judge a potential host species’ future problems, they might have rejected the Elder Things for their constant battles with the Cthulhu spawn, and ongoing problems with Shoggoth uprisings.

      2. Exactly. The constant war that the Elder Things held with Cthulhu, the Outer Ones/Mi-Go, and the shoggoths would have been eliminating the Elder Things from the list. In some other circumstances, however, the Elder Things might’ve been more suitable.

      3. Hey Brian – that’s it! That is passage – I had to re-read that several times to understand that we were actually getting a name for one of the Elder Things! Imagine where Lovecraft’s fiction would have went if he lived longer! Fred

      4. Great! I wouldn’t have remembered S’gg’ha if it wasn’t for the peculiar name.


    2. Yes, there are some great passages that HPL includes in the story that I will talk about in an upcoming article that focuses on this idea. Fred

    1. Amazing artwork – those Elder Things are fantastic, and your CSB are the creepiest I’ve ever seen!


    1. I imagine after it’s reached the land-based phase, it would experience partial moults for the extremities as it grows up. The rest of the body is not exoskeletal.

      1. It also occurs to me that since in my theory each lobe comes from a different larva, There would be some asymmetry between the left and right claws. And assuming the larvae are sexed, the adults could be several combinations of gender: 4F, 4M, 1F/3M, 2F/2M, 3F/1M.

  4. One thing I just remembered in the story: Peaslee mentions that the Yithians restricted his sensory input: he only got sight and sound (and touch I imagine). Lovecraft hinted that the Yithians had other senses beyond those we have.

    1. This solves the conundrum of three eyes when all other features are four- or eight-plex. My idea is that the larger neuter always forms the aft lobe of the adult, so the front, left and right lobes produce gametes/spores, and the aft lobe has a row of cloacas for excretion.

  5. Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before but after looking at a few of the posts
    I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely pleased I
    stumbled upon it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s