When I first read I, Cthulhu, I did not get the joke.
Looking back now, I am at a loss to explain how I managed that. This short piece of fiction is so obviously tongue-in-cheek, with so many weird references that make no sense within the classic Cthulhu Mythos, I really do not know why I did not like the story or thought it was meant to be the true story of Cthulhu’s, errhh…, life.
Come to thnik of it: This could be the true story of Cthulhu’s life so far. After all, he is so beyond our comprehension that the true horror could lie in the relative mundanity of his utterly alien upbringing and experiences. Who knows. Maybe this realisation is what drove good ol‘ Abdhul insane.
Just a few gems:
I was spawned uncounted aeons ago, in the dark mists of Khhaa’yngnaiih (no, of course I don’t know how to spell it. Write it as it sounds), of nameless nightmare parents, under a gibbous moon. It wasn’t the moon of this planet, of course, it was a real moon. On some nights it filled over half the sky and as it rose you could watch the crimson blood drip and trickle down its bloated face, staining it red, until at its height it bathed the swamps and towers in a gory dead red light.
Those were the days.
Or rather the nights, on the whole.
And it goes on:
And then one day — I believe it was a Tuesday — I discovered that there was more to life than food. (Sex? Of course not. I will not reach that stage until after my next estivation; your piddly little planet will long be cold by then). It was that Tuesday that my Uncle Hastur slithered down to my part of the swamp with his jaws fused.
It meant that he did not intend to dine that visit, and that we could talk.
Oh, and lest I forget, Cthulhu is actually an orphan:
I never knew my parents.
My father was consumed by my mother as soon as he had fertilized her and she, in her turn, was eaten by myself at my birth. That is my first memory, as it happens. Squirming my way out of my mother, the gamy taste of her still in my tentacles.
Don’t look so shocked, Whateley. I find you humans just as revolting.
So, it is obvious that Cthulhu is actually not such a bad guy all in himself but rather suffers the long-term effects of a violent, traumatic birth and lonely childhood.
And of course, the family and friends are completly dysfunctional as well, as can be seen in this statement:
The King in Yellow was the first I ever got on with.
I guess it’s hard being a Great Old One.
So, I, Cthulhu is a lovely, entertaining gem. But do not read it unless you have some knowlege about the mythios, otherwise the joke will be lost…
And here is a thought by Gaiman on Lovecraft teaming up with Sherlock Holmes: