Rediscovered: “Cthulhu and his myth-cycle”

Haef eBookOkay, John D. Haefele has given thumb’s up to me presenting for your edification one of the new riffs he added to the eBook edition of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos — hey, a little publicity never hurt anything, right?

While all the new stuff is very cool, this insert is by far my favorite — if you have the trade paperback, thumb to page 55. Between the second and third paragraphs, following “notice one way or the other).” and ahead of “To be sure….” you now should read:


Joshi repeats all of this in his I Am Providence biography of Lovecraft, stating bluntly: “The term ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ was invented by August Derleth after Lovecraft’s death; of this there is no question.”

But there is a question.

Though the precise term, Cthulhu Mythos, capitalized, is never used formally by HPL, during his most crucial and creative Mythos phase, merely months after he completed At the Mountains of Madness, we find him writing: “There are so many ideas to write out, & so little time to write them in! Cthulhu & his myth-cycle are purely fictitious, & of my own invention” (HPL to Barlow: 13 July 1931).

Clearly, at least in this passage, HPL is referring to his Cthulhu myth-cycle!


Thus Adds Haefele!

Nice addition, no? He also notes, “Moreover, Derleth likely absorbed this terminology just as he composed ‘H. P. Lovecraft, Outsider: A Commentary’ — though he seems to have forgotten this specific source by 1944, if he even realized he’d encountered HPL’s use of the term in one of several hundred of Lovecraft’s letters — thousands of closely-written pages — that passed through his hands.”

Haefele also reports that

Barlow volunteered use of his letters from Lovecraft to Derleth early that same year: “I have many hundred letters which you may see, if you like….” (Barlow to Derleth: Mar. 1937) Subsequent correspondence mentions the packages of HPL-related material he sent to Sauk City, the first in April.

Despite, then, possibly millions of folk all over the web (and even guys who are in actual books) proclaiming that the Cthulhu Mythos was just something Derleth made up, I think the reasonable among us will agree it is not something he made up out of the blue. And it is a lot catchier than Cthulhu and His Myth-Cycle.

You’d think some guy like Joshi would be aware of this stuff — the Lovecraft letter to Barlow with the quote appears on page 4 (page 4!!!!!!) of the 2007 book edited by Joshi and Dave Schultz, O Fortunate Floridian: H.P. Lovecraft’s Letters to R. H. Barlow. Yet much more recent editions of Joshi’s Lovecraft biography still contain the “no question” bit.

And that’s one of the many reasons why Haefele is now the reigning expert on the history of the Cthulhu Mythos. He pays attention, and gets his facts straight.

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