The monsters of HP Lovecraft’s universe are more terrible than the ghouls and goblins of pop horror. HP Lovecraft monsters are more like deities or grand philosophical concepts than creatures that go bump in the night.
A major theme of Lovecraft’s work is the weakness of mankind against the great horrors of our universe. His leftist political leanings later in life may have identified these horrors as things like poverty, war, and sickness. But Lovecraft preferred anthropomorphizing these evils as the “Great Old Ones.” These Old Ones are the HP Lovecraft monsters that still pop up in contemporary Cthulhu stories, role-playing games, and areas as diverse as tattoo art and literary theory. The Old Ones are ancient deities that have fallen into a trance-like state somewhere on Earth.
The most famous example of HP Lovecraft monsters comes to us from his classic story “The Call of Cthulhu.” The opening line of that story sets the stage for the story perfectly: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” These monsters are those contents that human minds are mercifully unable to see or imagine.
Cthulhu Mythos Monsters
Chaugnar Faugn was created by Frank Belknap Long in his novel The Horror from the Hills. He’s one of the Great Old Ones, and he’s also featured in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and in the game Arkham Horror.
Dholes are giant worm-like creatures featured in stories by H.P. Lovecraft and other Cthulhu Mythos writers. They’re featured prominently in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, among other works.
H.P. Lovecraft’s version of the Wendigo.
A Ramsey Campbell creation that’s also featured in the works of Brian Lumley.
Created by Brian Lumley for his horror novel The Burrows Beneath.
A fire creature created for the Cthulhu Mythos by August Derleth in the 1940’s.
A new addition to the Cthulhu Mythos that first appeared in Ramsey Campbell’s “The Inhabitant of the Lake.”
Winged monsters featured in several stories and games.
Also known as The Crawling Chaos, Nyarlathotep made its first appearance in a prose-poem of Lovecraft in 1920. The Crawling Chaos takes the appearance of a “tall and swarthy” man with the appearance of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. Nyarlathotep is a subtle monster, collecting followers from all over the earth by means of magic tricks and slowly but surely lulling them into a kind of hypnotized zombie-like state. His intention is to gather all the world under his influence and cause its collapse.
Shub-Niggurath is a female Lovecraft monster, mentioned by Lovecraft himself only in passing or by name. Shub-Niggurath has since been developed by Cthulhu Mythos writers (after Lovecraft’s death) into one of the most powerful and feared Lovecraftian monsters. Shub-Niggurath is sometimes called The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, a perfectly Lovecraftian turn of phrase that lends a certain mystery and creepiness to her character. The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young is an evil cloud-like entity that is often worshipped as a fertility goddess and consort to other Lovecraft deities and monsters.
Tsathoggua is an oddity in the world of HP Lovecraft monsters, described by Lovecraft himself and later Cthulhu writers, but described very differently by each. Lovecraft envisioned Tsathoggua as an “amorphous, toad-like god-creature,” a member of the Old Ones from the Necronomicon. A later Lovecraft story, “The Horror in the Museum”, describes his genesis: “Black Tsathoggua moulded itself from a toad-like gargoyle to a sinuous line with hundreds of rudimentary feet.” Tsathoggua has all the trappings of a great Lovecraft monster: an eerie and incomplete genesis, an ugly even tormenting appearance, and an ancestry that indicates his god-like status in the Cthulhu universe.
Bokrug is also known as The Great Water Lizard. Bokrug made his first appearance in the Lovecraft short story “The Doom That Came to Sarnath” in 1920. Bokrug is a god who once slept beneath a lake, the perfect Lovecraftian impending doom scenario. When some humans killed the local population and stole their idol of Bokrug, he woke up. A thousand years later, he came up out of the water and completely destroyed the human population there, so thoroughly according to Lovecraft that not even the ruins of the town were left behind.
First appearing in Weird Tales in February of 1928, Cthulhu is the most recognizable of all of HP Lovecraft monsters. Cthulhu was described as Lovecraft as having the bodies of an octopus, a dragon, and a human all rolled into one package, featuring a “pulpy, tentacled head” on a “grotesque scaly body with rudimentary wings.” Cthulhu is massive, “a mountain” imprisoned at the bottom of a great ocean. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu represents the greatest of mankind’s anxieties, and in Lovecraft stories he is worshipped by evil cults in New Zealand, Greenland, Louisiana, and other parts of the glove. Cthulhu is so ancient and powerful that other Lovecraft monsters worship him. According to the writings of Lovecraft, Cthulhu is imprisoned by will eventually return. Cthulhu is so famous among Lovecraft fans that the entire body of Lovecraft’s work is sometimes called The Cthulhu Mythos.
Dagon is one of Lovecraft’s original Mythos creations, named as one of The Deep Ones by Lovecraft himself. The Deep Ones are an entire race of fish o frog-like creatures that live in the ocean. Dagons are known for mating with humans, which gave rise to an entire family of Deep One-human hybrid monsters. Father Dagon is one of the great deities in the Lovecraft universe, one of a trio of gods worshipped by other deities and characters in Lovecraft stories that includes Cthulu and Mother Hydra. Dagon is an inconsistent appearance in Lovecraft’s work, mostly because Lovecraft was not trying to be Tolkien, creating an entire believable mythology, but more of a storyteller trying to weave together a good creepy tale.
Ghatanothoa is one of Lovecraft’s many amorphous monsters, but this time with a slight resemblance to the mythical Medusa. Ghatanothoa has the distinction of being Cthulhu’s first-born, capable of paralyzing any creature who sees Ghatanothoa into something like a zombie or a mummy, organs turned to a leathery mass and brain on the brink of insanity. Ghatanothoa is the definition of an HO Lovecraft monsters: ancient, god-like, and possessing terrible powers that could destroy humanity.
Zoth-Ommog is another of Cthulhu’s many offspring, a sibling to Ghatanothoa and a terrible monster in its own right. Zoth-Ommog is also one of the creepiest monsters to ever be described by Lovecraft, with a body shaped like a cone, a reptilian dinosaur head with razor-sharp teeth, four flat arms with suckers like a starfish or an octupus, and a head crowned with terrible long tentacles. Much has been written about Zoth-Ommog by writers after Lovecraft, though Lovecraft himself had little to say about this monstrosity, except that he is a child of Cthulhu and he swims and walks on the ocean floor, waiting to assault mankind.
The Hounds of Tindalos were actually originally created by Frank Belknap Long, but HP Lovecraft used them in some of his later stories too. They’re just so dang cool we had to include them on the list.
The monsters of HP Lovecraft are some of his more memorable creations. Many people who have never read a word of Lovecraft’s fiction or poetry still know and recognize the name Cthulhu. Lovecraft’s monsters were so richly detailed and fascinating that hundreds of authors have continued the tradition of writing about the hideous things, creating a Cthulhu Mythos that has long outlived HP Lovecraft’s original monsters..