I, “discovered,” the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and the Cthulhu mythos, when I was in college. One of the first aspects that jumped out at me was the commonality of the use of ancient tomes and books in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and the Cthulhu mythos. As someone who has written extensively on horror symbolism, I quickly began to pick up on the underlying symbolism and meanings of these ancient tomes books.
Books as a Window to the Past
Before television, movies, and the internet, books served as our only window to use for understanding the past. A major theme of the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos was that there was crucial information that had been lost over the centuries that could only be found in the ancient tomes and books. The Necronomicon, De Vermis Mysteriis, Cultes des Goules, Revelations of Glaaki, and other ancient tomes and books were historical documents that reminded us about the forgotten history of the universe.
Information Man (or Woman) Was Not Meant to Know
Another common theme in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and the Cthulhu mythos was that there was a lot of information that people were never intended to know. Much of that information was hidden in these ancient tomes and books. These books held a purpose as being something that could save humanity (at least in the short-run). At the same time, the information could also cause the reader to become insane, or even a target of the entities that he or she was trying to defeat.
My previous point leads into this one. The works of H.P. Lovecraft, and the Cthulhu mythos deal heavily with people that have gone, or will go, insane. The information that is housed in these ancient tomes and books is so earth-shattering that the reader can easily have a mind turned into much simply be reading the text. Lovecraft stated in many of his letters that one of his greatest fears was to go insane. He transferred this fear of losing the grasp on reality into his writing.
The ancient tomes and books in the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos can easily be described as being anti-Bibles. The Bible is a book that many consider to have some kind of mystical qualities. These people believe that the bible is fueled by the fact that it contains the Word of God, and the book itself is holy because of this.
In turn, the ancient tomes and books used in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and the Cthulhu mythos, are damned because they hold the words that could render people insane, summon entities that could destroy worlds without effort, and bring every organized religion to it’s knees. As an example, many of the names of these ancient tomes and books are not even allowed to be said without bringing the wrath of some kind of entity.
An Object That Lives
Our real world is full of stories of ancient objects that have qualities of life bestowed upon them. The ancient Israelites believed that the Arc of the Covenant had been bestowed with living senses from God. The Christians of the Middle-Ages told stories about the Grail that portrayed the thought that the Grail could think for itself. The Spear of Longinus could supposedly talk in some of the old stories.
So to could be said about the ancient tomes and books in the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos. Many of the stories told of human-like qualities that these books had. Some could search out an owner. Others could hide themselves. Some stories told that The Necronomicon had the power to devour other books. All of this added an aspect that these book were anti-relics as well.
The next time that you curl up with one of the Cthulhu mythos stories, or one from H.P. Lovecraft, take a look for these qualities in the ancient tomes and books that are mentioned in the stories. Chances are good that you will be amazed by the symbolism that you discover.
H.P. Lovecraft Archive
The Story of the Cthulhu Mythos by Lin Carter