The Cthulhu Mythos in Marathon

Strange Aeons

The Cthulhu what?... I hear you cry!

James R Graham <> points out that the level name "Strange Aeons" is part of a famous H.P. Lovecraft quote from the short story The Call of Cthulhu:

"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
and with strange aeons even death may die."

Who or what is the Cthulhu? The following is taken from the alt.horror.cthulhu FAQ:

Cthulhu is a monstrous entity who lies "dead but dreaming" in the city of R'lyeh, a place of non-Euclidean madness presently (and mercifully) sunken below the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Cthulhu appears in various monstrous and demonic forms in early myths of the human race. Racial memory preserves Him as humanity's most basic nightmare. Cthulhu is the high priest of the Great Old Ones, unnatural alien beings who ruled the Earth before humanity formed, worshipped as gods by some misguided people. It is said that They will return, causing worldwide insanity and mindless violence before finally displacing humanity forever.

Some of you may have noticed a flying/floating octopus or polyp on "Eat The Path" and "Strange Aeons". This may have been inspired by images of the Cthulhu itself.

Apparently Randy Reddig calls these flying octopi "mothrods".

Interesting to note that "Hastur" is the name for one of the Great Old Ones.

So who are the Great Old Ones? The following is taken from the alt.horror.cthulhu FAQ:

The Great Old Ones are unique entities, alien to the Earth. Although each entity is unique, some (like Cthulhu) are actually a 'leader' (or high priest? interpretations vary) of a race (i.e. Cthulhu is a "Great Old One" but he is of a race called, for lack of a better name, the "Spawn of Cthulhu"). The individual Great Old Ones, however, do not (necessarily) belong to the same race. However, Hastur has been referred to as "half-brother of Cthulhu". (Original reference isn't known, but that quote comes from the AD&D 1st edition Deities and Demigods)

If a Great Old One is worshipped on Earth, it is generally by insane human cultists (as well as other races). Their worship likens them to gods, but they should not be confused with another Lovecraftian category, the Outer (sometimes called "Other") Gods. Nor with the Elder Gods. The Great Old Ones, while much more powerful than humankind, still seem to be 'outranked'(?) by the more powerful 'Outer Gods'.

The Great Old Ones are sometimes referred to as the the "Primordial Ones". Starting to click yet?

Ok so who are the 'Outer Gods'?

I daren't mention them. However some Lovecraftian authorities believe that Shub-Niggurath, the All-Mother and wife of the Not-to-Be-Named-One, is an Outer God.

Rob Boggs <> writes concerning Robert Blake's signoff in the first terminal on "A Converted Church in Venice, Italy" pointing out that if you take out the miscellaneous marks and put the letters together you get shubnggrth or perhaps Shub Niggurath?

Let me quote you something from Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu:

We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

In space no one can hear you... scream!

Avi Selk <> points out that on "Son of Grendel" there is a terminal with the line


Avi asks could this be gibberish for "Hastur rules the Earth"?

Could be... cause we all know who Hastur is... right?

Brandon Seifert <> writes concerning a possible connection between the W'rkncacnter in Marathon, the dreaming God in Pathways Into Darkness and the Cthulhu Mythos:

(1) According to the alt.horror.cthulhu FAQ, Cthulhu lies "dead but dreaming" in the sunken city of R'yleth. The manual text from PiD says the the God in the Yucatan was as close to death as was possible for his race, but is still dreaming. His dreams took on monstrous forms, and altered reality under the surface of the Earth where he is imprisoned.

(2) Cthulhu: "Racial memory preserves Him as humanity's most basic nightmare." - alt.horror.cthulhu FAQ. W'rkncacnter: "...even Tfear would be loath to release something so destructive that its mythos [W'rkncacnter Mythos!!!] has survived throughout the galaxy for over sixty million years." - You Think You're Big Time? You're Gonna Die Big Time!

(3) The W'rkncacnter are "those things that live in chaos, creating it around them. At the beginning of the universe, they were unmistakable in their entities, but as time has gone by, their existence has become difficult to detect among the chaotic elements of the universe, hidden in stars, trapped in storms, forever looking along the event horizons of black holes. Setting one free in ordered space is difficult and insane." Okay, we know that they were free living at one time, because one came to Lh'owon. So that must mean that they got imprisoned in stars, storms, black holes, etc. Or, at least the one at Lh'owon did. The Great Old Ones got in a fight with the Elder Gods, got their butts kicked, and were imprisoned throughout the universe.

Brandon also writes about August Derleth's collection of short stories entitled "The Watchers Out of Time and Others":

(1) Hastur is refered to in "The Gable Window" as "Lord of the Interstellar Spaces".

(2) Same story: ...the Ancient Ones[/Old Ones] had been banished... when once they revolted against the Elder Gods - such places as the distant stars of the Hyades [constellation], Unknown Kadath [It's a mountain in the "Cold Waste"], the Plateau of Leng, and the sunken city of R'lyeh [where Cthulhu is].

(3) The story is about a cloudy window that is believed to be made of glass from the Hyades. Anyway, the window lets you look at different realities, where there are minions of the Old Ones.

(4) Ah. Here is something. It's from "The Shadow Out of Space". It's talking about this world out somewhere where the "Great Race" is toiling, but they have to be really quiet or they'll wake up Hastur, who is imprisoned in the Lake of Kali. Hmm. Aw, well. Besides, if the "God" in the Yucatan (who lies "dead but dreaming"...) is Cthulhu, then Bungie has altered the mythos some.

Dustin Westphal <> writes:

I was reading the Illuminatus! trilogy, by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, when I came upon a startling point. There is a certain alien by the name of Yog Sothoth, who also goes by the name of Hastur, and he is of a certain alien race very similar to the Jjaro. They are called the Lloigor and are not really physical beings. Before Yog Sothoth came to earth they lived on the surface of a sun. Yog Sothoth is also the Eater of Souls and goes by other names like: Azag-Thoth(lord of magicians), Cthulhu, Hastur, and Ustur. You do see the relation to Marathon, don't you?

More on Hastur and the Lloigor: He is most often called, "He who is not be named." The Lloigor live off human sacrifices. Hastur was evil and demanded more and more sacrifices. The Lloigor can not manifest them in this world without mass sacrifices or other such rituals. The Lloigor have super advanced technology like the Jjaro."

Andre Kopp <> writes:

Lovecraft again!

"I see it-coming here-hell wind-titan blur-black wings-Yog-Sototh save me-THE THREE LOBED BURNING EYE...."

Wont you agree that three lobed burning eye adequately describes our three eyed annoyances the Pfhor? Might bungie have been influenced by this scentence? This is the last scentence of "The Haunter of the Dark" where a man goes insane after staring into a "shining trapzohendron" which summons the haunter of the dark in question.

On the Story forum Can-ned Food <> makes an interesting connection between H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Thing on the Doorstep" and the Marathon 2 level name "Six Thousand Feet Under". He points out that there is a line in the story which reads:

"Dan, for God's sake! The pit of the shoggoths! Down the six thousand steps... the abomination of abominations... I never would let her take me, and then I found myself there - Ia! Shub-Niggurath!

Could this have been the inspiration for the level name?

In a Story forum post UrsusArctos writes:

Looks to me like there are Lovecraft references in Marathon that go beyond the familiar Cthulhu mythos, in this case from the story "The Rats in the Walls". In this story the protagonist keeps hearing phantom rats in the walls and comes to a horrifying discovery about his family heritage. It ends with the protagonist incarcerated in an asylum (which is no spoiler to anyone remotely familiar with Lovecraft's work!) uttering the following classically Lovecraftian lines -

They must know it was the rats; the slithering scurrying rats whose scampering will never let me sleep; the daemon rats that race behind the padding in this room and beckon me down to greater horrors than I have ever known; the rats they can never hear; the rats, the rats in the walls.

This doesn't sound all too different from this sentence in Tfear's description of the W'rkncancter's assault on Aye Mak Sicur in the failed timeline, does it?

But the trackless whisper chattering through
the hollow space in these cursed walls buzzes
and threatens madness.

Given that the W'rkncacnter is a creature of total chaos and is associated with doubt too, that it should also cause mental madness right out of a Lovecraft story seems appropriate.

Also, the association of an unearthly, buzzing voice or sound with madness comes out of Lovecraft too. There's the novella "The Whisperer in Darkness", which features choice descriptions of the voice of an extraterrestrial being, which, while not remotely as monstrous as Cthulhu or the W'rkncacnter, is nevertheless well capable of driving people mad -

I think I am going crazy. It may be that all I have ever written you is a dream or madness. It was bad enough before, but this time it is too much. They talked to me last night-talked in that cursed buzzing voice and told me things that I dare not repeat to you.

Perhaps Greg K. or someone else at Bungie was into classic Lovecraft? These really don't seem to be a coincidence in light of the previous thinly-veiled allusions to Cthulhu.

For the curious, both the stories I referred to are available in full at wikisource, but be warned that the name of the black cat in The Rats in the Walls (named after one of Lovecraft's own beloved cats) is monstrously offensive.

Check the Gheritt White section for a further reference to Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls".

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Last updated Mar 27, 2022