Updated date:

The Alien Races of H.P. Lovecraft

I love reading short fiction, particularly the weird and strange tales of H.P. Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft is known the world over for giving birth to some of the most surreally horrifying creatures in fiction. Learn about some of them here.

H.P. Lovecraft is known the world over for giving birth to some of the most surreally horrifying creatures in fiction. Learn about some of them here.

The Macabre, the Wondrous, and the Horrible

H.P. Lovecraft (Howard Philips Lovecraft) was a prolific author and the creator of the Cthulu Mythos. He began drawing followers to his works in the 1930s.

His writings can be divided into three different perspectives or phases: undead horror, dream-cycle manifestations, and cosmic horror. Over the course of his career, his morbidly surreal imagination conceived of a diverse array of monsters and creatures. His work culminated in the creation of the Cthulu Mythos, a fictional universe that many consider his crowning achievement.

The purpose of this article is specific; if you are interested in learning about the different alien races that populate the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, look no further—they are contained herein. If you're new to H.P. Lovecraft, check out my article on the top 10 stories of H.P. Lovecraft—it's a great way to get submerged in his mythos.

The Deep Ones

Although the Deep Ones are depicted primarily in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," they have also been discussed by other authors whose works explore Lovecraftian landscapes. They are linked to the undersea city of Y'ha-nthlei and the Esoteric Order of Dagon.

A predominately frog-like species, their purpose is cultic and strongly influenced by their worship of the deity Dagon. Their goal is to mate with humans and thus increase their own kin.

Their predominant color is a grayish-green, though they have white bellies. They are shiny and slippery but have scaly ridges on their backs. Their forms are vaguely anthropoid, but their heads resemble those of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never close. On the sides of their necks are palpitating gills. Webbing stretches between the digits of their long claws. They hop irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four.

When I first discovered them, I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, used for articulate speech, hold all the dark shades of expression that their staring faces lack. They are blasphemous fish-frogs of nameless design, living and horrible.

Notable Appearance: "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (1931)

The Elder Things

An excerpt from "At the Mountains of Madness" describes the Elder Things as "six feet end to end, three and five-tenths feet central diameter, tapering to one foot at each end. Like a barrel with five bulging ridges in place of staves. Lateral breakages, as of thinnish stalks, are at equator in middle of these ridges. In furrows between ridges are curious growths—combs or wings that fold up and spread out like fans. . . which gives almost seven-foot wing spread."

The Elder Things are also referred to as the Old Ones or the Elder Ones and were described by Lovecraft as the first race from outer space that populated the Earth. Some of the unique characteristics of The Elder Things are their five-lobed brains and spore-based reproductive systems. They are also said to be (although it could be speculation) the creators of the Shoggoth.

Notable Appearances:

  • "At the Mountains of Madness" (1931)
  • "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936)
  • They are likely also the creatures described in "The Dreams in the Witch-House" (1933).
A depiction of one of Lovecraft's flying polyps

A depiction of one of Lovecraft's flying polyps

The Flying Polyps

An excerpt from Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out of Time" describes the flying polyps as "a horrible elder race of half polypous, utterly alien entities . . . They were only partly material and had the power of aerial motion, despite the absence of wings . . . They exhibited a monstrous plasticity . . . Singular whistling noises and colossal footprints made up of five circular toe marks seemed also to be associated with them."

Although these creatures are only briefly described in the "The Shadow Out of Time," Lovecraft built a good series of papers on them, suggesting that they had colonized three total planets in our solar system where they lived in black towers comprised of basalt.

The flying polyps remain nameless as a race. They are described as wingless and blind. They are also immune to the forces of the Yith. Among their powers are flight, invisibility, and varying levels of invulnerability.

Notable Appearance: "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936)

The Men of Leng

The satyr-like Men of Leng appear throughout "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" in various places, but mostly as a backdrop of the setting. It is probable that they are hooved and have horns protruding from their heads, but this is speculation, as their true form is never described. The original dwelling of the Men of Leng is the Dreamlands, which exist as an alternate dimension to our waking world and are explored in Lovecraft's Dream-Cycle writings.

Notable Appearance: "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" (1927)

A depiction of one of Lovecraft's Mi-Go

A depiction of one of Lovecraft's Mi-Go

The Mi-Go

An excerpt from "The Whisperer in Darkness" describes a Mi-Go as "a great crab with a lot of pyramided fleshy rings or knots of thick, ropy stuff covered with feelers where a man's head would be. That green sticky stuff is its blood or juice. And there are more of them due on earth any minute."

Hailing from the planet Yuggoth (also known as "Pluto" to Earthlings), the Mi-Go, or Outer Ones, are a fascinating race described by Lovecraft as he tells the tale of weird aliens coming to dominate our planet. In addition to their mastery of science, the Mi-Go have the ability to fly through space on their wings. Ironically, these wings do not function properly in our atmosphere.

One of their other feats of brilliance is the ability to prolong the lifespan of a creature by encapsulating its brain within a cylindrical casing. The Mi-Go do this to their own to survive extinction efforts aimed at them from other races. They also perform this procedure on human slaves, whose bodies are incapable of surviving transportation back to Yuggoth.

Notable Appearance: "The Whisperer in Darkness" (1931)

The Yithians

The Great Race of Yith, or the Great Ones, are an extremely powerful species that existed on earth during its infancy. Although their true form is unknown, they are said to have adopted the form of a race of "cone-shaped" beings.

The powers of the Yithians are phenomenal when compared to those of other races; they are incredible psychics and masters of mental energies. They use their unique abilities to travel through time and dominate other races as slaves. In Lovecraft's fiction, they manage to fight off the Flying Polyps for some time before retreating to face other times (and races).

Notable Appearance: "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936)

The Shoggoth

An excerpt from "At the Mountains of Madness" describes a shoggoth as ". . . a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter."

The shoggoth are a favorite monster-race in the Cthulu Mythos and have been referenced in other stories as well. In Lovecraft's fiction, they are created by the Elder Ones as slaves and builders and tasked with the creation of undersea cities.

The powers of the shoggoth are primarily physical—they can attain great size and seem to be impervious to multiple forms of damage. They are comfortable underwater, underground, and in the cold.

Notable Appearances:

  • "Fungi From Yuggoth" (1930)
  • "At the Mountains of Madness" (1931)
A depiction of one of Lovecraft's moon-beasts

A depiction of one of Lovecraft's moon-beasts

The Moon-Beasts

An excerpt from "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" describes moon-beasts as "great greyish-white slippery things which could expand and contract at will, and whose principal shape—though it often changed—was that of a sort of toad without any eyes, but with a curious vibrating mass of short pink tentacles on the end of its blunt, vague snout." Moon-beasts exist in Lovecraft's Dream Cycle fiction and are purported to live on the dark side of the moon in the Dreamlands dimension.

Notable Appearance: "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" (1927)

Cross-Referenced Races From the Clthulu Mythos

  • The Gnophkehs appear in "The Scroll of Morloc," a short story by Lin Carter written after Clark Ashton Smith's death. They are described as humanoid cannibals covered in coarse, matted hair with large protruding ears and proboscidean noses. H.P. Lovecraft references them in his fictional manuscript, "The Pnakotic Fragments".
  • The serpent minions of Yig are first described in the story "The Curse of Yig" by Zealia Bishop. Lovecraft would later rewrite the story. Yig, the deity of the serpent minions, sends them on tasks to handle his enemies or bring about change.
  • The Tcho-Tcho are first mentioned in August Derleth's 1933 short story "The Thing That Walked on the Wind." H. P. Lovecraft references them in "The Shadow Out of Time."
  • The Voormis, or Voormi, also appear in "The Scroll of Morloc", written by Lin Carter after Clark Ashton Smith's death. H.P. Lovecraft references them in his fictional manuscript, "The Pnakotic Fragments," where they are described as the direct descendants and chosen minions of Tsathoggua. These three-toed, umber-colored, fur-covered humanoids are the enemies of the Ghophkehs.

If you've got any ideas or information that might be missing, please leave feedback in the comments below. I always enjoy finding out new things. Thanks for dropping by.

References

"Lovecraft's Other Planets". Selected Papers on Lovecraft (1st printing ed.). West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press.

Reader Feedback—Unless You're an Alien, Please Comment.

SomnSigma on February 07, 2020:

Damn that Mi-Go looks kinda hot UwU

Mr_Ham on July 16, 2011:

Nice lens. Like the illustrations. Appreciating the irony of reading about Cthulhu mythos on a site called Squidoo

Lemming13 on January 28, 2011:

I resent your ban on aliens commenting, and defy it. I have to in order to tell you how much I enjoyed your lens, and to mention The Fishers from Outside (which may or may not be shantaks), mentioned in The Outpost and Winged Death, and of course the nightgaunts, HPL's childhood nightmare. Mind you, I have the advantage of a copy of Encyclopedia Cthulhiana sitting on my desk, not to mention Malleus Monstrorum on my bookshelf; just an old Cultist of Cthulhu, after all. Congratulations on a super lens.