Y = Yog-Sothoth, A to Z Blog Challenge

Yog-Sothoth is a cosmic entity in the Cthulhu stories of H.P. Lovecraft. This mythology has been adhered to, added to, altered, and now serves as almost a communal literary playground where anyone can play as long as they play by the rules. What rules? Only a disciple of Yog-Sothoth would know. I’m not trying to serve up some cosmic bullshit…yet.

Artist's depiction of Yog-Sothoth which I stole from Wikipedia.

Artist’s depiction of Yog-Sothoth which I stole from Wikipedia.

Essentially, Yog-Sothoth is at the end and the beginning of all time and space, yet he cannot seem to intrude on our reality. Rather, he seems to hover menacingly at the end of our universe, to watch beyond time, and to do things which might destroy our fragile minds were we to be privy to them. He knows all and sees all.

Possibly, this is because he is supposed to be made up of eyes, or as Alijah Billington wrote, “great globes…the protoplasmic flesh that flowed blackly out…” and was a “hideous horror from outer space…spawn of the blackness of primal time, that tentacled amorphous monster…”

Another artist's rendition.

Another artist’s rendition.

Strangely enough, the first time I became aware of Yog-Sothoth was through Stephen King’s short story Jerusalem’s Lot, a prequel to the first King novel I ever read, ‘Salem’s Lot. In the short story (available in the compilation Night Shift), a man comes to a town called Preacher’s Corners in 1850 and becomes aware of his family’s connection to the shunned town of Jerusalem’s Lot where terrible things have gone down and which is now deserted. In the climax of the short story, Yog-Sothoth’s name is mentioned in an evil turning of the world which takes place in that town in response to that which had come before.

Yog-Sothoth was the grandfather of the much more famous Cthulhu, a deity supposedly worshiped by cultists. He is part octopus, part man, and part dragon.

With a face and attitude like this, one can only assume that Cthulhu's mother was Gwyneth Paltrow.

With a face and attitude like this, one can only assume that Cthulhu’s mother was Gwyneth Paltrow.

In fact, this celestial being is famous enough to have made an appearance in South Park at (you probably guessed it) Cartman’s behest.

South Park's CthulhuYog-Sothoth and Cthulhu are prime examples of exceptional monster making. They are mysterious, dangerous, and their powers and purposes are ill-defined. This is not through any lack of imagination or design, but rather because I am certain that Lovecraft knew one vital fact about making horrific monsters — the less we see, the more effective the monster is. Think of this — which Nightmare on Elm Street movies are still scary? I can tell you that they are probably 1, 2, and 7. The second movie had a great many problems, but the first two movies were in the time when Freddy rarely showed his face, or if he did, he was hidden in the shadows. It was the suggestion of Freddy’s horrible face, his evil, and that he came from the dark and you could never quite see all of him that made him that much scarier.

When we see something full on, when we turn the lights on it, it loses its mystery. That lumbering beast in the corner is shown to just be your coat and jeans thrown on the back of a chair. The terrifying skeletal hand of some creature scraping against your window is actually just a human serial killer cutting your screen. By shedding light on these unknown situations and shapes, they lose their ability to scare us, their amorphous terror is defined.

Yet, with Yog-Sothoth, even when we see him, we don’t know what he is. He’s not some great Kaiju erupted from a dimensional rift but which still looks like a sea creature. He’s not a great dragon like Smaug, who can burn or eat you in a moment. He’s…nothing we can know. And that makes him terrifying.

CthulhuThink of this: you’re walking to your mailbox at night and see something hunched over run past you. You shine your phone’s flashlight on it and see some large dog carrying a discarded bone in its mouth, its eyes glowing in the sudden light. You recognize it, and you may be frightened by it, calculating how long it will take to get back to your door, but in that moment of defining it, it loses that initial thrill of terror.

But what if your flashlight runs out before you can see the shape? What if you see only a protruding bone in some sharp teeth, and hear something growling, slowly shuffling toward you? That unknown is much scarier. And that’s the brilliance of Lovecraft, and the effectiveness of Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.

Alternate letter considerations: Yoga, yodel

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~ by Darren Endymion on August 29, 2015.

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