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Cthulhu fhtagn!

Posted on Saturday, February 20, 2010 in Books, Fiction
Cthulhu drawn by the Conlanging Librarian

Cthulhu, as envisioned by the Conlanging Librarian

I don’t know how I did it, but I’ve gone several decades without reading the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Don’t ask me how or why, but I just recently “discovered” his writings and now I’m hooked…especially his stories of the Elder Gods, Great Cthulhu, the Great Race of Yith, Yog-Sothoth and his kids Wilbur and the “horror”, etc. Very cool stuff!

“But why bring him up in a conlanging blog” you may ask. The only “extensive” piece of conlanging (used in the broadest possible sense) by Lovecraft is the invocation of Cthulhu: Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn which Lovecraft translated in “The Call of Cthulhu” as In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. There are also snippets of this language in “The Dunwich Horror” and other stories. I’m not saying that Lovecraft was a conlanger. Far from it. These phrases were purposefully put together to appear as alien and unhuman as possible. Lovecraft also talks about the Great Race of Yith’s language as a “consisting of a kind of clicking and scraping” of their “huge nippers” (“The Shadow out of Time”).

It strikes me that Lovecraft is a huge untapped inspirational field for conlangers. In searching the Internet, I did find one site with a sizable dictionary and some grammar here. Even with this work, who’s to say this is the “right” one. I’ve been toying with the Cthulhu invocation and some other snippets and having an enjoyable time trying to puzzle out some sensible syntax.
Lovecraft’s prose provides tantalizing glimpses and interesting snippets from which to formulate some naming languages or simple dialogue. If you’re a conlanger looking for a fertile field to toil in…jump right in…if you dare. Cthulhu fhtagn!!

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