23 July 2018
Nyarlathotep, The Crawling Chaos Revealed
H.P. Lovecraft first wrote of Nyarlathotep in 1920. It was a short prose from the best horror writer of the era, giving readers chills up their spine with only six paragraphs. Nyarlathotep as a monster has been developed much further over the years through other writers and has evolved. Three monster theses from Jeffery Cohen’s Monster Culture can be used to describe Nyarlathotep. The first thesis is category crisis to help describe Nyarlathotep as a being. The second thesis is the gates of difference to show Nyarlathotep as an extraterrestrial deity. The last thesis is the threshold of becoming to bring out the true nature of Nyarlathotep and where he came from. Nyarlathotep is truly an interesting monster that has lasted through the years.
Category crisis is used to describe monsters because of their failure to fall in line with any particular category. Cohen, the man on helped define monsters, describes monsters as “disturbing hybrids whose externally incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structuration.” (Cohen 6). Here, Cohen tells us that monsters are being that can’t fit in anywhere in any category or class because of how different they are from our own understanding and ideals. Nyarlathotep is a perfect example of this. We cannot easily classify what Nyarlathotep is without creating a whole new category upon which we have little knowledge. The only category he is certain to be in is “deity”, but even that can’t describe him. Nyarlathotep is a shape shifting god of chaos and madness who spends his immortal days draining both the life force and the sanity of out humans to fuel his grotesque soul. There is not a classification for that description or anything close to that description. First of all, shapeshifters struggle to be in any category because of their ability to shift between categories. Secondly, Nyarlathotep can fit many categories outside of shapeshifting with his many attributes of godhood and smug personality that keeps him from even wanting to become part of category. It is impossible to fully categorize Nyarlathotep.
Nyarlathotep is also considered a monster because of how different he is. In Lovecraft’s prose he states, “Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger,” (Lovecraft) to describe how strange and how different he was. Nyarlathotep appeared before the humans out of Egypt with the appearance of an ancient Pharaoh and started going to different cities and talking about sciences and prophesies from outer space. People might find this behavior off-putting and very far off of what is considered normal. Even in newer adaptations to Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep, he is considered to be very different from people in a terrifying way. For example, Manta Aisora wrote a book series in 2009, eighty nine years later, with Nyarlathotep as the main heroine. In the first book of Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, Nyarlathotep is reimagined as an entity from outer space, an alien, who isn’t actually a deity but does have enough power to be seen as one by humans. This version of Nyarlathotep is seen being more different than any other being on earth by its insane behavior, odd cooking methods accompanied by bizarre and seemingly inedible ingredients, and unearthly power that they use to kill other aliens. Nyarlathotep is easily seen as different from anything compared to it.
The third thesis being used to describe Nyarlathotep is the threshold of becoming. To describe this thesis, Cohen simply states, “Monsters are our children.” (Cohen 20). By giving us this simple, small statement, Cohen tells us monsters are nothing more than our own creations, our own problems that we ourselves gave life to. This being said, Nyarlathotep is also of our own creation. Nyarlathotep is the embodiment of insanity itself as he is seen draining the sanity out of others and driving them insane. Lovecraft even describes Nyarlathotep’s soul in his prose, stating, “And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods—the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.” (Lovecraft). This description points out how absurdly maddening Nyarlathotep’s soul is, proving him to be madness incarnate. In the time this prose was written, humanity was getting rid of its fear of mythological monsters like vampires and werewolves only to see them in plays, books, and other forms of media. The common theme with these monsters is that they are killable. Lovecraft wanted to point out the real monsters that dwelt within all of us, the unkillable, intangible monsters that were truly terrifying. Madness itself. Nyarlathotep was born from the lack of an actual, physical monster and the identification of what made a monster in real life. The insanity that sprung forth in humans that created the “monsters” from men was an indescribable force from which we have no knowledge of. Nyarlathotep was merely an embodiment of that force as well as an accurate representation of what madness was: an inescapable, imminent occurrence that cannot be denied no matter how much you fight, beg, or plead. Laing, a psychiatrist, describes insanity using an example of a man calling himself “unreal” to which he says, “…what does this delusion mean? Indeed, he is not joking or pretending. On the contrary, he goes on to say that he has been pretending for years to have been a real person but can maintain the deception no longer,” (Laing 36-37). This helps us understand insanity by telling us the inner thoughts of the insane and how we might consider the inner conflict that drives them to be labeled as insane. Looking at insanity this was brings into perspective how powerless we are to our own mental creation. Nyarlathotep is the product of our rational fears born into an eternal body with numerous forms.
Nyarlathotep can be seen as a monster because of his lack of classification, his completely different appearance and behaviors, and the fact that he is the abomination we as humans made ourselves. Nyarlathotep survived almost one hundred years now, reincarnating himself into video games, comic books, and novels because of his monsterhood. His insane nature that is drawn from the embodiment of the fragile human psyche is enough on its own to be recognized as a monster as well as draw in the monster loving fans. Nyarlathotep’s inability to be classified gives us the monster we both fear and adore for being so diverse and strange. His extreme levels of difference in ethics, personality, and hobbies from “normal” humans creates the bad vibe that warns us all to stay away and to recognize him as a monster. Nyarlathotep can be seen as a monster in many ways and proves to be quite powerful in terms of what defines a monster.
Aisora, Manta. Haiyore! Nyaruko-san. Soft Bank Creative, vol 1. 15 April 2009.
This is another fictional source with the appearance of Nyarlathotep. In this novel, Nyarlathotep, or a version of it, reveals itself to a human in the form of a human to save them from some kind of alien when he somehow was transported to a different dimension and cornered by the alien. From then on, Nyarlathotep lives with the protagonist and insists on protecting him. In this novel, Nyarlathotep and all the other Cthulhian gods are depicted as alien species rather than gods although they still possess some of the abilities noted in the original Cthulhu Mythos. I want to use this source to examine the large difference of the perception of Nyarlathotep between the original publication and today’s depictions.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster culture (seven theses).” Gothic horror: A guide for students and readers (2007): 198-217.
This is the seven theses we received in class to use for monster analysis. It is a peer reviewed article, proving to be credible. I hope to use it to help understand Nyarlathotep as a monster.
Hoogerbrug, J. E. The Poe Phenomenon and Cthulhu Mythos-A Cross-Cultural Genre Comparison in the Japanese Afterlives of Poe and Lovecraft. MS thesis. 2015.
In this article, Hoogerbrug talks about the cultural adaptation and translation of older stories in modern media both in the same type of media and in different types. He uses Ghibli Studios, a famous animation studio known and respected worldwide, and their inspirations as to how older books have been made into movies and how that changed the literary text as a whole. This is a peer reviewed article to prove its capability. I hope to use this source to understand how old things are implemented into new media.
Laing, Robert. The divided self: An existential study in sanity and madness. Penguin UK, 2010.
This article discusses the nature of madness or insanity in humans. The author, a psychiatrist, talks about why people are considered insane and how they differ from those we consider “sane”. He says, “If, for instance, a man tells us he is ‘an unreal man’, and if he is not lying, or joking, or equivocating in some subtle way, there is no doubt that he will be regarded as deluded. But, existentially, what does this delusion mean? Indeed, he is not joking or pretending. On the contrary, he goes on to say that he has been pretending for years to have been a real person but can maintain the deception no longer,” to give a deep understanding of what insanity really is. This article is written by a psychiatrist and peer reviewed. I use it to understand insanity.
Lovecraft, H.P. “Nyarlathotep.” The United Amateur. November 1920.
This is one of the resources being used to examine Nyarlathotep as a monster. This is the original poem where the entity, Nyarlathotep, was first mentioned and introduced in what later became known as the Cthulhu Mythos. This helps us understand what Nyarlathotep is and how he came to be.