Nyarlathotep: The Rats in the Walls

“It was the eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born rats, always questing for new horrors, and determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth’s centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly in the darkness to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players.” – H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls”


Nyarlathotep by ECT Monster (www.deviantart.com)

The quote above is the only time Nyarlathotep is mentioned in HPL’s early tale “The Rats in the Walls.”  While it is the only time Nyarlathotep in cited, it stands out for three reasons.  First, the description of Nyarlathotep as a “mad faceless god” howling in the darkness revealed another form of this entity.  In “Nyarlathotep” this entity appears as a dark-skinned human from Egypt while in “The Dreams in the Witch-House” he appears as a satyr-like, medieval interpretation of the devil.  In “The Rats in the Walls”  Nyarlathotep appears less anthropomorphic.  In addition, this vague description has stimulated the imagination of a number of artists, giving rise to a variety of unique interpretations (see below for a few examples).

Nyarlathotep by Ant’lyndaer Barri’ana

Nyarlathotep by Chaos DS (www.deviantart.com)


Howler of Evil by The Apostle Green (www.deviantart.com)


Nyarlathotep by Sam Reynolds (www.deviantart.com)

The second reason this mention of Nyarlathotep in “The Rats in the Walls”  stands out is that the appearance of Nyarlathotep initiates Thomas de la Poer’s descent into madness.  As de la Poer moved deeper into the caverns with the realization of what his ancestors were doing with the locals, his sanity began to crumble.  With the loss of his sanity de la Poer runs deeper in to the caverns, following the scurrying of the rats, hoping they will lead him to Nyarlathotep.  So why is de la Poer looking for Nyarlathotep?  There is no mention of Nyarlathotep up until that point in the story and there is no other mention afterwards.  del la Poer appeared to have no knowledge of Nyarlathotep or other entities.  So why was he seeking Nyarlathotep?

I hypothesize that this is a genetic trait deeply embedded in the de la Poer genome and was triggered by the conditions he was experiencing at Exham Priory.  The unspeakable rites and feeding habits of the de la Poers may be a means of summoning Nyarlathotep to this reality.  Conversely, an alternative hypothesis is that Nyarlathotep influences certain genetic lines of humanity and the actions of the de la Poer ancestors is a response.  Similar to Cthulhu, where certain individuals seem to be more susceptible to Cthulhu through dreams, Nyarlathotep may be attempting to enter our reality by influencing a genetic sub-set of humanity.  The de la Poers and their rites may have been preparing the Earth for Nyarlathotep the way the cultists in the swamplands of Louisiana were preparing the Earth for Cthulhu.   Being in his ancestral home, these recessive genetic markers could have been triggered in Thomas de la Poer, which included an ancestral memory of Nyarlathotep.  These ancestral memories will be discussed in a little more detail in the next article.


Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god by King Ovrats (www.deviantart.com)

Finally, the third reason is to recognize the presence of the two piping amorphous idiot flute-players associated with Nyarlathotep.  Again, why mention them?  What purpose to these entities serve?  Such beings tend to be associated with Azathoth but in this case their association with Nyarlathotep may serve to open the portal from their reality to ours.  As previously mentioned traveling intergalactic distances or from one dimension to another may be possible but require vast amounts of energy, far more than our technology can generate.  However, if Nyarlathotep has access to such energy, the idiot flute-players may serve as a means of channeling, concentrating or focusing that energy to open such an inter-dimensional wormhole.  In fact some of the more recent ideas associated with string theory and the existence of multiverses interconnected through “branes”, collective known as M-theory (The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene, 2011), may explain the need for these “idiot flute” players.  The term “idiot” may refer more to ideas associated with chaos, while the “flute” may represent a means of making the “strings” in string theory vibrate at a different frequency to allow an opening of a bane between two universes.  However, more on that in a future article.

Next time we will discuss the science of cannibalism in “The Rats in the Walls.”  Thank you – Fred.


19 thoughts on “Nyarlathotep: The Rats in the Walls

  1. Another great article with a likely hypothesis! However, those first couple of artworks were of the “God of the Bloody Tongue” form of Nyarlathotep, not of the rarely drawn Mad Faceless God.

    1. Thanks Brian – those pictures came up under my search for mad faceless god. What’s interesting is Lovecraft was not the originator of the name “God of the Bloody Tongue.” Based on Daniel Harms The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, 2nd edition, it sounds like this name originated from a Chaosium name scenario called Masks of Nyarlathotep. Fred

      1. It is the invention of Chaosium, but it most commonly pops up when “Nyarlathotep” is searched for.

  2. A very good article, any thoughts on Derleth’s “The Dweller in Darkness”? But from where do you attribute the protagonist’s first name as being “Thomas” in Rats in the Walls? Nowhere in the story is the main character’s first name mentioned, as has been remarked by Joshi and other commentators.

    1. Hey Duncan – thank you for the comments. I have not read “The Dweller in Darkness” in years but it is about time I re-read it, particularly after reading John Haefele’s “A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos.” I will have to confirm the “Thomas” name; I thought I was it in the Joshi, Penguin edition. Thanks again for the comments. Fred

  3. Nice hypotesis. Re-surfacing of ancestral memories and its dangers is a leitmotiv in the early tales (“The beast in the cave”; “Arthur Jermyn”).
    Of course, the mention of Nyarlathotep is just a hint in “the rats”, so someone has pointed out a real or apparent confusion between Nyarlathotep and Azathoth (e.g. http://www.reddit.com/r/Lovecraft/comments/2cyvx4/why_does_the_rats_in_the_walls_mention/).
    Personally, I think HPL was very meticolous in building his “myths” so even if in 1923 he still had not well conceived “Azathoth” (though in 1922 he wrote a fragment with this title), he already had in mind a “who’s who” of his babies.

  4. The Rats in the Walls is one of my favorites. Another favorite, at this time of year is The Festival, a Christmas story, Lovecraft style. And I think one of his best for atmospherics.

  5. I like the idea of the flute players being something like metaphors for the tools used by the gods to concentrate or use large amounts of energy. Very intriguing. Their music probably would not be something we would hear with our ears, but might see or feel the effects of if we’re close enough. Since strings vibrating are what make the fundamental particles of the universe, the piping of these “flutes” would be altering or changing the vibrations, and that seems like something we are not meant to experience. The kinds of effects it might have on our brain when within proximity of such a change is truly unfathomable.

    1. Hey Keith – thank you for the comments! Yes, the pipes might not only open the way for inter-dimensional travel but they may also include human brain biology similar to the Resonator in “From Beyond.” Thank you for the comments! Fred

  6. Your idea about Nal “attempting to enter our reality through a genetic subset of humanity” makes me wonder if the incarnation of Nal we saw in his eponymous tale was actually a descendant of a line like the Delapores – one which eventually produced the man called Nyarlathotep described in the story.

    Given how otherworldly and utterly alien the Mythos Gods are, Nal’s anthropomorphic nature in “Nyarlathotep” seems odd. Why would the “soul and messenger of Infinity’s Other Gods” choose to become so mired in human affairs as he did in that story? Perhaps that iteration of Nal is a relative of the Delapores, or of another family line similarly influenced.

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