ICHF: Nyarlathotep Picture

Last time we covered H.P. Lovecraft's most famous creation, Cthulhu. Today our brief jaunt through Cosmic Horror turns to another one of his iconic characters, the crawling chaos with many names: Nyarlathotep.

Nyarlathotep is one of the lesser beings in Lovecraft's cosmology. If Cthulhu is the rough equivalent of a God (and a lesser one at that - he's not actually a big player in the mythos that bears his name), then Nyarlathotep is sort of a dark angel, working as the messenger and servant of the far more powerful god-being Azathoth. Nyarlathotep appears in many Lovecraft stories and is mentioned in others, and, of all the major players in Lovecraft's mythology, he has the most human-ish personality. While Cthulhu, Azathoth, Yog Sothoth, and the other various "gods" of the mythos seem distant and removed from humanity, Nyarlathotep actively works amongst us as a cruel trickster and devil-like figure, manipulating mortals with apparent glee. When Cthulhu destroys you, it's basically an accident (albeit one he could care less about). When Nyarlathotep destroys you, it was probably planned. I think the fact that he's much lower on the hierarchy of "gods" is probably the reason Lovecraft allowed him to have such a human personality - he's the bridge between the higher beings in the mythos and the lesser beings like us. That's what I've gathered, anyway - I'm not exactly a master of Lovecraft's mythos, especially the parts that developed by writers other than H.P. himself.

Nyarlathotep is a shape-shifter, with his most common form being a man with jet-black skin (not someone of African descent - we're talking black as in ink or oil, the kind of dark shade humans can't have in real life). Lovecraft was... well, a bit of a racist, but there are other monsters in older horror literature that also have this appearance (one of the earliest horror novels, Vathek, features and evil Djinn who is described as having the same kind of jet-black skin and a human-ish body). Nyarlathotep has many monstrous forms, though, and I wanted to draw one of them because, well, I'm better at drawing monsters than people.

(also worried about drawing something that could be construed as racist)

The thing is... Nyarlathotep's other forms are sort of... poorly described. I've had this theory that Cthulhu is more popular than Lovecraft's other creations because he's more easy to visualize than the majority of them, while still being very distinct in appearance. Lovecraft's other creatures tend to be described as, well, indescribably weird, with the narrators of the stories having trouble listing more than a few details - many of which don't make much sense! So it goes with Nyarlathotep, whose monstrous form is described in "The Haunter in the Dark" as taking the form of a blue-black, bat winged, tentacled, bloated bodied creature with a "three-lobed burning eye". How does an eye have three lobed? I... I don't know.

It's a challenge to interpret, that's for sure! But I did my level best.

Nyarlathotep will drive you mad, start cults, and basically ruin people's days. He's one of Lovecraft's easier to understand villains, and even with that he's still confoundedly hard to understand (at least physically). Cosmic Horror, ladies and gents.
Continue Reading: Figures