Tag Archives: Dagon

H.P. Lovecraft and the Piltdown Man

Probably the biggest find in 20th century human evolution and paleoanthropology was the 1974 finding of a 40% complete skeleton in Ethiopia of one of our fossil ancestors named  Australopithecus afarensis, better known as “Lucy.”  This discovery was obviously decades after HPL died.  However, one of the most “infamous” findings in human paleoanthropology was the discovery of a “big-brained proto-human” in 1912 at Piltdown, England.

 An artist’s interpretation of the Piltdown Man (www.bizarrebytes.com)

The finding of the Piltdown Man in 1912 was suppose to provide evidence that brain size, and not an upright gait, led the way in human evolution (Evolution by Edward J. Larson; 2004).  Also, the fact that the fossil was conveniently found in England was almost like a informal means of establishing recent human evolution to be of Anglo-Saxon origins.  This is certainly something that HPL could identify with being an anglophile.

The Piltdown discovery was a partial skull and incomplete mandible  made by a local lawyer – Charles Dawson (Evolution: The First Four Billion Years; edited by Michael Ruse & Joseph Travis; 2009).  However, since the discovery was first publically announced, there was a fair amount of skeptism over the presented evidence by the scientific community.  By 1953, over 15 years after HPL’s death, some detailed analyses revealed that the Piltdown was a fake – a fabrication.  Turns out the skull was clearly human but that the mandible was that of a female orangutan.

The Piltdown skull – combination of man and orangutan (Adolf Reith, Trans. by Diana Imber – http://www.clarku.edu)

HPL was obviously familiar with the Piltdown man since he mentioned it in his stories; however, as shown below he only cited it in two of his earlier tales.  The first time he cited it was in Dagon and the second was in the Rats of Walls.  In Dagon while the protagonist was examining the bas-reliefs that rose from the ocean depths, he noted that the structure must have been carved out by some ancient seafaring tribe that went extinct “before the first ancestor of the Piltdown or Neanderthal Man was born.”

 Sketch of the monolithic bas-relief in Dagon (artwork by Death Dragon111)

In The Rats in the Walls as Dr. Trask, an anthropologist, was inspecting some of the skulls in the twilit grotto, he notes that most of them were “mostly lower than the Piltdown man in the scale of evolution, but in every case definitely human.”

The Rats in the Walls – the Twilit Grotto (from i.ytimg.com)

In Dagon HPL mentioned the Piltdown man, and Neanderthals, to convey the age of the monolith that emerged from the sea.  In The Rats in the Walls, HPL mentioned the Piltdown man again to convey age; here the issue is that this subterranean community has been feeding on humans and other similar species for hundreds of thousands of years.  While I am sure there was some public debate over the Piltdown man in HPL’s time, I don’t think there were any direct accusations that it was an outright hoax in the 1920’s and 1930’s

What makes the Piltdown man situation so unnerving is that it was an intentional and fabricated hoax. This wasn’t a hypothesis that was proved incorrect and that some in the scientific community were still clinging to; this was an outright lie.   Knowing how HPL would adjust his fiction to ensure that the most up-to-date scientific information were included (e.g. At the Mountains of Madness), I’m sure he would have been disgusted over the hoax.

Next time, I will more than likely initiate discussions on  The Shadow Out of Time.  Thank you – Fred






Cthulhu and Dagon: Residents of R’lyeh

In the Call of Cthulhu, when R’lyeh rises from the Pacific Ocean, it is hypothesized that the structure that broke the water’s surface was “only a single mountain-top, the hideous monolith-crowned citadel whereon great Cthulhu was buried, actually emerged from the waters.”  If this is true, then R’lyeh itself may be an incredibly huge City populated by millions of slumbering Spawn of Cthulhu and the section that broke the water’s surface may be only a small tip of the entire necropolis.

R’lyeh by Vain138

In the story Dagon the protagonist escaped a German sea-raider and found himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean.  After drifting for days, his boat ends up on a slimy, rotting expanse of “hellish black mire.”  After a few days brooding on the boat, he leaves and travels over the exposed plain to set out for a mound in the distance.

A view of the mound on the exposed plain in Dagon (illustration by Mark Foster)

Once reaching the summit of the mound the protagonist looks down into a pit or canyon.  As he travels down the slope on the edge of the pit, he sees a gigantic piece of stone that was clearly not the work of Nature.  As he is examining the strange hieroglyphs and drawings on the large monolith in the moonlight, a large flabby thing rises from the water.  The thing looks similar to some of the creatures shown on the monolith.  It had a generally human body shape covered in scales, glassy bulging eyes, and webbed hands and feet.  The thing, supposedly Dagon, flung it’s gigantic arms around the monolith and bowed it’s head in almost a religious manner.  At this point the protagonist goes mad and runs back to his boat.

Dagon at the monolith (illustration also by Mark Foster)

Both R’lyeh and the monolith in the story Dagon are found in the Pacific Ocean.  It is possible that they are both part of the same structure?  Is it possible that R’lyeh was the upper part of Cthulhu’s City and that the monolith in Dagon and the top spire of one of the highest structures in R’lyeh?  This would all make sense if indeed Dagon is one of the “Spawn” of Cthulhu.  Maybe Dagon was out “testing the waters” so to speak when it first emerged from the Pacific in 1917.  Was Dagon a “scout” before R’lyeh came up from the bottom of ocean in 1925?

Dagon by Jeff Remmer

Future articles will provide additional analysis of both R’lyeh and Cthulhu.  However, next time I will shift gears a little and talk about how Einstein’s ideas on the Universe impacted HPL and the development of his stories.  Thank you – Fred

Genetic Variability in Humans and Deep Ones, Part 2

Lovecraft identifies a number of times in The Shadow Over Innsmouth that there is a certain amount of variability associated with the metamorphosis from human to hybrid Deep One.  In general, the metamorphosis is a slow process, starting sometime in the late teens / early 20’s.  As the hybrids age, the “Innsmouth” traits become more pronounced:

“…deep creases in the sides of his neck made him seem older when one did not study his dull, expressionless face.  He had a narrow head, bulging, watery-blue eyes that seemed never to wink, a flat nose, a receding forehead and chin, and singularly undeveloped ears.  His long thick lip and coarse-pored, greyish cheeks seemed almost beardless except for some sparse yellow hairs that straggled and curled in irregular patches…” HPL The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Joe Sargent, “Innsmouth Bus Driver” by Casey Love (from www.creaturespot.com)

However, while the Innsmouth traits become more pronounced with age, even the hybrid children can look a little strange; Lovecraft described them as “dirty, simian-visage children.”

As mentioned, in addition to the general metamorphosis, a considerable amount of individual variability was described among the Innsmouth population.  Some, such as the Marsh daughters were described more reptilian-looking, while others were more frog-like or batchacian in appearance.   A number of times HPL referred to “other” things or creatures populating the town.  Were these “others” genetic variants of human – Deep One hybrids?  Examples of such variations were beautifully shown, in a somewhat understated fashion, in Stuart Gordon’s movie Dagon (please see subsequent set of photos).

Scene from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – an Innsmouth resident showing the pronounced bulging eyes.

Scene from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – another Innsmouth resident; note the absence of the bulging eyes but the lack of ears and large rows of teeth.  Is this a varying stage of the metamorphosis or is this genetic variation within the hybrid population?

Scene from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – manager of the Gilman House; while the eyes are not markedly bulging, this individual did not blink in the scene.  Also, while the hybrids can look older than they actually are, this individual appears to be one who exhibits a partial change but does not go through the complete metamorphosis.  Again, such variation in the population was noted in HPL’s story. 

Scene from Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – this individual shows a minimal amount of the Innsmouth traits, however…..

…in this case, the Deep One genes are phenotypically manifested in an octopod trait and not reptilian or batrachian.  (Again, from Stuart Gordon’s great movie Dagon).  Thus, is this individual one of the “other” residents referred to in The Shadow Over Innsmouth?

In addition to the phenotypic variability shown in the hybrids, is there a degree of variability in the hybridization relative to mating with humans?  Why do many individuals go through the complete metamorphosis while others do not?  Are some groups or populations of humans more easily hybridized with Deep Ones than others?  For example, Polynesian and New England populations appear to easily hybridize with Deep Ones.  Would the relative success of hybridization be the same with other groups such as populations of humans from Africa, central Asia and South America?  It is an intriguing question and at this point in time very open to debate and investigation.

Deep One by Steve Maschuck

Next time, a series of hypotheses on the actual origin of the Deep Ones will be presented and I explain why I favor some over others.  Thank you – Fred