One of the great things about this Stephen King re-re-awakening is that people get excited about the author’s classic novels again.
Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, which spans many stories and is the author’s most famous contribution to horror literature, discusses beings from such groups as Great Old Ones, Elder Gods, Outer Gods, and more. This hierarchy is one of the most complex and varied of any in high-fantasy or science fiction, and he was always very open about other writers adding to and changing the mythology. It’s a mythology in Wiki form. And while King mainly made up his own extensive mythology of gods and demons, several of them borrow heavily (or at least reference) some of Lovecraft’s creations. Let’s take a look at the most prominent.
King’s most frequent villain is the necromancer/sorcerer known by many names, but most consistently Randall Flagg. He’s described as “an accomplished sorcerer and a devoted servant of the Outer Dark” and generally aims to bring down civilization through destruction or sewing discontent and conflict in humanity. Appearing in seven novels, either as main antagonist or merely a cameo, Flagg is responsible for some of the worst and most decidedly evil deeds in any of King’s canon. He’s the big bad–known as The Man in Black–in
This figure directly mirror’s Lovecraft’s Outer God, Nyarlathotep, who is likewise the most frequently featured entity in the Cthulhu Mythos. Unlike most of the Outer Gods or Great Old Ones who rarely take a form fathomable by the human mind, Nyarlathotep often takes human form in order to collect devotees and spread chaos. He is deceptive and manipulative, and even uses propaganda to achieve his goals. He influences the deeds of men, and carries out the evil of larger Outer Gods as well as the wishes of cults devoted to him.
King has all but said Randall Flagg–especially in
It is not a direct allusion to any one Lovecraftian entity the way Flagg is tied to Nyarlathotep, but actually draws from several. Firstly and perhaps most prominently is Great Cthulhu–not in visage but in approach. The famous phrase the Cult of Cthulhu uses often is “At his home in R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” The awakening of Cthulhu spells doom for all. It sleeps for 27 years and when it awakens, spells doom for those in Derry, Maine. It’s final form as a giant spider-like monster is like that of several Lovecraftian nightmares. It using madness to maintain control, and humans being unable to fathom the awesome horror of such a creature also comes right out of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu.
In Lovecraft, there are a few deities that could be tied to Maturin, though not explicitly. One of the hallmarks of Lovecraft’s work is that pretty much all of his deities are evil, or at least apathetic to the plight of humanity. Maturin is the creator, but is an ultimately benevolent entity. The creator of our universe in Lovecraft is the behemoth Outer God Yog-Sothoth, a mass of glowing orbs, with eyes or tendrils in some versions. He is believed to be trapped outside of our reality, but has created many beings over which he has influence. Another, more benevolent being is Nodens, an Elder God whose domain is mainly the Dreamlands and who has an army of faceless, bat-winged Night-Gaunts which help him hunt the minions of Nyarlathotep. So, a pretty nice guy.
In Stephen King’s mythology, Gan is the greatest deity of them all, creating every universe, including the universe all of the books take place, the universe where King writes those stories, and the universe in which we read them. King himself is a player in Gan’s scheme to tell the story of the Gunslinger in
Lovecraft’s over-arching god is not nearly as benevolent. Azathoth is the greatest of Lovecraft’s deities in the Cthulhu Mythos. Known as “the blind idiot god,” Azathoth is the god that dreams all of us, and all of everything. A disgusting mass of goopy tendrils and eyes, he rules over the Dreamlands through his emissary Nyarlathotep. What Azathoth wants, Nyarlathotep and others have to make happen, mostly because he’s dreaming and can’t do it himself. While people worship Azathoth, it’s very likely Azathoth doesn’t even know humanity exists, and should he ever awaken from his slumber, we would cease to exist.
There are obviously many, many more references in King’s work to that of Lovecraft, and a phenomenal resource for this is Margaret L. Carter’s 2005 essay “The Turtle Can’t Help Us: The Lovecraft Legacy in Stephen King’s