An excellent and entertaining resource on Lovecraft’s stories is the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast hosted by Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer. Over the years they have reviewed and analyzed all of HPL’s stories and currently are doing the same for stories that HPL has cited in his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” I highly recommend the Podcast.
What is interesting about going through the Podcast episodes of HPL’s stories, particularly since the stories are presented in chronological order, is you can see themes or trends appear throughout his writings. One of the ideas that periodically comes up and has been noted by Chris and Chad is that in some respects select entities of HPL’s seem to be easily defeated or relatively weak beings. In this article I will be discussing this idea and presenting a hypothesis to explain it
First, it should be noted that some Lovecraftian entities seem to be very hardy if not downright immortal. The Elder Ones (or Elder Things) were described a number of times as being extremely tough yet flexible. These beings are known to have the capacity to travel interstellar space, live in the deep waters of the ocean or on dry land, which can include the steaming jungles near the equator or the Arctic / Antarctic regions of the poles. Additionally, they can be put into some type of stasis or coma and can be revived millions of years later. The Elder Ones are obviously well adapted to surviving a wide variety of environments and are well known to be residents of our universe. The same can be said of their creations the shoggoths; well adapted and hearty organisms.
Elder Ones by bioytic-9000 (www.deviantart.org)
However, in contrast to the Elder Things and shoggoths, other Lovecraftian entities do not appear to be as well adapted to our universe, let alone a Terran environment. For example, in “The Whisperer in Darkness” the Mi-Go were described by Henry Akeley as being “clumsy in getting about” and having wings that “are not much use for short flights on earth.” The Mi-Go are not of this Earth or of our universe, which is why they appear as clumsy in our atmosphere and gravity.
Mi-Go by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)
In “The Dunwich Horror,” which is a story I have yet to cover on this blog site, Wilbur Whateley was easily killed by a guard dog while he was attempting to steal a copy of the Necronomicon housed at the library at Miskatonic University. Additionally, after he was killed Wilbur’s body rapidly decomposed so that by the time the medical examiner came to inspect the body nothing was left except a “sticky whitish mass.” Two things come to mind on this. First, while powerful from an inter-dimensional perspective, Wilbur was relatively weak in our reality; he was essentially killed by a dog (he obviously was right to be fearful over dogs). Second, once dead, Wilbur’s hybridized inter-dimensional biomatter quickly dissolved. This indicates that a considerable amount of energy was required to keep Wilbur’s body stable and intact while he was alive.
Similar to Wilbur, his twin was defeated by Dr. Armitage through an incantation. According to Armitage, “The thing has gone forever.” Thus, this large, invisible, inter-dimensional being was simply obliterated by some phrases from the Necronomicon.
Wilbur Whateley by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)
Finally, Cthulhu was presented as a god-like being who could influence people over the world through their own dreams. In spite of Cthulhu’s god-like status compared to us puny humans, he appeared to be easily defeated. Johansen drove the vessel the Alert head long onto Cthulhu. The result of this was Cthulhu popped like an “exploding bladder” in an “acrid and blinding green cloud.” However, while Cthulhu was defeated, it was not destroyed. Johansen could see Cthulhu recombining in the water. Thus, Cthulhu still lies deep in R’lyeh in a deep sleep.
Cthulhu Rising by Spenzer777 (www.deviant.org)
In each of these examples, these apparently powerful, inter-dimensional entities appear to be have difficulty in our reality or can be easily destroyed or defeated. How can this be? Essentially I hypothesize that since their beings originate from other dimensions or are inter-dimensional hybrids, their powers are limited in our dimension or reality. Thus, the inter-dimensional entities in our reality can be thought of as astronauts or deep sea divers.
Astronaut and deep sea diving suits allow humans to explore non-habitable environments such as space and the ocean. However, the trade-off to exploring these unforgiving, inhospitable environments is limitations in movement and speed due to their specialized suits. Additionally, we are entirely dependent on an artificial means of breathing. Thus, we need to expend a high amount of energy to explorer these environments over short periods of time. From the perspective of a shark or whale humans in the ocean may appear to be powerful beings, yet at the same time we are weak in that we are slow moving and dependent on exteneral forces / energies to keep up alive. I believe the same can be said about the inter-dimensional Old Ones.
An astronaut’s suit keeps them alive but limits mobility, and vision; the suit is both power and a limitation for humans (astronaut.com)
In each case, the Mi-Go, Wilbur Whateley and Cthulhu, are inter-dimensional, or semi-inter-dimensional entities probing or exploring our universe and reality. For the Mi-Go, they may be a stable form of inter-dimensional life that can do quite well in our universe, however, they obviously are not adapted to many of our physical constants such as gravity. Additionally, as HPL cites in “The Whisperer in Darkness” the Mi-Go are “composed of a form of matter totally alien to our part of space – with electrons having a wholly different vibration-rate.” Thus, while possibly not residents of our universe, they appear to be moderately comfortable here. Maybe they can be thought of as explorers (or miners?) with equipment and gear; although in their case their equipment are their biological modifications.
In contrast, Wilbur Whateley and Cthulhu are entities that appear to require an enormous amount of energy to maintain their status in this universe. Upsetting this stream of energy killed Wilbur and temporarily defeated Cthulhu. Thus, their respective forms in our reality may be their astronaut or diving suits – Cthulhu may look very different in its own residential universe. Also, using the astronaut or diving suit analogy, this would explain the apparent weakness of these entities. If Wilbur and Cthulhu were successful in opening the way from their universe to ours these circumstances would certainly change.
Next time the discussion will focus on Nyarlathotep. Thank you – Fred.