|Cthulhu Mythos character|
|First appearance||At the Mountains of Madness|
|Created by||H. P. Lovecraft|
A shoggoth (occasionally shaggoth) is a fictional monster in the Cthulhu Mythos. The beings were mentioned in passing in H. P. Lovecraft's sonnet cycle Fungi from Yuggoth (1929–30) and later described in detail in his novella At the Mountains of Madness (1931).
It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train—a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter.— H. P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
The definitive descriptions of shoggoths come from the above-quoted story. In it, Lovecraft describes them as massive amoeba-like creatures made out of iridescent black slime, with multiple eyes "floating" on the surface. They are "protoplasmic", lacking any default body shape and instead being able to form limbs and organs at will. A typical shoggoth measures 15 feet across when a sphere, though the story mentions the existence of others of much greater size. Being amorphous, shoggoths can take on any shape needed, making them very versatile within aquatic environments.
Cthulhu Mythos media most commonly portray shoggoths as intelligent to some degree, but deal with problems using only their great size and strength. The shoggoth that appears in At the Mountains of Madness simply rolls over and crushes numerous giant penguins that are in its way as it pursues human characters.
The character Abdul Alhazred is terrified by the mere idea of shoggoths' existence on Earth.
The shoggoths bear a strong physical resemblance to Ubbo-Sathla, a god-like entity supposedly responsible for the origin of life on Earth.
At the Mountains of Madness includes a detailed account of the circumstances of the shoggoths' creation by the extraterrestrial Elder Things. Shoggoths were initially used to build the cities of their masters. Though able to "understand" the Elder Things' language, shoggoths had no real consciousness and were controlled through hypnotic suggestion. Over millions of years of existence, some shoggoths mutated, developed independent minds, and rebelled. The Elder Things succeeded in quelling the insurrection, but exterminating the shoggoths was not an option as the Elder Things were dependent on them for labor. Shoggoths also developed the ability to survive on land, while the Elder Things retreated to the oceans. Shoggoths that remained alive in the abandoned Elder Thing city in Antarctica would later imitate their masters' art and voices, endlessly repeating "Tekeli-li" or "Takkeli", a cry that their old masters used.
- This spelling appears in the original Arkham House printing for "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1937 or shuggoth), though the definitive manuscripts show that the proper spelling is in fact "shoggoth". (Burleson, H. P. Lovecraft, A Critical Study, footnote #14, p. 195.)
- Joshi, S.T.; Schultz, David E. (2004). An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. Hippocampus Press. pp. 9–13. ISBN 978-0974878911.
- This cry is a reference to the Edgar Allan Poe novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which is cited in At the Mountains of Madness. (Pearsall, "Poe, Edgar Allan", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 332.)
- Burleson, Donald R. (1983). H. P. Lovecraft, A Critical Study. Westport, CT / London, England: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-23255-5.
- Harms, Daniel (1998). "Shoggoths". The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. pp. 273–4. ISBN 1-56882-119-0.
- Lovecraft, Howard P. (1985) . "At the Mountains of Madness". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels (7th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-038-6. Definitive version.
- Pearsall, Anthony B. (2005). The Lovecraft Lexicon (1st ed.). Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Pub. ISBN 1-56184-129-3.
- Kenkou, Cross (2016). 魔物娘図鑑II(Monster Girl Encyclopedia II). Seven Seas. p. 166. ISBN 978-1626926097.