Category Archives: Elder Things

Cryptobiosis in Elder Things, Part 3 Drifting through Interstellar Space

Being essentially, asexual, immortal beings, the Elder Things are not constrained by specific life cycle functions and are not overly concerned with reproduction. In addition, their ability to enter into cryptobiosis over extremely long periods of time and under very adverse environmental conditions, means the Elder Things are uniquely adapted to survive in interstellar space. Elder Thing by Sadan Vague (

Previously we hypothesized that the Elder Things may use dark matter and/or dark energy to propel themselves through space. Additionally, we know from their discovery in Antarctica that they go into a cryptobiotic state for long periods of time. Thus, it is not surprising that they would remain in such a state for millennia, drifting thorough interstellar space. Such a mode of existence is a very energy efficient means of colonizing other ecosystems, or in their case planets. A wide variety of organisms behave in a similar manner, such as phytoplankton, invertebrates and plants (e.g. seeds). In addition, we are familiar with at least one multicellular organism that can survive the rigors of space – the tardigrades.

tard1   A tardigrade

Tardigrades, also known as water bears, are water-dwelling, multicellular, micro-animals of the phylum Tardigrada. These organisms have been found in hot springs and on the top of the Himalayas, in polar regions and the deep sea; they are some of the most resilient Terran organisms. Tardigrades can survive extreme temperatures, pressures, a absence of oxygen, dehydration, high amounts of radiation (they can withstand 1,000 times more radiation than any other Terran animal) and a complete lack of food. In fact, tardigrades are so resilient that they are one of the few groups of organisms to have survived all five of Earth’s mass extinctions. Thus, its not surprising that tardigrades are the first known animal to have survived when exposed to outer space.

One reason for the high degree of resiliency in the tardigrades relative to the exposure of high amounts of radiation in space, is its unique damage suppressor protein, called Dsup, which suppresses the frequency of DNA breaks associated with high amounts of radiation. It may be possible that among the many unique adaptations (e.g. extremely tough but flexible hide, the potential ability to utilize dark energy / dark energy), the Elder Things have its own set of Dsup proteins that allow them to survive drifting through space as intergalactic plankton.

Hypsibius                                                                                                  The tardigrade Hypsibius dujardini – an immunofluorescent micrograph

According to Dyer, early bas-reliefs found in the mountains of madness represented the preterrestrial life of the Elder Things on other planets, in other galaxies and even in other universes (more on this in a future article). Additional bas-reliefs indicated that they arrived on a “…nascent, lifeless earth…” although based on estimates of when the Elder Things arrived on Earth the world already had life but it was only microbial in nature. The Elder Things were said to have “…filtered down from the stars when earth young –.” However, while the Elder Things may have possessed an entire array of adaptations to survive in a cryptobiotic state drifting through space until they arrived on a habitable world, based on the bas-reliefs as the Pleistocene drew on the Elder Things “…had lost track…” of the ability to travel through space.

Bellerophon Cthulhu soapstone bas relief Bas-relief of the spawn of Cthulhu found in the Mountains of Madness (

Through the centuries the Elder Things experienced a war with the spawn of Cthulhu as well as a number of rebellions of their Shoggoth creations. Thus, by the time the inter-dimensional Mi-Go arrived on Earth, the Elder Things wanted to leave the planet in search of other worlds for colonization. However, when they attempted to leave Earth, they “…found it no longer possible to leave the earth’s atmosphere. Whatever the old secret of interstellar travel had been, it was now definitely lost to the race.” This passage is extremely interesting in that it makes it difficult to accurately describe just exactly how the Elder Things traveled through space.

untitled                   Elder Thing by Steve Maschuck

Based on earlier accounts of their complete lack of dependence or interest in mechanical devices we know their ability to travel through space is not based on technology. While space travel may be more of a biological adaptation, their essentially immortal status and the general absence of sexual reproduction, indicates that more than likely the Elder Things did not “loose” the ability to travel through natural selection (as least based on the way we understand how Terran evolution operates). Thus, I hypothesize that interstellar travel was more of a cultural trait or ability that was known and shared amount the Elder Things. Cultural traits, which are not evolutionary in nature, that are past from one generation to the next in humans include language and writing. Thus, interstellar travel may have been a cultural trait in the Elder Things.

Elderthing_CthulhuWars_SandyPetersen Elder Thing art for Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Wars

The colony of Elder Things that reached Earth and remained on the planet for millions of years had no need to travel through interstellar space and so not only forgot how to travel through space but even how to leave the planet’s atmosphere. Thus, over time, this ability or knowledge was simply lost, at least to those who colonized the Earth. However, their inert resiliency was not entirely lost since they could still live in the deep ocean depths and still put themselves into a state of cryptobiosis for millions of years.

Next time we will review how other colonies of Elder Things not only retained their ability to travel through space but also learned how to travel through higher dimensions to other Universes. Thank you – Fred.

Elder Things and Cone-Shaped Beings: Creators and Created?

Last time it was established that the cone-shaped beings (CSBs) has been on Earth for at least a billion years, while the Elder Things came to Earth sometime in the Archaen Aeon (between 2.5 and 4 billion years ago).  When the Elder Things arrived on Earth, life only consisted of prokaryotic (bacterial cells) life.  It was the Elder Things that created more complex, eukaryotic cells, which then gave rise to multicellular life.  It appears that one of their earliest experiments, whether the eventual outcome was intentional or not, may have the creation of the CSBs.

Great Race of Yith (by Douzen)

If the Elder Things did create the CSBs, why didn’t Dyer and Danforth come across a description of these beings on the bas-reliefs they were examining in the ancient city in At the Mountains of Madness.  There are a number of possible explanations.  As Dr. Robert M. Price described in his article – Patterns in the Snow: A New Reading of At the Mountains of Madness (Crypt of Cthulhu, Issue 81; 1992), the data that Dyer and Danforth collected were based on conjectural “readings” of “mute bas reliefs in one single building in a vast city..”.  Dr. Price hypothesizes that it may be possible there was some misinterpretations of the bas reliefs.  For example, what if the story of the Elder Things was not them coming to Earth and establishing a civilization?  What if the story was that the Elder Things were also residents of Earth who created the Shoggoths and then voyaged to the stars (Price, 1992)?  Thus, isn’t it possible that other passages of the bas reliefs were misinterpreted, including any mention of the CSBs?

Crypt of Cthulhu, Issue 81
Crypt of Cthulhu, Issue 81

Another explanation is that descriptions of the CSBs were found in other buildings within the city.  Maybe each building or section of the city provides information on various aspects of Elder Thing culture or history.  As an analogy, imagine if an alien civilization was given the chapter summaries from a book on American History.  While an overall view of general historical accounts would be given, large portions of critical details would be overlooked.  This may be the case in At the Mountains of Madness.

Finally, maybe the Elder Things did not consider the CSBs to be very interesting to include them in their historical accounts.  However, this last explanation is unlikely.

While the CSBs or the Great Race were not mentioned in At the Mountains of Madness, the Elder Thing were mentioned several times in The Shadow Out of Time.  The first time they are mentioned was when Wingate Peaslee was describing some of the other minds that were transferred with the bodies of the Great Race.  I will review some of these Terran and alien minds in a later article but Peaslee did state that “Of earthly minds there were some of the winged, starheaded, half-vegetable race of palaeogean Antarctica…”  Thus, it is obvious from this passage that the Elder Things are susceptible to the mind transfer with the Great Race, just as are humans.

Yithian and Elder Things (

In a later passage it was noted that warfare has been waged by the Great Race against various species, including the “…star-headed Old Ones who centered in the Antarctic, was infrequent though infinitely devastating.”  Thus, it sounds like the Great Race and the Elder Things rarely had contact but when they did war was typically the result.  In addition, being described as “devastating” by the Great Race indicates that the Elder Things were typically the winners of such skirmishes.  It sounds like the camera-like electrical weapons of the Great Race were no match against Shoggoths!

The last time the Elder things are mentioned is when Peaslee is again recalling some past memories and asks himself if he can find a tower in the Great Race’s ancient city where “S’gg’ha, the captive mind from the star-headed vegetable carnivores of Antarctica, had chiseled certain pictures on the blank spaces of the walls?”  Here we actually given the name of an Elder Thing!

To conclude, the interactions between the Great Race and the Elder Things were complicated to say the least.  While the Elder Things may have been the ultimate creators of the CSBs, these two species had aggressive conflicts, more than likely after the CSB minds were taken over by the Yithians.  Finally, it is quite ironic that the Great Race could manipulate their creators or “gods” through mind projection.  Next time I will talk about Yithian technology.  Thank you – Fred

Ancient text of a Yithian (from granraza1)

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.

Elder Things in the Witch House

As surprising as the presence of Shoggoths in Innsmouth in HPL’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, is the appearance of the Elder Things (or Elder Ones as named by Robert M. Price) in his story The Dreams in the Witch House.  While the Elder Things were not explicitly named in the story, they certainly made an appearance based on their description provided by HPL.

Elder Thing by the very talented artist Filippo Borghi

At one point in the story after traveling through hyperspace, Walter Gilman finds himself “half lying on a high, fantastically balustrade terrace above a boundless jungle of outlandish, incredible peaks, balanced planes, domes minarets, horizontal disks poised on pinnacles, and numberless forms of still greater wildness…”

Example of old limestone balustrade (from

As Gilman moves to stand up on a terrace, he examines the chest-high balustrade (a type of ornamental railing).  They are made of a strange shining metal whose “colour could not be guessed in the chaos of mixed effulgences, and their nature utterly defied conjecture.”  These balustrades “represented some ridged barrel-shaped objects with thin horizontal arms radiating spoke-like from a central ring and with vertical knobs or bulbs projecting form the head and base of the barrel.”  The description continues for a another three long sentences and was clearly describing a small representation of an Elder Thing.

To the left is a representation of Nyarlathotep and Brown Jenkin by Liv Rainey-Smith in a hand-colored woodcut (called “Sign!”).  To the right is an Elder Thing “Balustrade” figurine by Ann S. Koi.  Both can be found on the Kickstarter website for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon 2014 Portland, OR.

As Gilman tries to stand up he accidently snaps one of the balustrade “spiky figures’ off.  At the same time he hears something from behind and turns to see five figures walking toward him, which included Keziah Mason, Brown Jenkin and three of the barrel-shaped entities, 8 feet tall and “propelling themselves by a spider-like wriggling of their lower set of starfish-arms.”  This causes Gilman to awake up in his bed and immediately leaves his apartment.  He comes back later, around 9 o’clock at night, and to his horror and amazement he finds the spiky figure of the Elder Thing that he accidentally broke off the balustrade in his dream on his table.  In the story this was a turning point because before this incident, Walter Gilman was convinced everything that was occurring was due to some bad dreams and being overworked.  With the appearance of the Elder Thing figurine, the problems within his dreams become manifested into reality.

                                                                                                                                         Is this what the spiky figurine of the Elder Thing looked like, that Walter Gilman broke off the balustrade in his dreams (artwork by Jason McKittrick)?

So the question is – why were the Elder Things associated with Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin?  The great Lovecraftian scholar S.T. Joshi in the Penguin Classics edition of The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories was wondering about this as well.

“….although there seems to be no legitimate purpose to their appearance in this tale.” – S.T. Joshi

However, once again discussions about this story on the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast were very enlightening.  Some of the hypotheses proposed included that since Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin can travel through time and space that they were visiting the Elder Ones for some forbidden knowledge.  Remember the terrace that Walter Gilman was on looked very different than Antarctica.  It was a steaming, jungle environment with three suns so it was not Earth or even ancient Earth.  For some reason, in my mind, I think of that brief glimpse we get of the Predator’s world in the Alien vs. Predator: Requiem movie.  Not the spaceships but the atmosphere and buildings (see below).

Home world of the Predators in AVP: Requiem.  Did the world that Walter Gilman visit in The Dreams in the Witch House look like this?

Another idea, which was brought up by Kenneth Hite on the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast is that maybe the Elder Things had a “witch cult” of their own.  Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin were both members of the witch cult, which worshipped the tall Dark Man.  In Keizah’s mind the Dark Man was Satan but we know him as Nyarlathotep.  Maybe to the Elder Things Nyarlathotep looked like a large Dark Elder Thing instead of a tall Dark Man.  Indeed, maybe the Elder Things that Walter Gilman very briefly met were part of an Elder Thing cult worshiping Nyarlathotep.  Remember of all of HPL’s entities, the Elder Things were the closest to being “human”.  As Dyer said, “Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn – whatever they had been, they were men!”

Elder Things on another one of the worlds they colonized?  Artwork by Harry O Morris

We may never know why Walter Gilman saw the Elder Things and what Keziah Mason and Brown Jenkin were doing “associated” with such entites.  However, is this how the Elder Things arrived at Earth over a billion years ago?  Maybe they used hyperspace, guided by the representatives or “wizards” of Nyarlathotep to get to Earth.  It is said the Elder Things filtered down from the stars and later lost the ability to conduct interstellar travel.  Did the cults of Nyarlathotep fall out of fashion in the Elder Thing civilization, leaving them Earth-bound?  This would explain how they lost their ability to travel through space (and maybe time as well).

Next time I will be talking about the architecture and mathematics of the great City of R’lyeh.  On a concluding note, I must say, as we leave the Witch House, that I listened to samples of the Lovecraftian Rock Opera – Dreams in the Witch House and really enjoyed the music.  I intend on purchasing a copy of this and would recommended it; give it a listen.  If a live show of this every comes to Philadelphia, I would definitely attend.   Thank you – Fred.

Impressions of the Mi-Go on Human Culture and their War with the Elder Ones

The Mi-Go (illustration by Steve Maschuck)

This article is a wrap up on the Mi-Go and will discuss the impressions these entities have had on human culture and their prehistoric war with the Elder Ones.  This subject was not covered as part of the original talk I gave at the Necronomicon in Providence, RI back in August 2013, however, I thought such discussions were necessary.

Unlike the Elder Ones, which were largely unknown by humanity until the Pabodie – Lake expedition to Antarctica in 1930-31, the Mi-Go have interacted with humanity over the centuries.  Encounters between humanity and the Mi-go have been extremely rare but are known to have occurred.  In turn, these encounters have permeated human culture, folklore and legends.  I will identify a few of these in this article.

The first example, which was described by HPL, was the legend of the yeti or abominable Snow Men of the Himalayas.  Several times in At the Mountains of Madness, HPL  identified that sightings of these creatures were actually Mi-Go.  In fact, it is hypothesized that most of the sightings of large hominids (e.g. bigfoot, sasquatch) through the world, particularly in higher elevations, are attributed to the Mi-Go, donning furs or pelts of large mammals.

The Mi-Go disguising themselves as large, hairy hominids makes sense.  First, misdirecting human mythology away from crustacean-like fungoid creatures toward large ape-like creatures is an effective means of removing concern or interest in the Mi-Go.  Second, it would explain the scalps and other mummified artifacts (e.g. hands) that are found in the Himalayas.  Some consider these as holy / religious artifacts (see below).  Yet, it is interesting how the yeti scalps and mummified hands remind one of the waxen face and hands of Akeley’s found in that lone farmhouse in Vermont at the end of The Whisperer in Darkness.

Yeti Scalp in a Himalayan Temple

In addition, while this connection between the Mi-Go and sightings of the abominable Snow Men was not explicitly described in The Whisperer in Darkness, it should be noted that the brain in the Mi-Go cylinder that spoke to Wilmarth said it encountered the Mi-Go in the Himalayas.  No doubt the Mi-Go would disguise themselves as large hominids in the mountains throughout the northern hemisphere and would occasionally make contact with a select few individuals.

Besides disguising themselves as large hominids, the Mi-Go also pose as other creatures.  More than likely sightings of the Mothman were actually of the Mi-Go as well.  The Mothman is the name giving to a creature that was observed in West Virginia; these sightings started in the late 1960’s.  The Mothman was reported as being a man-like figure with huge wings and large, glowing red eyes.  Again, it makes sense for the Mi-Go to disguise themselves when flying at night in case someone caught sight of them.  Indeed, some sightings of UFOs may also be attributed to the Mi-Go.

Mothman, 12 foot sculpture by artist Robert Roach in Point Pleasant, WV (

To conclude this discussion on the Mi-Go a few comments will be made on the war between them and the Elder Ones.  As previously discussed, the Elder Ones and spawn of Cthulhu battled on ancient Earth, which eventually ended in peace.  The Elder Ones took to the sea while the Cthulhu spawn took to the newer lands.  However, later the new lands of the Pacific suddenly sank into the sea, taking the great stone city of R’lyeh and the Cthulhu spawn with them.  The Elder Ones were once again the supreme entities of the Earth and won this war by default.

In contrast, when the Mi-Go came to Earth, it sounds like the Elder Ones did not do so well.  This was after a great civil war with the Shoggoths (called the subjugation) and the Mi-Go, similar to the Cthulhu spawn, were made of different matter than the Elder Ones.  The net result seemed to be that the Mi-Go got the upper hand with the Elder Ones.

The Elder Ones lost some of their abilities over the centuries, including the power to travel through interstellar space, and were driven back into the sea and the southern hemisphere.   The Mi-Go remained in the northern hemisphere, mining for precious metals and studying humans even to this day.   Thus, while the Elder Ones civilization declined over the centuries, the Mi-Go remained active on Earth as well as throughout the solar system.

Next time I will be talking about the spawn of Cthulhu and we will move into the new year with discussions on Deep Ones.  Thank you.  Fred

While the Elder Ones civilization declined, the Mi-Go continued to live throughout our solar system (illustration by Steve Maschuck)

Necronomicon Convention talk Biology of the Old Ones, Part 15 – the Creators and the Created

The Elder Ones created the Shoggoths.  A lot has been said about this fascinating relationship in the At the Mountains of Madness and what ideas filtered from HPL’s mind and onto the page to produce such an interesting concept.  This article will discuss the relationship between the Creators (Elder Ones) and the Created (Shoggoths) and what it has been interpreted to represent.

Old Ones with Shoggoth, art by Howard V. Brown for At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, Astounding Stories, Feb 1936 issue. Scan via Dieselpunks - from
Elder Ones with Shoggoth, art by Howard V. Brown for At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, Astounding Stories, Feb 1936 issue. Scan via Dieselpunks – from

Two ideas have been frequently identified in discussing the relationship between the Elder Ones and the Shoggoths.  The first is more political and societal, discussing how this relationship represents a class-based society, which in turn necessitated the enslavement of one group of entities over another.  The second idea is how pushing the boundaries and abilities of science result in some complicating situations, and possibly the downfall, of a civilization.  This article will focus on the first idea, while a subsequent article will focus on the second.

Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness from Arkham House (1964 edition)

A lot of material has been discussed and written about how the relationship between the Elder Ones and the Shoggoths represents Lovecraft’s view on society and civilization.  In addition, these interpretations of HPLs views have been quite varied.  Some see the Elder Ones and Shoggoths representing HPL’s ideal civilization where an elite class (or in this case species) rules over a class (species) of workers or laborers.  Others see it as an analogy of the history of slavery in America and still others think of it as representing the inevitable fall of civilizations due to societal decadence.  However, in order to get a glimpse of what themes and ideas HPL may have been thinking of while writing At the Mountains of Madness, one need to examine some of his non-fictional writing.

First, in An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia (S.T. Joshi and D. E. Schultz, Greenwood Press, 2001) and as previously mentioned on this blog site, the Elder Ones are somewhat identified with humans in many ways relative to the rise and fall of civilization and technology.  In addition, HPL describes the Elder One government as socialistic, which is what HPL was a proponent of in his views of government.  Other ideas that have been discussed include the Shoggoths as a literary representation of slavery in America and that the rise and fall of the Elder One civilization comes from HPL’s assimilation of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West (Joshi and Schultz, 2001). 

The book Miscellaneous Writings, edited by the eminent Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi (Arkham House, 1995) provides more direct insight into HPL thoughts on this subject matter.  In a section of that book called “Political Theorist” a number of Lovecraft’s essays on this subject are provided.  However, Joshi provide some very insightful information in his introduction to that collection of essays.  In it Joshi cites that through his life HPL moved from his desire to be within the upper class of an aristocracy to over time arriving at more of a socialistic view (Joshi, 1995), similar to the Elder Ones.  HPL thought that such an aristocratic – socialistic system would foster the upper class to develop in the arts and sciences.  It is interesting to note that in HPL’s “utopian” political system, economic wealth would be more equitably distributed but political power would be limited to a few – as he called it – an oligarchy of intelligence (Joshi, 1995).  If you are an Elder One, such a system sounds like a pretty good deal – but what if you are a Shoggoth?


A sketch of an Elder One by H.P. Lovecraft

In addition to his political views, HPL’s racist views have obviously had a strong impact on his fiction and this is particularly the case for At the Mountains of Madness.  As Joshi has stated, we cannot be lenient on HPL’s views on race (Joshi, 1995).  With that, this discussion will stay as objective as possible and will attempt to present HPL’s view on this subject based primarily on his own writings.  For example, in Collected Essays: Volume 5, Philosophy, Autobiography and Miscellany (again edited by S.T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2006), HPL states in his long essay A Layman Looks at the Government – “..unless some individuals were emancipated from want and hardship-as could be done only through giving them a plenitude of resources whilst others starved, and letting them enjoy a leisure based on the slavery of others-the race could never utilize its maximum mental and aesthetic potentialities or evolve concepts, folkways, and traditions in any way appropriate to the biological status of the species; concepts, folkways, and traditions eventually colouring even the lives of the masses unable to create or fully share them.”

With other statements such as “Thus the aristocratic attitude needs no apology” and “If some people had not been allowed to rise on the bent backs and corpses of slaves and famine-victims, the race as a whole would never have gone far from the primitive state”, it is clear that HPL’s distorted philosophy on this matter made its way into his fiction.  So when Dyer declares in At the Mountains of Madness that the “Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn – whatever they had been, they were men!” it would be more appropriate to state that “they were privileged or aristocratic men!”

While the enslavement of the Shoggoths allowed the Elder One’s civilization to flourish, it was also their downfall.  Did HPL see the acquired intelligence of the Shoggoths as providing knowledge to the masses and subsequently ruining it for civilization as a whole?  There is one point that should be made relative to the Elder Ones and the Shoggoths is that this form of slavery is very different than that seen in American History or in fantastical literature, such as the lower class powering the cities of the future in the movie Metropolis or in the book / movies the Planet of the Apes where the Great Apes enslave humans.  This point is the fact that the Elder Ones created the Shoggoths, so they certainly felt entitled to use them as they see fit.  In a way, the Shoggoths could be thought of as biological or genetic robots as opposed to another race or species being enslaved and that will be the discussion for the next article.  Thank you – Fred

Necrononicon Convention talk Biology of the Old Ones, Part 14 – History of the Elder Ones, Part 2

Elder One in the Antarctic by Steve Maschuck
Elder One in the Antarctic by Steve Maschuck

The previous article started a discussion on the history of the Elder Ones and left off with the Mi-Go arriving on Earth and battling with the Elder Ones, pushing them back into the sea.  Moving forward:

  1. Long-term, natural, geologic forces continued to impact Elder One cities.  “Seismic convolutions of land or sea -bottom, and other natural causes” resulted in the destruction of many of these cities.
  2. It appears that the Elder Ones retreated to both deep in the sea as well as one of their last terrain outposts in the Antarctic.
  3. As part of the geologic changes, peaks higher than the Himalayas formed (the Mountains of Madness).  Some of the Old Ones prayed to these mountains but none ever dared to travel to them to see what lay beyond.
  4. Over time underground limestone was hollowed out through groundwater, creating a series of caves and tunnels.
  5. A river that originated from the Mountains of Madness flowed toward the Old One’s city and then dropped down into these deep limestone caves.
  6. Then the great cold came (the latest Ice Age), the vegetation thinned out and the Elder Ones had to rely on heating devices.
  7. The last great city of the Elder Ones was in the sea; the remaining populations took refuge there from the global cooling.
  8. To build the great undersea city the Elder Ones used Shoggoth tissues and other biomatter to create beasts of burden and phosphorescent organisms as a source of light in the deep sea.  These “labor” Shoggoths grew to great sizes.  They also eventually created cold-resistant Shoggoths, adapted to live on the land.

Lovecraft’s history of the Elder Ones essentially ends with a series of questions.  Is the undersea city still in existence?  What was the ultimate fate of the ocean-dwelling Elder Ones?  Are they still alive (which was obviously answered in the story)?  A more interesting question is there no signe of them in more recent geological strata?  Could it be that they died out except for some isolated colonies deep in the sea or that humans did not yet find this more recent fossil evidence (this situation occurs all the time in paleontology).  Did the Mi-Go drive the Elder Ones to the north or into the Mountains of Madness?

While not explicitly identified, it is implied in the story that the Shoggoths at least partially contributed to the ultimate downfall of the Elder Ones on Earth and this will be discussed further in an upcoming article.

Reading the story a number of times, I always wondered if the bas-relief drawings were more of a representative of Elder One mythology and/or religion and not a historical account.  Indeed, Robert Mr. Price mentioned this as well in an article he wrote called Patterns in the Snow (Crypt of Cthulhu #81).  In the article Price states, “Suppose the narrator has taken literally, i.e.,  as history, what was the myth of the star-heads.  Perhaps the notion of their ancestors descending from the stars was no more historically true than the myths of many nations that their kings are descendants of the gods?”

Crypt of Cthulhu, Issue 81
Crypt of Cthulhu, Issue 81

While the entities on the murals they battled were real within the context of Lovecraft’s universe, I wonder if some of the other components of their history, such as their arrival on Earth, the creation of life and their disappearance, was more directly linked to religious beliefs.  For example, the sinking of the R’lyeh into the Pacific Ocean, did the Elder Ones see this as “divine intervention”?

In this same article, Price makes an interesting augment that Dyer and Danforth may have been “reading” the history of the Elder Ones on the bas-reliefs backwards.  Initially in At the Mountains of Madness, fossil evidence points to the fact that the Elder Ones are a very ancient form of complex life that evolved on Earth, before all other multicellular life.  Somewhat similar circumstances are known to have occurred on Earth in the past.  For example, during the Permian – Triassic extinction event up to 96% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species (both groups are complex multicellular life) became extinct.  Whole groups of animals, such as the trilobites, sea scorpions and spiny sharks, went completely extinct.  Fifty out of fifty-five brachiopod families died out (Michael J. Benton, History of Life).

Did a mass extinction event or cosmic war with opposing entities take out the Elder Ones?  According to Price’s Patterns in the Snow article, this may not be the case.  If the bas-reliefs are properly read backwards as proposed in Price’s article, then the Elder Ones would be residents of Earth and ended up “filtering” back up to the star instead of coming from them.  It is an intriguing hypothesis and from a technological standpoint it makes sense.  However, if the murals account for Elder One history, do they also accurately account for the history of other entities, as least from the Elder One’s point of view?  For example, does this mean that R’lyeh rose from the Pacific Ocean, the Cthulhu spawn battled with the Elder Ones and then filtered back up to the stars before the Elder One did themselves?  It is an intriguing hypothesis but further investigations are needed to determine if the Elder Ones came from the stars to settle on Earth or if the Elder Ones are a form of Terran biology that mastered interstellar travel and then left the Earth.

To conclude this article, one point that appears to made in the mural drawings is that the creation of the Shoggoths at least partially contributed to the disseappearnce of the Elder Ones.  That is precisely what the next article will cover – the relationship between the Elder Ones and the Shoggoths.  Thank you and Happy Halloween! – Fred

Elder One reawakening (created by Greg P. Onychuk)
Elder One reawakening (created by Greg P. Onychuk)

Necronomicon Convention talk Biology of the Old Ones, Part 13 – History of the Elder Ones on Earth, Part 1

The Elder Ones arrived on Earth around a billion years ago and used the existing prokaryotic life to create more complex life such as eukaryotic organisms and the Shoggoths.  However, their history on Earth is full of conflicts and complications that arose from a variety of entities and situations.

An Elder One and HPL, from Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (Arkham House, 1990)
An Elder One and HPL, from Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos (Arkham House, 1990; illustration by Jeffrey K. Potter)

For the sake of this article, I will focus on the history of the Elder Ones as described in At the Mountains of Madness.  it should be noted that Lovecraft’s Cosmic History was always changing for each story, which frequently resulted in conflicts and contradictions between the stories.  As Dr. Robert M. Price notes in his article Lovecraft’s Cosmic History, which can be found in H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos as well as Crypt of Cthulhu, Issue 37 (both shown below), “…Lovecraft constantly used his fundamental theme of eons of cosmic history dwarfing humanity, but he did not bother to work out the details of this history in advance.  Instead, he tinkered with it as he went, as this or that modification would best suit the plot or the atmosphere of a given story.”  Thus, it is important to note the discussion here focuses on the Elder One history as told in At the Mountains of Madness.


For convenience, the Elder Ones history, at least relative to the Earth, is outlined below (please keep in mind this is in no way a comprehensive description of their history on Earth):

  1. The Elder Ones lived on other planets, in other galaxies and in other universes before they arrived on Earth
  2. The Elder Ones may have lived a mechanized life on other planets, but a portion of them found this “emotionally unsatisfying”, thus some came to Earth
  3. Coming to Earth, they first lived in the sea and used the raw Terran biological material to create food as well as the Shoggoths
  4. With the aid of the Shoggoths, the cities in the sea expanded and eventually moved onto the land
  5. While they used their biological / chemical technologies to make modifications to themselves to adapt and survive in various environments, they eventually lost the technology (chemical in nature) for interstellar travel
  6. Life on Earth continued to evolve and anything that did not bother them or cause problems for the Elder Ones, was left alone
  7. The Elder Ones continued to thrive; however, some of the marine cities were negatively impacted by continental drift
  8. Later, a land race of octopi beings (pre-human spawn of Cthulhu) came from cosmic infinity, which resulted in a large and brutal war
  9. Later peace was made, the new lands (produced presumably from plate tectonics) were given to the Cthulhu spawn, while the seas and the old lands were given to the Elder Ones.  Later, the new lands of the Pacific suddenly sank into the sea, taking the great stone city of R’lyeh and the Octopi spawn with them.  The Elder Ones were once again the supreme entities of the Earth
  10. Over time the Elder Ones lost the ability to create new life from inorganic matter.  This meant that they could only use / manipulate existing life, which included the Shoggoths and the Dinosaurs
  11. Later the war of re-subjugation between the Shoggoths and the marine Elder Ones broke out; it was a long, drawn-out war but the Elder Ones were victorious thanks to “curious weapons of molecular disturbance”
  12. Later, the Mi-Go invaded the Earth from the “Outside”.  While the Elder Ones tried to leave the Earth, they couldn’t re-create the technology needed for space travel.  Thus, the Mi-Go drove the Elder Ones back into the sea
Dyer and Danforth examining XXX
Dyer and Danforth examining bas-reliefs that depict the war between the Elder Ones and the Cthulhu spawn (from Brian Lumley’s The Caller of the Black, Arkham House, 1971; illustration by Herb Arnold).

In order to give this subject the proper time it needs, I am breaking it up into two parts; thus, the outline history stops at the point where the Mi-Go drive the Elder Ones back into the sea.

Even though this subject is more of a historical examination rather than scientific, outlining this material and discussing it will aid in future conversations.  Thus, the next article will continue and conclude this discussion on the History of the Elder Ones.  Thank you – Fred

Necronomicon Convention talk Biology of the Old Ones, Part 12 – Reproductive Cycle of the Elder Ones

Lovecraft mentions several times in At the Mountains of Madness that the Elder Ones reproduce through the use of spores, similar to what is found on pteridophytes (ferns and their allies).  Lovecraft even mentions that the Elder Ones have spore-cases at the tips of their wings that develop into a prothallus.  Thus, to understanding the reproductive life cycle of the Elder Ones, we need to understand the life cycle of ferns:

Fern Life Cycle (from
Fern Life Cycle (from

Like many plants, ferns have an alternation of generations, which essentially means they have two multicellular phases in their life cycle.  This is in sharp contrast to most animals where the is one multicellular phase, the male produces sperm, the female produces the egg, which is fertilized by the sperm, making a zygote that in turn develops into offspring.

In the case of ferns, the sporophyte (see above) is the “main body” of the species.  The sporophyte produces spores which give rise to the gametophytes (also known for ferns as the prothallus), which in turn produce eggs and sperm(known as gametes).  The gametes fuse and thus create a new sporophyte.  The sporophyte is what we typically think of as a fern; a small to moderately sized plant, creating fiddleheads and growing in moist, shaded areas.  In contrast, the gametophyte is a small, low-lying multicellular plant (or properly called a prothallus), whose sole purpose is to produce eggs and sperm that fuse and give rise to the sporophyte.  This sporophyte / gametophyte cycling is why it is called an alternation of generations.

To put this into perspective, the Elder Ones themselves would be considered the sporophyte phase.  They produce spores from organs at the tips of their wings, which give rise to the gametophyte or prothallus.  So this begs the question, what does the gametophyte phase of an Elder One look like?

The Sporophyte of the Elder One (drawing by Steve Maschuck)
The Sporophyte Phase of the Elder Ones (drawing by Steve Maschuck)

Is the gametophyte for the Elder Ones microscopic or a small parasite that grows on the sporophyte?  Or is it an entirely different, multicellular organism?

While the life cycle of the Elder Ones is similar to a fern’s, they are not exactly alike.
Given their toughness, resiliency and longevity, the Elder Ones did not “encourage” the large-scale development of new protallia (Lovecraft’s use of the word here).  Thus, given their extremely long life span, the Elder Ones exerted an effective means of population control and held onto their spores unless needed.  In fact, it appears that the only time they would promote such reproduction was when they had new regions, worlds or habitats to colonize.

What was even more convenient for the Elder Ones was that the young sporophytes matured quickly.  Thus, if numbers needed to be increased quickly for colonization or re-population as a result of a war,  this could be easily achieved.  However, I do still wonder – what does an Elder One gametophyte look like?

Next time, I will be taking about the Elder Ones history on Earth with textual assistance from both Lovecraft and the great Robert M. Price.  Thank you – Fred