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Cthulhu fhtagn, Part II

Posted on Sunday, February 21, 2010 in Books, Conlanging, Fiction

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been playing around with the Cthulhu invocation from H.P. Lovecraft:

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
“In his house at R’leyh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

Here is my personal interpretation of that phrase:

  1. Looking at Lovecraft’s translation, it appears to me that the sentence should be read “backwards” as in Fhtagn wgah’nagl R’lyeh, Cthulhu mglw’nafh ph’nglui. Stick a comma between R’lyeh and Cthulhu for good measure.
  2. fhtagn then becomes a participial construction meaning something like “waiting; lying in wait (as a predator)”
  3. wgah’nagl becomes “in (his) house/abode”
  4. R’lyeh, the proper name of the sunken city, modifies wgah’nagl, making the phrase R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn something like “Waiting in his R’lyeh abode”
  5. Cthulhu is, of course, Cthulhu, the agent of the sentence.
  6. Sticking to my idea of modifiers coming after their words, mglw’nafh should mean “dead”. But Cthulhu cannot actually die (at least in the human sense). Therefore, I’m making mglw’nafh mean something like “potentially active, physically inactive, dormant bodily manifestation”.
  7. ph’nglui on the other hand is translated by Lovecraft as “dreaming”. But we know that Cthulhu can influence humans with his mind. ph’nglui I am translating then as “active mental state” in contrast to mglw’nafh, “a dormant physical state”, but the word in some verbal state.
  8. Furthermore, take the words ph’nglui and wgah’nagl. Note the same consonant root in both nglui and nagl (n-g-l). Using this similarity, I’m saying that nagl refers to something “inside or within”, and nglui is an “interior mental state”. By this reasoning then, wgah’ should mean “house, abode”.

Using this reasoning then, we get:

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
“dreaming” active mental state (verb) “dead” dormant physical state (participle) (agent) (proper name) “in (his) abode” waiting (participle)

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