Nyarlathotep & Why Is He H.P. Lovecraft’s Most Terrifying Character?

Nyarlathotep is a fictional character in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, is considered an “outer god” in the cosmic pantheon of his created mythology. Nyarlathotep is depicted as a trickster and deceiver, often appearing in multiple forms and influencing events in the world. It is one of the central figures in Lovecraft’s works, and is considered one of his most iconic creations.

Nyarlathotep, who is commonly referred to as the Crawling Chaos, is the main antagonist in the cosmic horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft known as the Cthulhu Mythos. It is one of the most well-known characters in Lovecraft’s work.

Nyarlathotep – An Embodiment Of Outer Gods In Cthulhu Mythos 

Nyarlathotep lovecraft mythos

Nyarlathotep carries out the desires of the Outer Gods and serves as their emissary and embodiment. He is also a servant of Azathoth, his father, promptly fulfilling his wishes. Unlike the other Outer Gods, causing insanity is of higher priority and brings more pleasure to Nyarlathotep than causing death and destruction. It is speculated that he may ultimately bring about the demise of humanity and the Earth.

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Nyarlathotep Vs Other Outer Gods 

Nyarlathotep lovecraft mythos

Nyarlathotep stands apart from the other entities in several ways. While entities like Yog-Sothoth and Hastur are exiled to stars and entities like Cthulhu are in a state of slumber, Nyarlathotep is active and moves about the earth disguised as a human being, often in the form of a tall, slender, joyful man. He has numerous other forms, many of which are rumored to be terrifyingly horrific. Unlike the other Outer Gods who have cults devoted to them, Nyarlathotep appears to serve these cults and manage the affairs of the deities when they are absent. 

Nyarlathotep Abilities

Nyarlathotep lovecraft mythos

Most of the Outer Gods communicate through strange alien languages, but Nyarlathotep uses human languages and can easily be mistaken for a human. The other Outer Gods and Great Old Ones are often depicted as mindless or inscrutable, but Nyarlathotep revels in cruelty, is cunning and manipulative, and uses followers and propaganda to achieve his objectives.

Nyarlathotep – A God Who Can Manipulate Cosmic And Demonic Powers 

Nyarlathotep lovecraft mythos

Nyarlathotep, though not as powerful as his creator Azathoth or the cosmic entity Yog-Sothoth, is still considered an Outer God and is therefore immortal and extremely powerful, though difficult to comprehend. It is believed that Nyarlathotep can control mystical energies at an undefined level, both cosmic and demonic. He is capable of manifesting in a multitude of avatars, each differing in appearance, power, and purpose, though all controlled by his near-boundless intelligence. Some avatars are even worshiped as separate beings, with followers unaware that they are part of a larger entity. Nyarlathotep can shapeshift and take on the form of a human man. Like Cthulhu, his presence can induce madness in mortals like humans and can communicate with them telepathically. He can travel freely across all planes of existence and exists beyond the concept of archetypal infinity.

Nyarlathotep (1920) – Original Story By H.P Lovecraft

In his first appearance in the story “Nyarlathotep” (1920), the character is described as a tall, dark man who resembles an Egyptian pharaoh. He travels the world and gathers a following through his display of strange instruments with magical powers. The followers lose touch with reality, and through the narrator’s distorted account, the reader gets a sense of the world’s decay. Fritz Leiber offers three interpretations of Nyarlathotep based on this appearance: a mocking of humanity’s attempts to understand the universe, a negative view of commercialism represented by the character’s self-promotion and disdainful attitude, and the destructive nature of human reason.

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“The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath” By H.P Lovecraft

Nyarlathotep later appears as a central figure in the story “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” (1926/27), where he takes on the form of an Egyptian pharaoh and faces the protagonist, Randolph Carter. In this story, Leiber portrays Nyarlathotep as “evilly intelligent,” contrasting him with his master, the mindless Azathoth.

“The Dreams In The Witch House” By H.P Lovecraft

In a short story titled as “The Dreams in the Witch House” from 1933, Nyarlathotep appears to Keziah Mason and Walter Gilman, a witch who has made a deal with the entity. He appears as the “Black Man” of the witch cult, a devilish figure depicted as having black skin. Some characters mistake him for a human of African descent, even though his facial features are described as being of a Caucasian appearance.

“The Haunter of the Dark” By H.P Lovecraft

Lastly, in “The Haunter of the Dark” (1936), the monster that dwells in the steeple of the Starry Wisdom sect’s church and is described as having tentacles, bat-like wings, and only appearing at night, is revealed to be another form of Nyarlathotep. This manifestation cannot bear light.

Although Nyarlathotep is only featured in five earliest Lovecraft stories and a sonnet, and not as often as other Great Old Ones or Outer Gods, Nyarlathotep name is mentioned frequently in many other stories. In “The Whisperer in Darkness”, the fungi from Yuggoth often speak Nyarlathotep’s name in a respectful or ceremonial manner, suggesting they worship or hold him in high regard.

Azathoth Rising By Joseph S. Dale

In Joseph S. Dale’s novel “Azathoth Rising,” Nyarlathotep appears as the keeper of the Necronomicon and manipulates individuals with power to use the spells in the book with the promise of gaining more power. This, however, is a deceptive ploy, as those who fall for it soon regret it.

Neonomicon (2010-2011) By Alan Moore

In Alan Moore’s limited edition comic series Neonomicon (2010-2011), Nyarlathotep is portrayed as Johnny Carcosa, drug dealer who always wears a mask,  frequents places related to the Cthulhu mythos and the occult. He has the ability to put people in a vegetative state and make them susceptible to the influence of “Aklo” words, which alter their consciousness. In the story, he serves as the allegory of the Archangel Gabriel, informing the protagonist of her pregnancy with Cthulhu. He also plays a more active role in the follow-up volume Providence, giving significance to the protagonist and overseeing the birth of Cthulhu.

Ghost Reaper Girl Is Deeply Influenced By Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos

In the manga series “Ghost Reaper Girl,” Nyarlathotep is a powerful character who serves as one of the four directors of the Arkham Bullet, managing the Eastern Branch. The author has referenced the Cthulhu mythos by naming characters after various Lovecraftian beings, with Nyarlathotep being the first prominent reference in the series. Despite the similarities in name, Nyarlathotep in the manga is depicted as a dark-skinned woman with the symbol of the Eye of Horus under her right eye. The Great Old Ones, including Cthulhu, are considered malignant gods who once ruled over the Earth and were worshiped by many cults. Although Nyarlathotep is the first main Lovecraftian reference in “Ghost Reaper Girl,” Cthulhu makes an appearance later in the series as the ominous ruler of the sunken city of R’lyeh. Nyarlathotep is shown to be powerful and harasses the main character Chloe Love.

The Laundry Files By Grant Morrison

The Many-Angled Ones are a group of demonic-like beings from another dimension that were created by Grant Morrison. They were the main antagonists in Morrison’s Zenith comic series that appeared in the 2000 AD science-fiction comic magazine by Fleetway Publications. Charles Stross later incorporated the Many-Angled Ones into his Laundry Files series, which blends Lovecraftian horror, science-fiction, spy thriller, and workplace humor.

The CIA and MI6 are not aware that they have been fighting against the Many-Angled Ones, who were created by Grant Morrison and were the main antagonists in the Zenith comic strips in the 2000 AD sci-fi comic magazine. They became part of Charles Stross’s Laundry Files series, which blends Lovecraftian horror, science fiction, and spy thriller genres with humor. Alan Turing’s theory that reality could be warped using a computer and the Nazis’ attempt to summon the Many-Angled Ones using the Holocaust as fuel, resulted in a battle between the two espionage groups dealing with the paranormal, “The Laundry” in Britain and “The Black Chamber” in the United States. The latter is secretly controlled by the Many-Angled Ones. Nyarlathotep and Cthulhu are among the eldritch entities that exist in this multiverse, and when the stars align, the Many-Angled Ones are able to filter through the universe’s walls, which the Laundry recently had to confront.

Imprisoned with the Pharaohs

Nyarlathotep, described as the “unknown God of the Dead, licking its monstrous jaws in an unnoticed abyss,” as seen in Lovecraft’s story “Imprisoned with the other Pharaohs.” He is connected with the “monstrous abnormality” worshiped by the ancient Egyptians and represented by the infamous Sphinx. A cult of Pharaohs, seemingly risen from the dead, worship him and attempt to sacrifice the narrator to him. Although the narrator escapes, he realizes that what he saw was just a fraction of something even more horrifying.

“Haiyore! Nyaruko-san” And “Dead Waits Dreaming”

Nyarlathotep has also been featured in works outside of Lovecraft’s writing. For example, the anime series and light novel  “Haiyore! Nyaruko-san” (2009) references the entity, with the main character named after him. In Larry Correia’s story “Dead Waits Dreaming” (2013), Nyarlathotep is portrayed as the Dark Man. In the 1993 comic book adaptation of “The Music of Erich Zann”, Nyarlathotep appears as the “Black Man” in flashbacks for the character Erich Zann, despite not appearing in the original short story.