September 16, 2022

#08-241: The Call of Cthulhu II

Wild worshipers of Cthulhu

Note: We continue with one of the most frightening stories I've ever read, about the "Great Old One," Cthulhu.

Get Ready: Do you find a story scarier if it seems to be a cold, objective account of events, or do you prefer those where the characters are acting emotionally to things as they happen?

Let's continue with H. P. Lovecraft's 1928 story "The Call of Cthulhu," about a series worldwide phenomena pointing to some mysterious happening, which we began in the previous lesson.

In Part II, the narrator, Francis Wayland Thurston, explains that from time immemorial humans on the fringes of habitation have maintained a cult dedicated to a monstrous creature named Cthulhu, who would come again and call his people to him. An old man named Castro had learned this and more from "undying leaders of the cult in the mountains of China."

This part ends with Thurston, the narrator, visiting Wilcox the artist and Legrasse the police inspector, two of his grand-uncle's key informants, in order to confirm his story. He also comes to believe that "Professor Angell"--that grand-uncle--"died because he knew too much."

In the last of the story's three parts, "The Madness from the Sea," Thurston happens to find a newspaper clipping from the same period as the other phenomena described. It tells of a derelict ship called the Alert found near Australia; the sole survivor, Johansen, tells how his own ship, the Emma, encountered the Alert and were attacked by it. Johansen ends up alone on the Alert, where he finds a statue of Cthulhu.

Less than a month later, Thurston is in Dunedin, the Alert's home port. He then pushes on to Sydney, where he studies the statue Johansen reported; and then to Norway, where Johansen had returned to his home in Oslo.

But Johansen is dead. However, he left a document from which Thurston learns that Johansen and his men had encountered an island--heaved up from the sea by the earthquake--on which was located the city of R'lyeh. It was this surfacing, after long lying at the bottom of the sea, that had allowed Cthulhu to send out his "call" to the dreamers, natives, and madmen.

While in the city, Johansen and his crew accidentally released Cthulhu himself. As the Norwegian wrote, "The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own." Six were killed; only Johansen and his shipmate Briden, who died later, returned to the Alert. As Cthulhu swam in pursuit, Johansen rammed it with the boat, destroying it--and then watched it reassemble itself as the ship pulled away.

In his conclusion Thurston writes, "I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me. But I do not think my life will be long.... I know too much, and the cult still lives."

R'lyeh has again plunged beneath the waves, but "What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise."


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. clipping
  2. derelict
  3. fringes
  4. habitation
  5. heaved
  6. plunged
  7. reassemble
  8. sole
  9. time immemorial
  10. undying

  1. something cut out of a newspaper
  2. neglected; abandoned
  3. edges
  4. places where people live
  5. lone; only
  6. put back together
  7. before memory or recorded history
  8. eternal
  9. went down forcefully
  10. came up forcefully

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 16, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. b; 3. c; 4. d; 5. j; 6. i; 7. f; 8. e; 9. g; 10. h