Did August Derleth invent the term “Cthulhu Mythos”?

An interesting post on Don Herron’s blog, where he writes about new additions to the A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos eBook by John D. Haefele. In this post, he calls Haefele “the reigning expert on the history of the Cthulhu Mythos”.

From the post:

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!

Read more here.

Buy A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos by John D. Haefele.

Buy I Am Providence by S.T. Joshi.

6 responses to “Did August Derleth invent the term “Cthulhu Mythos”?

  1. Lovecraft would have thought us daft for spending so much time arguing over it all. To him of course it was just fun. Since he was too much of a gentleman to work for money. (Though he needed it desperately and did except the money.)


  2. My information to points to it being called at least tangentially “Yog-Sothoth Mythos” or “Cycle” not Cthulhu. But then Yog-Sothoth has connexion to every location and time in the time stream. It inhabits the time stream and some say it is the time steam! Foolish thinking of those metaphysicians on hashish. I look upon it as an artificial construct by ancient beings long gone. Or mostly gone. And old Nyarlathotep as the controller and still functions as an interface for those of the Kutun spawn who are dimensionally near us. Both were designed so well that over millions of years they both changed, not as they were in a nascent time before our Sun shown forth upon a barren world.


  3. Pretty much a Derleth thing, though he would have been happier with the Hastur Mythos. Haefele conveniently forgets or at least ignores Lovecrafts various Yog-Sothothry references where Lovecraft firmly planted his tongue in cheek.


  4. I think the sticking points are more about whether Lovecraft named his general collection of myth-cycles after Cthulhu, or if he instead placed that collection under a general umbrella of “Yog-Sothothry”, thinking of them instead on an individual level as interlinked but separate myth-cycles for Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, Azathoth, and the rest. On paper, it looks like a small difference, but it’s a huge difference in scope and connotation.

    I’m still inclined to credit the invention (and of course popularization) of the term “Cthulhu Mythos” as we understand it to August Derleth. As far as I’m concerned, there’s really nothing wrong with that – it’s perhaps not the most accurate name for it that could have been picked, but it gets the idea across, it works, and perhaps works better than a more accurate label would have.


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