When reading the Call of Cthulhu you might think that Cthulhu awoke because the stars were aligned and that Johanson used his steam boat to ram Cthuhu back into the abyss.
Quote about the stars:
“The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident. After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight.”
Quote about Cthulhu being hurt:
“The awful squid-head with writhing feelers came nearly up to the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but Johansen drove on relentlessly. There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler would not put on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seething astern; where—God in heaven!—the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawn was nebulously recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its distance widened every second as the Alert gained impetus from its mounting steam.”
Quote about Cthulhu retiring to R’lyeh:
“Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which has shielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is sunken once more, for the Vigilant sailed over the spot after the April storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must have been trapped by the sinking whilst within his black abyss, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy.”
Personally, I was very disappointed about Cthulhu being fended off so easily since his awakening was supposed to be a synonym of Apocalypse.
But here is the key-thing to understand (and I thank ‘Bill Adcock’ for bringing that to my attention): Francis has read the story of Johanson. And then tells that story to the reader. That means that Francis interpreted a lot of things. He even admits that Johanson didn’t know about Cthulhu and R’lyeh prior to this event.
Quote about Johanson’s ignorance:
“Johansen, thank God, did not knowquite all, even though he saw the city and the Thing, but I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and in space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars which dream beneath the sea,”
“There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults and sending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear to the dreams of the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of liberation and restoration. All this Johansen did not suspect, but God knows he soon saw enough!”
So to clarify:
- based on what Johanson wrote, Francis believes that this was R’lyeh.
- based on what Johanson wrote, Francis believes that this was Cthulhu.
- based on what Johanson wrote, Francis believes that the Stars were aligned.
What if only part of that was true though?
Here is what (could have) happened according to me:
Cthulhu is a dreaming cyclopean creature whose very presence distorts time and space. His presence is radiating from the abyss into our world.
Cthulhu made an insignificant movement during his sleep like wiggling a finger or sneezing, or maybe he had a nightmare. Anyhow, this insignificant thing he did stirred up massive storms in our reality and caused people to die of madness (like the Architect in the Horror in Clay).
During that massive outburst of raw negative energy, people from all over the world got nightmares about the sunken city that felt extremely real. Johanson and his crew were right at the source when that happened. Which means they didn’t actually see anything – everything took place in their minds. They took the full blast of this outburst of raw negative energy and basically started day dreaming or rather hallucinating.
This is why most of them died of madness. But Johanson’s mind was stronger, he was braver than the others. His will managed to fend off his nightmarish vision, which is why Cthulhu’s head burst like a bubble when he hit him with the boat.
As a reader you want that to be Cthulhu’s real awakening because that’s what Francis wanted to see as well.
The crew was just hallucinating, the stars weren’t aligned. Cthulhu is still sleeping (or dead) and never awoke. This manifestation of Cthulhu was just a collateral of some minor brain activity in his sleep. He wiggled a toe and destroyed several lives – just like that.
Now it becomes truly unsettling to imagine what would happen if Cthulhu did actually wake-up one day. We’d definitely not see a glorified Godzilla land on our shores; instead, our minds would be engulfed in a devastating tsunami of nightmarish visions. And those who wouldn’t die of madness right there would turn into primitive degenerated human beings.
HPL wanted to give us a glimpse at Cthulhu’s limitless and unimaginable power.