Sunday, May 22, 2016

Anatomy of the Elder Things

Artist Kurt Komoda has created what could well be the definitive look at the anatomy of Lovecraft's "Elder Things".  Working from the detailed description in "At the Mountains of Madness" he builds up a well thought out take on what they actually looked like, including the troublesome "wings".   The biggest issue there is that we're used to winged creatures, like birds and insects, having lateral symmetry.  Attaching them to radially symmetrical organisms requires some involved mental gymnastics.
No matter where on the torso they are attached, I also have a problem trying to figure out how they fold up. They can't just open and close like a paper fan and still have a 7' wing spread- unless they attach near the top of the torso, below the gilled bulbous neck and then extend down to where the lower bulbous neck ends (see figure A, below). 
   Lovecraft's drawing and notes (above) confuse me because the sides of the torso have this jagged edge, like a pinecone or something. I think those are the wings folded up. On the left side, there is an arrow which points out to the note: (circled) "Fan-like expansible to 7 foot spread." And then: "veined  ?????-membraned comb-????. At tips- ends of veins are spore cases." So, those could be the serrated edges of the comb-like wings somehow sticking out of the furrows, but....I don't see how those would unfold....unless the tubular veins extend each time, but I doubt it.

Go check out the full article.  It's filled with beautiful illustrations, including some inventive motion studies.


CoastConFan said...

What an outstanding rendering of Lovecraft’s Old Ones. It’s by far the best thought out version I’ve seen to date. Lovecraft probably saw the prints of Ernst Haeckel as inspiration, so radial vs bilateral symmetry is a good start for imagining the Old Ones. Also sing crinoids as a model for manipulators is a pretty good guess too. At one time the seas were full of them and they are a fairly commonly encountered fossils now. I find that the contemporary novel by John Campbell, Who Goes There?, pub Aug 1938 is in a similar mood although his aliens were a DNA sampling morphers copying host bodies. The book was made into film years later, The Thing from Another World (1951) and later John Carpenter’s, The Thing (1982).

These images might be of help for some of the readers, they certainly inspired me and and

Download digital version of At the Mountains of Madness for free

Download digital version of Campbell’s, Who Goes There? for free

CoastConFan said...

Postscriptum Hasty with excitement as usual, I didn’t note a couple features of the post. Looking closely at the drawing of the Old One dissecting an expedition member, which humorously shows the cute fellow holding a couple of biology books, both have suspiciously Haeckel-like images in them. I also didn’t bother to read the comments and see Tom Ardan’s post with his link to his circa 1981 drawing. It’s well worth viewing.

Anonymous said...


I'd love to see some of these published as illustrations for a mock monograph from Miskatonic, like the HPLHS has done with other things.


Ronan said...

One thing that's always fascinated me about the Elder Things is the mechanics of fivefold-symmetrical flight. As it happens, it IS actually possibly to come up with a radially symmetrical flight pattern in which all five wings (or any arbitrary number, although the fewer the better) are used at once. This can be done with a modified form of the "clap and fling" motion common in insect flight, in which the wings are clapped together and flung apart like so (, with (this is important, for fivefold wings) a 2:3 ratio between the duration of the forward and back wingbeats. I'd love to animate it sometime.

Ronan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ronan said...

Consarnit, my apologies for the double posts; if one could be deleted, I would be very appreciative. On a different note, I took the time to put together a mockup of what the Elder Thing wingbeat pattern might be like, as described in my previous post(s), if it's of any interest:

Anonymous said...

Ronan, your flight mockup is really eerie and alien, and yet seems very naturalistic and plausible. Well done!

Kurt Komoda said...

Oh wow, thanks for posting this here. I love all the comments esp. Ronan's further exploration of the wings! The two blog posts that followed the Elder One were the Mi-Go and the night-gaunt, and both had troublesome wings for me. Working on drawings for a new post right now.