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Nyarlathotep

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Nyarlathotep
Cthulhu Mythos character
The Black Man.jpg
Nyarlathotep, described as the Black Man in H. P. Lovecraft's story "The Dreams in the Witch House".
First appearance"Nyarlathotep"
Created byH. P. Lovecraft
Information
SpeciesOuter God
GenderMale
Title
  • Crawling Chaos
  • God of a Thousand Forms
  • Stalker among the Stars
  • Black Pharaoh
  • Faceless God
  • Messenger of the Outer Gods
Family

Nyarlathotep is a character in the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other writers. The character is commonly known in association with its role as a malign deity in the Lovecraft Mythos fictional universe, where it is known as the Crawling Chaos. First appearing in Lovecraft's 1920 prose poem of the same name, he was later mentioned in other works by Lovecraft and by other writers and in the tabletop role-playing games making use of the Cthulhu Mythos. Later writers describe him as one of the Outer Gods.

In the work of H. P. Lovecraft[edit]

In his first appearance in "Nyarlathotep" (1920), he is described as a "tall, swarthy man" who resembles an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.[1] In this story he wanders the Earth, seemingly gathering legions of followers, the narrator of the story among them, through his demonstrations of strange and seemingly magical instruments. These followers lose awareness of the world around them, and through the narrator's increasingly unreliable accounts the reader gets an impression of the world's collapse.[citation needed]

Nyarlathotep subsequently appears as a major character in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926/27), in which he again manifests in the form of an Egyptian pharaoh when he confronts protagonist Randolph Carter.[citation needed]

The twenty-first sonnet of Lovecraft's poem-cycle Fungi from Yuggoth (1929/30) is essentially a retelling of the original prose poem.[citation needed]

In "The Dreams in the Witch House" (1933), Nyarlathotep appears to Walter Gilman and witch Keziah Mason (who has made a pact with the entity) in the form of "the 'Black Man' of the witch-cult", a black-skinned avatar of the Devil described by witch hunters.[citation needed]

Finally, in "The Haunter of the Dark" (1936), the nocturnal, tentacled, bat-winged monster dwelling in the steeple of the Starry Wisdom sect's church is identified as another manifestation of Nyarlathotep. This avatar can not tolerate the slightest light.[citation needed]

There is some speculation[who?] as to whether the fake Henry Akeley that appears at the end of The Whisperer in Darkness (1930) is also Nyarlathotep. In the story, the Mi-Go chant his name in reverential tones, stating "To Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, must all things be told. And he shall put on the semblance of man, the waxen mask and the robes that hides, and come down from the world of Seven Suns to mock".[2] At the end of The Whisperer in Darkness, the main character to his horror discovers a loose dressing gown and the dismembered head and arms of Akeley lying on the couch, presumed in the story to have been a Mi-Go in disuse. But due to the mention in the chant to Nyarlathotep wearing the "waxen mask and the robes that hides", S. T. Joshi writes that "this seems a clear allusion to Nyarlathotep disguised with Akeley's face and hands; but if so, it means that at this time Nyarlathotep is, in bodily form, one of the fungi—especially if, as seems likely, Nyarlathotep is one of the two buzzing voices Albert Wilmarth overhears at the end. Joshi notes this is problematic, because "if Nyarlathotep (as critics have termed it) a 'shapeshifter', why would he have to don the face and hands of Akeley instead of merely reshaping himself as Akeley?"[3]

Though Nyarlathotep appears as a character in only four stories and two sonnets, his name is mentioned frequently in other works. In "The Rats in the Walls" (1924), Nyarlathotep is mentioned as a faceless god in the caverns of Earth's center.[citation needed]. In "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936), the "hideous secret of Nyarlathotep" is revealed to the protagonist by Khephnes during their imprisonment by the Great Race of Yith.[citation needed]

Nyarlathotep does not appear in Lovecraft's story "The Crawling Chaos" (1920/21), despite the similarity of the title to the character's epithet.[citation needed]

Inspiration[edit]

Nyarlathotep in the guise of Nikola Tesla in Rotomago and Julien Noirel's comic-book adaptation of the prose poem "Nyarlathotep".[4]

In a 1921 letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, Lovecraft related the dream he had had—described as "the most realistic and horrible [nightmare] I have experienced since the age of ten"—that served as the basis for his prose poem "Nyarlathotep". In the dream, he received a letter from his friend Samuel Loveman that read:

Don't fail to see Nyarlathotep if he comes to Providence. He is horrible—horrible beyond anything you can imagine—but wonderful. He haunts one for hours afterwards. I am still shuddering at what he showed.[citation needed]

Lovecraft commented:

I had never heard the name NYARLATHOTEP before, but seemed to understand the allusion. Nyarlathotep was a kind of itinerant showman or lecturer who held forth in public halls and aroused widespread fear and discussion with his exhibitions. These exhibitions consisted of two parts—first, a horrible—possibly prophetic—cinema reel; and later some extraordinary experiments with scientific and electrical apparatus. As I received the letter, I seemed to recall that Nyarlathotep was already in Providence.... I seemed to remember that persons had whispered to me in awe of his horrors, and warned me not to go near him. But Loveman's dream letter decided me.... As I left the house I saw throngs of men plodding through the night, all whispering affrightedly and bound in one direction. I fell in with them, afraid yet eager to see and hear the great, the obscure, the unutterable Nyarlathotep.[5]

Will Murray has speculated that this dream image of Nyarlathotep may have been inspired by the inventor Nikola Tesla, whose well-attended lectures did involve extraordinary experiments with electrical apparatus and whom some saw as a sinister figure.[6]

Robert M. Price proposes that the name Nyarlathotep may have been subconsciously suggested to Lovecraft by two names from Lord Dunsany, an author he much admired. Alhireth-Hotep, a false prophet, appears in Dunsany's The Gods of Pegana, and Mynarthitep, a god described as "angry", appears in Dunsany's "The Sorrow of Search".[7]

Summary[edit]

Nyarlathotep differs from the other beings in a number of ways. Most of them are exiled to stars, like Yog-Sothoth and Hastur, or sleeping and dreaming like Cthulhu; Nyarlathotep, however, is active and frequently walks the Earth in the guise of a human being, usually a tall, slim, joyous man. He has "a thousand" other forms, most of these reputed to be maddeningly horrific. Most of the Outer Gods have their own cults serving them; Nyarlathotep seems to serve these cults and take care of the deities' affairs in their absence. Most of the gods use strange alien languages, but Nyarlathotep uses human languages and can be mistaken for a human being. The other Outer Gods and Great Old Ones are often described as mindless or unfathomable rather than truly malevolent, but Nyarlathotep delights in cruelty, is deceptive and manipulative, and even cultivates followers and uses propaganda to achieve his goals.

Nyarlathotep enacts the will of the Outer Gods, and is their messenger, heart and soul; he is also a servant of Azathoth, his father,[8] whose wishes he immediately fulfills. Unlike the other Outer Gods, causing madness is more important and enjoyable than death and destruction to Nyarlathotep. It is suggested by some that he will destroy the human race and possibly the Earth as well.[9] Brian Lumley described him as the emanation of various Great Old Ones and not an actual being, thus explaining his variety of forms and functions.[citation needed]

The Nyarlathotep Cycle[edit]

Nyarlathotep in "The Dweller in Darkness" by August Derleth.

In 1996, Chaosium published The Nyarlathotep Cycle, a Cthulhu Mythos anthology focusing on works referring to or inspired by the entity Nyarlathotep. Edited by Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price, the book includes an introduction by Price tracing the roots and development of the God of a Thousand Forms. The contents include:

Table of forms[edit]

Nyarlathotep has many forms (some literature refers to these forms as Masks and claims that he has a thousand of them) and is thus known by different avatars.

Overview[edit]

This table is organized as follows:

  • Name. This is the name of Nyarlathotep's form.
  • Region. This is the geographical location where Nyarlathotep's form is active.
  • Description. This entry describes Nyarlathotep's form.
  • Notes. This field contains additional information.
If an entry appears in bold, this means that the reference introduces Nyarlathotep's form.

Table[edit]

Nyarlathotep's forms
Name Region Description Notes
Ahtu Congo Appears as a gelatinous mass extruding golden tentacles. Ahtu's cult in Africa is composed of human worshipers of no hope, driven to insanity by being ill-treated and forced into encroachments by rulers or exploiters. Self-mutilation is a sign of the cult: all have amputations or terrible scars from near-fatal whippings and beatings. However, western worship more resembles voodoo rituals. He can be called by a magical golden bracelet, which is kept separated into two halves to prevent an accidental summoning.
Black Man Salem and Arkham Appears as a hooved, hairless man with pitch-black skin and Caucasoid features. Appears to be an avatar of the popular depiction of Satan in Christianity. Nyarlathotep is worshipped by witch covens in this form. This is demonstrated in "The Dreams in the Witch House" by the witch Keziah Mason.
Black Pharaoh Egypt Appears as a haughty Egyptian pharaoh wearing a brightly colored cloak. The Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh worships Nyarlathotep in this form.
Black Demon England Appears as a black, furry, snouted creature which fears the light, but is not harmed by it. Although a special talisman can be used in controlling this avatar, there is still the risk that the summoner will be attacked.
Black Wind Kenya Manifests as a devastating storm.
The Bloated Woman China
(Shanghai)
Initially appears as a dainty maiden behind a fan. However, the fan casts an illusion masking the true form of a large, bloated, tentacled humanoid who eats human brains. The Order of the Bloated Worm worships Nyarlathotep in this form. The cult has an emissary in Stockholm.[10]
Crawling Mist Dreamlands Appears as a putrid, living fog.
Dark Demon
Appears as a larger version of the Black Demon yet more treacherous. Those who study the black arts are sometimes contacted by this avatar. In return for entering their bodies, the Dark Demon promises them great rewards. Unfortunately, Nyarlathotep never makes good on this promise.
Dark One California,
Louisiana,
Tennessee,
Kentucky
Appears as a pitch-black, eight-foot-tall, faceless man who can walk through any physical barrier.
Dweller in Darkness Wood of N'gai This avatar wails as it forms and reabsorbs random appendages. It has no face, but can take any shape it pleases for short time periods.
Effigy of Hate Africa A winged creature which manifests through an ancient totem.
The Faceless God Ancient Egypt Appears as a winged, faceless sphinx. This avatar has the ability to send its worshipers back through time.
The Floating Horror[11] Haiti Appears as a bluish, red-veined jellyfish-like creature.
God of the Bloody Tongues Kenya Appears as gigantic monster, with a red tentacle in place of a face. In this form, Nyarlathotep is worshipped by the Cult of the Bloody Tongue.
The Haunter of the Dark Australia;
Providence, Rhode Island;
Yuggoth
A bloated, bat-like creature with a single three-lobed burning eye which appears able to kill by fear alone. This avatar is destroyed by light. Its most important cult is the Church of Starry Wisdom, based in Providence, which can summon the avatar using the Shining Trapezohedron. It's also worshipped by some modern Aborigines. Other names for this avatar include Face Eater, Father of All Bats, Dark Wing, Sand Bat, and Fly-The-Light.
Howler in the Dark Wood of N'gai (somewhere in the United States) Appears as a hideous, howling giant with a tentacle in place of a face. Occasionally referred to as the God of the Bloody Tongues, or the Bloody Tongues for short.
L'rog'g
(also Lrogg),
Bat God of L'gy'hx
The planet L'gy'hx (Uranus) Appears as a two-headed bat (debatable). Avatar worshipped by the cuboid inhabitants of L'gy'hx and by a group of renegade Shan.
The Masked Messenger Morocco Appears as a succubus-like being with acidic skin. This avatar is worshipped by the Sisterhood of the Masked Messenger.
Messenger of the Old Ones
Appears as an enormous black mass that seems to creep across the sky. This form is manifest only during occasions of cosmic importance, such as the awakening of Cthulhu.
Mr. Skin Los Angeles Eight-foot-tall, pale silver, faceless imitation of a pimp. This avatar, appearing in the Los Angeles area, is closely associated with certain worshippers of Shub-Niggurath.
Randall Flagg Mid-World and United States A shape shifter with many aliases, Flagg usually appears as an enrobed sorcerer, or a pale man clothed in jeans, cowboy boots and a denim jacket. During the climax of The Stand, he briefly takes on a monstrous, slumped, hunched, almost shapeless form, with yellow, cat-like eyes. A creation of American horror writer Stephen King. Flagg appears in at least nine of King's novels, including The Stand and the Dark Tower series. He wanders from one universe to another, leaving a trail of chaos and destruction in his wake.[12][13]
The Royal Pant North America, Jazz clubs and crossroads An African-American jazz saxophone player Appears to musicians who desire to sell their own souls for musical skill and/or fame.
Samael Israel Considered to be the Angel Of Death. Often Appears as a skeleton in a dark robe. This avatar is worshiped by the Cult of Malkira. Considered a very important figure in Abrahamic Religions. Also Demiurge.
Shugoran Malaysia Appears as a black human-like creature playing a horn. This form is worshipped by the Tcho-Tcho people. They sometimes summon this avatar to punish offenders.
Skeletal Horror Egypt Manifests as a twelve-foot tall living skeleton with enormous claws and the head of a human embryo.
The Thing in the Yellow Mask Dreamlands A creature clothed in yellow silk. This avatar is only known to manifest in the city of 'Ygiroth in the Dreamlands. Some claim that it's the lone occupant of the remote, unnamed monastery on the Plateau of Leng (see High Priest Not to Be Described).
The Wailing Writher Innsmouth, Massachusetts A column of writhing black tentacles and screaming mouths. This avatar has no known worshipers.
The White Man New England Appears as a blonde man in a shining white robe.
The Whispering Man Egypt A pharaoh or sphinx with a piercing gaze. Haunts the dreams of the insane. Revels in disasters and wars.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Nyarlathotep is an antagonist in the visual novel Deus Machina Demonbane, which was also adapted into an anime series of the same name.
  • Nyarlathotep is the main character in Fall of Cthulhu, a comic series written by Michael Alan Nelson and published by Boom! Studios.
  • In Charles Stross' novels The Fuller Memorandum and The Apocalypse Codex, the containment of Nyarlathotep in a parallel universe and the attempts of cultists to free "the Black Pharaoh" is the main focus of the plot. The Annihilation Score later introduces the Black Pharaoh, though he is not identified as such until The Delirium Brief.
  • A 13-minute short film version of Nyarlathotep[14] was released in 2001, directed by Christian Matzke.[15] It was re-released on DVD in 2004 as part of the H. P. Lovecraft Collection Volume 1: Cool Air.
  • Dream Theater's song "The Dark Eternal Night" contains numerous references to locations and imagery described in the short story "Nyarlathotep".
  • Nyarlathotep appears in the Megami Tensei series as a recurring demon; the two forms he most commonly uses is based on "The Haunter of the Dark", used in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, and "Howler in the Dark", used in Persona 2. He takes center stage as the main antagonist of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona and Persona 2: Innocent Sin. Nyarlathotep and other Cthulhu Mythos creatures are presented as creations of humanity's collective unconsciousness, with Nyarlathotep representing humanity's destructive potential.
  • M, a major character in the visual novel Shikkoku no Sharnoth who initially uses the codename of James Moriarty, is revealed near the end of the story to be a manifestation of Nyarlathotep.
  • Nyarlathotep is a boss in the game Cthulhu Saves the World.
  • Nyarlathotep is the main antagonist in the novel Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard.
  • Alan Moore's Neonomicon utilises Nyarlathotep in the form of Johnny Carcosa, a masked drug dealer who frequents Cthulhu-themed clubs and occult shops. His manner of converting new followers is to place them in a vegetative state, susceptible to "Aklo"—words related to Lovecraft's work, which alter the consciousness of those who listen to them. In Moore's story, he serves the allegorical role of the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation, informing the protagonist that she has been impregnated and will soon give birth to Cthulhu.
    • Carcosa takes a more active role in Moore's follow-up volume Providence, "rewarding" the protagonist Robert Black for his work as the "Herald" of H. P. Lovecraft's effects on the world and later overseeing the birth of Cthulhu.
  • The card Outer God Nyarla from the game Yu-Gi-Oh! is based on Nyarlathotep, both in name and appearance.
  • The Italian alternative rock band Verdena wrote a song titled "Il Caos Strisciante" ("The Crawling Chaos").
  • The Mountain Goats' "Satanic Messiah" from the EP of the same name describes an event where the main attraction is a similarly charismatic personality.[citation needed]
  • In Bloodborne, a game that borrows heavily from the Lovecraft mythos, the final boss, the Moon Presence, is similar to Nyarlathotep in many ways, such as its appearance being heavily based on Nyarlathotep's Howler in the Dark form (a giant howling monster with tentacles for a head). It also, much like Nyarlathotep, seems to be rather active in the affairs of humans, as one of the more involved beings in the game's lore.[citation needed]
  • The 2009 light novel and anime series Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is based on the Cthulhu mythos, with the main character Nyaruko directly referring to Nyarlathotep.
  • Nyarlathotep is the "Keeper of the Book"—the book being the Necronomicon, in the novel Azathoth Rising by Joseph S. Dale, a novel very loosely based on Lovecraft's Mythos.
  • In the video game The Lost Child, Nyarlathotep is the final boss in the optional dungeon, R'lyah Road.
  • Nyarlathotep appears in the guise of the Dark Man in Larry Correia's story "Dead Waits Dreaming".[16]
  • In Fate/Grand Order, Nyarlathotep appears lending his powers to the Mooncancer-class Servant BB during the summer event.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ HP Lovecraft, "Nyarlathotep", The Doom that Came to Sarnath, New York: Ballantine Books, 1971, 57–60. Archived July 16, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Lovecraft, H. P. (1930). The Whisperer in Darkness (The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Tales ed.). Penguin. p. 219.
  3. ^ H. P. Lovecraft (2011). S. T. Joshi, ed. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Tales. Penguin. p. 402.
  4. ^ (in French) Rotomago and Julien Noirel, Nyarlathotep, Paris, Akiléos, 2007, 53 pp., ISBN 978-2-915168-53-2.
  5. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, December 21, 1921; cited in Lin Carter, Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, pp. 18–19.
  6. ^ Will Murray, "Behind the Mask of Nyarlathotep", Lovecraft Studies No. 25 (Fall 1991); cited in Robert M. Price, The Nyarlathotep Cycle, p. 9.
  7. ^ Price, pp. vii, 1–5.
  8. ^ Lovecraft, H. P. (1967). Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft IV (1932–1934). Sauk City, Wisconsin: Arkham House. "Letter 617". ISBN 0-87054-035-1.
  9. ^ Harms, "Nyarlathotep", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, pp. 218–9.
  10. ^ Anders Fager (2011). Collected Swedish Cults. Stockholm, Sweden: Wahlström & Wistrand. ISBN 9789146220961.
  11. ^ Harms, The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, "The Floating Horror", pp. 222. This name was created by Harms.
  12. ^ King, Stephen (1990). The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. New York: Doubleday. pp. 214–215. ISBN 0-385-19957-0.
  13. ^ Furth, Robin (2006). The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance. New York: Scribner. pp. 265–268. ISBN 0-7432-9734-2.
  14. ^ Nyarlathotep (2001)
  15. ^ Nyarlathotep at YouTube, page found 2016-04-16.
  16. ^ Shumate, Nathan, ed. (2013). Space Eldritch II: The Haunted Stars. United States: Cold Fusion Media. ISBN 9780615918594. OCLC 899217941. Reprinted in: Correia, Larry (2018). Target Rich Environment Volume 1. Riverdale, N.Y.: Baen Books. pp. 29–48. ISBN 9781481483445.

References[edit]

  • Harms, Daniel. "Nyarlathotep" in The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed.), pp. 218–222. Oakland, CA: Chaosium, 1998. ISBN 1-56882-119-0.

External links[edit]