Review: The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia
Daniel Harms’ The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia is a fantastic endeavor into the worlds of Lovecraft providing the reader with a compendium of connections between authors, stories and references of the Cthulhu Mythos. The book begins with a brief explanation of the origin of the Lovecraft-Cthulhu mythology (ie Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, etc…) and how it was “coined” by August Derleth. It then moves forward by explaining how the Mythos have been used as a social commentary between several authors as a tradition or an experiment in social media as early as the 1920s. Authors would exchange the use of the Mythos followed by an explanation letter by letter of every creature in the mythology whether it was created or used for authors such as Lovecraft, Sterling, Clark Ashton Smith, Brian Lumley and others. This social phenomenon would expand beyond Lovecraft-related fiction and actually cross over into the world of Wicca and Self-help. Harms goes on to profile the popular Necronomicon book published by Simon and even publications by the Esoteric Order of Dagon.
The opening also has a bit of Harms’ personal opinion that if modern day authors and writers are to take on the challenge of writing Mythos based stories, they should be more accurate. As he puts the pieces together of where and when a particular event occured or if a particular character did something, to be chronologically accurate and research a little before publishing the story. As this encyclopedia attempts to make all the connections between the published stories, it also provides as a wonderful resources to truly research any Lovecraft-related character, object or event to the future authors of Baroque Horror.
I can say that I learned much upon purchasing this book and flipping through it reminds me of the Call of Cthulhu rulebooks created by Sandy Peterson. It is an excellent complement to any collection of Baroque Horror. What I find most interesting is the chronology of the Necronomicon as it’s passed from author to author starting from the 1920s and ending to today in popular culture. Harms covers the history of this tome throughout the ages . It provides a great resource by covering the meaning of all the forbidden texts titles that have been used by these authors throughout the 20th Century. Texts such as Unaussprechlichen Kulten (aka Nameless Cults), the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the True Magick and the list goes on.
Sandy Peterson’s Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos and the Dreamlands version were 2 great books by Chaosium that covered these creatures in fantastic detail. This book provides some of that insight into who or what these creatures are. A big shame about the book is that there are no plates or images that someone can see. The Encyclopedia does not miss any detail as it has famous chants such as “Ia!” and translates them to what they truly mean – “I hunger”. This book is really fascinating.
Bottom line: Buy it. Lovecraft aficionados should have a copy of this “forbidden text” in their library for one never knows when an expedition will arise.