Cthulhu as Neoplatonic Aerial Creature


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
I have felt it to be an artistic blemish that, at the end of “The Call of Cthulhu,” the skipper runs down Cthulhu, who bursts like a bubble (then reassembles). Still do, pretty much, but if an antiquarian parallel dignifies the incident, then here it is.

I was reading Chapter 15 of C. S. Lewis’s instructive and readable Preface to Paradise Lost. Milton’s angels and devils are understood as material beings, in line with Neoplatonic ideas current in recent thinkers such as Marsilio Ficino and Henry More. Renaissance Neoplatonism speculated about whole hosts of species of “aerial” creatures, which might be associated with one or the other of the four elements. Lewis quotes from Burton (the Anatomy of Melancholy, I assume, which has been a quarry for fantasists), who cites Psellus, who held that if these aerial bodies are cut, they can come together again with amazing swiftness (Lewis, p. 111).

This opens up the question of whether HPL roamed around in Burton’s enormous compendium and saw the citation and was influenced by it—and then whether he might have picked up other notions from the Anatomy. At any rate, I suppose the next time I reread “The Call of Cthulhu” I’ll remember this bit of Renaissance Neoplatonic lore.

Dale Nelson

J Riff

The Ants are my friends..
Apr 11, 2010
Sleeping in Lab
That is serious research and a sharp eye. I always thought he had just confused antiquarian with aquarium, hence the bursting bubble effect. *)

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Jan 22, 2008
This is new to me, but I remember reading somewhere that August Derleth tried to introduce the idea of linking various Lovecraftian deities to the four elements. Apparently, Cthulhu was linked to water, but the article I read attacked the idea, pointing out that if Cthulhu was in his element, why wasn't he fully alive?

I agree that the ramming always seemed rather weak, as if Lovecraft hadn't visualised it properly. But the recombining feels rather "right" to me, in that Cthulhu is both unkillable and fundamentally "not of this Earth".