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Villain Overview

Farewell, Randolph Carter, and beware; for I am Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos.
~ Nyarlathotep cursing Randolph Carter out of hateful spite and warning him of who he truly is.

Nyarlathotep, also known by many other names, most notably the Crawling Chaos, is the main antagonist of the Cthulhu Mythos, the work of the late famous cosmic horror writer and author H. P. Lovecraft.

He first appeared as the titular main antagonist of both the 1920 short story of the same name and the 1936 short story The Haunter of the Dark, ​and he continued to serve as the main antagonist of the 1943 fantasy novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath​. He has appeared in numerous other stories written by H.P. Lovecraft (more than any other deity) and is unquestionably the cruelest and vilest entity in the entire mythos.

He is an evil Outer God who is seen as a shapeshifting agent of madness, chaos and ruin who serves the other Outer Gods, specifically his father, Azathoth, the Blind Idiot God, to whom he is subservient, fulfilling his wishes without question as his messenger and emissary, though he sometimes enjoys manipulating his master.

He often visits Earth and enjoys bringing madness and suffering to inferior beings (humans are among them). He spends his time manipulating and deceiving humans, or driving them insane, for his own sadistic pleasure. It is said that he will be the god who brings destruction to Earth.

Biography

​Origins

Nyarlathotep was spawned from Azathoth himself. His siblings include Bärkatlànm, the Darkness and the Nameless Mist.

He serves Azathoth as his messenger and as the soul of the Outer Gods, though Nyarlathotep usually interferes with mortal affairs at will.

Nyarlathotep would go on to mate with Yhoundeh and spawn his sons Ugga-Naach and the Abominations of the Ancients through a ritual that involved Nyarlathotep raping a woman who then gave birth to his children.

Nyarlathotep

Nyarlathotep's first appearance is in the eponymous short story by Lovecraft, in which he is described as a "tall, swarthy man" who resembles an Egyptian Pharaoh. In this story he wanders the earth, gathering legions of followers through his demonstrations of strange and seemingly magical instruments, the narrator of the story among them. These followers lose awareness of the world around them, and through the narrator's increasingly unreliable accounts the reader gets a sense of the world's utter collapse. The story ends with the narrator as part of an army of servants for Nyarlathotep.

The Other Gods

In the short story The Other Gods, Nyarlathotep appears as one of "the gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of earth" at the peak of Hatheg-Kla that kill the high priest Barzai the Wise.

Imprisoned with the Pharaohs

Nyarlathotep, as "the unknown God of the Dead, which licks its colossal chops in the unsuspected abyss", appears in Lovecraft's story "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" in connection with the "huge and loathsome abnormality" that the ancient Egyptians worshipped and carved the famous Mysterious Sphinx to represent. He is worshipped by a cult of seemingly long-dead Pharaohs, who try to sacrifice the narrator to him. Although he escapes, the narrator realizes that the creature he saw is merely the paw of something even more terrifying.

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

Nyarlathotep (usually referred to in conjunction with the subnomen, "The Crawling Chaos") subsequently appears as a major character in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, in which he again manifests in the form of an Egyptian Pharaoh when he confronts protagonist Randolph Carter.

Fungi from Yuggoth

Midway through the poem, Nyarlathotep descends to Earth and is worshipped by the masses, although none know why they worship him, only that they must. Forgotten R'lyeh soon rises from the ocean, and Nyarlathotep then reigns down destruction upon Earth's cities before bearing the protagonist to the court of Azathoth at the centre of the universe, where he reveals himself as Azathoth's messenger as the protagonist goes insane from looking upon Azathoth.

The Dreams in the Witch-House

In The Dreams in the Witch-House, Nyarlathotep appears to Walter Gilman and witch Keziah Mason (who has made a pact with the entity) in the form of "the 'Black Man' of the witch-cult," a black-skinned avatar with the appearance of the Christian Devil associated with New England witchcraft lore.

The Haunter of the Dark

Finally, in The Haunter of the Dark, the being of pure darkness dwelling, possessing a "three-lobed eye", in the steeple of the Starry Wisdom sect's church is identified as another form, or manifestation of, Nyarlathotep. Eventually, he kills Blake during a storm, but is in the process seemingly destroyed when Blake's apartment is struck by lightning. The Shining Trapezohedron, the sect's artefact which summons the Haunter, is later thrown into Narragansset Bay by Dr. Ambrose Dexter after he finds it in Blake's apartment (the dark truth behind this action is revealed in Robert Bloch's sequel, The Shadow from the Steeple).

The Whisperer in Darkness

Though Nyarlathotep appears as a character in only five original Lovecraft stories and one sonnet (still more than any other Great Old Ones or Outer Gods), his name is mentioned frequently in numerous others. For example, in The Whisperer in Darkness, Nyarlathotep's name is spoken frequently by the fungi from Yuggoth in a reverential or ritual sense, indicating that they worship or honor the entity.

The Dweller in Darkness

In August Derleth's short story, Nyarlathotep manifests himself in Wisconsin as the titular "Dweller in Darkness", also known as the Howler in the Night, which kills several people who go into the Wisconsin swamps. Ultimately, it is revealed that Nyarlathotep fears Cthugha, who is summoned at the end of the story to drive him out.

The Shadow from the Steeple

In Robert Bloch's sequel to The Haunter of the Dark, it is revealed that Dr. Dexter's attempt to dispose of the Shining Trapezohedron simply allowed Nyarlathotep to grow more powerful in the darkness of the bay, allowing him to possess Dr. Dexter before beginning work on nuclear physics. Blake's friend Edmund Fiske discovers this while investigating Blake's death and attempts to shoot Dexter, but is killed by Nyarlathotep.

The Insects from Shaggai

When the Azathoth-worshipping Shan came to L'gy'hx, the planet we know as Uranus, they encountered the followers of the bat god Lrogg, which demanded that its followers annually offered it a sacrifice in the form of severing the legs of a still-living follower. After a pro-Azathoth rebellion broke out on the planet, Lrogg demanded that all natives who followed Azathoth be executed by having acid poured into their brains, and expelled the Shan from the planet. Although Ramsey Campbell referred to Lrogg as a "relatively insignificant deity" in the story, Scott David Aniolowski later identified it as an avatar of Nyarlathotep in his book Ye Book of Monstres.

Other Media

  • Nyarlathotep appears in the Shin Megami Tensei series as a recurring demon and as a villain, particularly as the main antagonist of the first and second Persona games.
  • M, a major character in the visual novel Shikkoku no Sharnoth who initially uses the codename of James Moriarty, is revealed near the end of the story to be a manifestation of Nyarlathotep.
  • Nyarlathotep is a boss in the game Cthulhu Saves the World.
  • Nyarlathotep is the main antagonist in the story Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute.
  • Nyarlathotep is also linked with the Slender Man because of his humanoid appearance, sadistic desires, and also Slender Man has the same name: "G'hor Nyarlathotep".
  • Nyarlathotep is the main antagonist and final boss of the 2017 indie game Sundered.
  • Nyarlathotep is the final boss of the 2018 FPS indie-game DUSK.
  • Fake Kashihara becomes Nyarlathotep, the final boss in Persona 2: Innocent Sin.
  • Leland Gaunt, the main antagonist of Stephen King's novel Needful Things, is hinted to be an avatar of Nyarlathotep.
    • Likewise, Randall Flagg is also greatly hinted to be an avatar and was even called by the name Nyarlathotep at one point. Despite the similarities, the Dark Tower series reveals at one point Flagg was once a mortal human.
  • In Edward M. Erdelac's Merkabah Rider book series, Nyarlathotep and Sauron from Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium are implied to be the same entity.
  • One of the Tree Creatures from 2019's Hellboy-reboot bear a resemblance to Nyarlathotep.
  • In the universe of A Game of Thrones, the Many-Faced God of the Faceless Men appears to bear some sort of a resemblance to Nyarlathotep.
  • In the universe of the SCP Foundation Nyarlathotep appears as one of the SCP-4315-2-entities. Nyarlathotep also bears resemblance to several other entities in the mythos, such as Jeser and the Ambassador of Alaggada.
  • Villains who serve as "agents of chaos" like Petyr Baelish and Joker could be considered to be avatars of Nyarlathotep. Mythological figures like Loki and Chernobog also could be considered avatars of the Outer God.
  • An anthropomorphized Nyarlathotep, named Nyaruko, is the titular main character of the manga Nyaruko: Crawling with Love. Unlike other depictions of the Lovecraftian horror, Nyaruko is benevolent and has a protective turned romantic relationship with the human Mahiro Yasaka.
  • Nyarlathotep is the main antagonist of the album Shadow Out of Tim by The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets.

Appearance

Nyarlathotep is described as a master shapeshifter with over a thousand forms, many of which are seen as monstrous and capable of driving mortals insane, a trait common to Lovecraftian monsters. However, unlike many of the other Outer Gods, he also frequently takes on a human form as an enigmatic male fashioned on an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh.

Personality

Unlike the other Outer Gods, who are amoral and emotionless gods, Nyarlathotep has a very different and "human" character, that of an extremely cruel and evil monster.

He enjoys driving humans insane and finds the act to be more enjoyable than simple death and destruction and is, as stated before, a more human-like evil than the other Outer Gods. 

Nyarlathotep frequently employs deception and manipulation, even propaganda, to achieve his goals and often mingles with humans in order to seal their doom.

These traits, combined with his ability to walk freely amongst mortal life, may make him the most unpleasant and terrible of all Lovecraftian monsters, as he averts their unknowable and amoral nature, and it has been suggested by some that Nyarlathotep may be the creature that will ultimately destroy the world.

​Powers and Abilities

While nowhere near as powerful as his creator Azathoth, nor the cosmic entity Yog-Sothoth, he remains to be an Outer God and as such Nyarlathotep is immortal and incredibly powerful while also being highly complex to be understood. It is believed that Nyarlathotep is able to control mystic energies of the cosmos to varying effects at an undefined level, both cosmic and demonic as well. He is able to manifest as a vast multitude of avatars. While the god's near-boundless intelligence is behind all of them, each avatar varies greatly in appearance, power and purpose. Some avatars are even worshiped as their own beings, the followers unaware that it is merely part of a much greater being. He is also capable of shapeshifting and can take the form of a human man. Like Cthulhu, his mere presence induces madness and insanity to mortals such as humans and can communicate with them via telepathy. He is also able to freely travel across every plane of existence and exists beyond the "archetypal infinity".

Relationships

Nyarlathotep acts as the messenger of the other Outer Gods and seems to hold disloyalty to any particular being, instead serving them everything in some fashion, though he is said to be especially loyal towards Azathoth, whose wishes he will fulfill without any questions.

Family Tree

Quotes

Said by Nyarlathotep

I am His Messenger.
~ Nyarlathotep on Azathoth.
Go now—the casement is open and the stars await outside. Already your shantak wheezes and titters with impatience. Steer for Vega through the night, but turn when the singing sounds. Forget not this warning, lest horrors unthinkable suck you into the gulf of shrieking and ululant madness. Remember the Other Gods; they are great and mindless and terrible, and lurk in the outer voids. They are good gods to shun.
~ Nyarlathotep to Randolph Carter.
Hei! Aa-shanta 'nygh! You are off! Send back earth's gods to their haunts on unknown Kadath, and pray to all space that you may never meet me in my thousand other forms.
~ Nyarlathotep to Randolph Carter.
Run? From you? You forget yourself, Nodens. I am not some wayward demon who cowers in the face of Elder Gods. I am the emissary to Outer Gods, messanger of Azathoth, OF CHAOS ITSELF!
~ Nyarlathotep to Nodens, expressing his ego.
You've never dealt with MY kind before, hunter. I rule the dreamlands! Soon, my army will march through the rift into the waking world. And then R'lyeh will entomb you as well.
~ Nyarlathotep reveals his goals to Nodens.
Oh? Your followers have all but been destroyed by Cthulhu's cultists, and my army has no doubt crushed your paltry Nightgaunts by now. You are now God to no one.
~ Nyarlathotep mocking a defeated Nodens.
For your insults, you will spend eternity here in Alhazred's stead, dreaming… of me.
~ Nyarlathotep as he imprisons a man in stasis where he will dream of him for all eternity.
No army of man nor god can stand against mine, and no god will suffer my wrath as completely as you!
~ Nyarlathotep to Nodens in victory.

Pertaining to Nyarlathotep

And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished, for the small hours were rent with the screams of nightmare.
~ H. P. Lovecraft about Nyarlathotep.
Don't fail to see Nyarlathotep if he comes to Providence. He is horrible—horrible beyond anything you can imagine — but wonderful. He haunts one for hours afterward. I am still shuddering at what he showed.
~ Samuel Loveman (about Nyarlathotep).
What his fate would be, he did not know; but he felt that he was held for the coming of that frightful soul and messenger of infinity's Other Gods, the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.
~ H. P. Lovecraft (about Nyarlathotep of the Outer Gods).
There was the immemorial figure of the deputy or messenger of hidden and terrible powers — the "Black Man" of the witch cult, and the "Nyarlathotep" of the Necronomicon.
~ H. P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the Witch House.
It was the eldritch scurrying of those fiend-born rats, always questing for new horrors, and determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth's centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players.
~ H. P. Lovecraft, The Rats in the Walls.
Trouble with memory. I see things I never knew before. Other worlds and other galaxies… Dark… The lightning seems dark and the darkness seems light… (…) What am I afraid of? Is it not an avatar of Nyarlathotep, who in antique and shadowy Khem even took the form of a man?
~ Excerpt from the diary of the late Robert Harrison Blake.
Nyarlathotep… the crawling chaos... I am the last... I will tell the audient void...
~ The narrator of Nyarlathotep about Nyarlathotep.
Beyond the worlds vague ghosts of monstrous things; half-seen columns of unsanctified temples that rest on nameless rocks beneath space and reach up to dizzy vacua above the spheres of light and darkness. And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods — the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.
~ The narrator of Nyarlathotep describes his experiences.
Accursed is the sight, be it in dream or not, that revealed to me the supreme horror—the unknown God of the Dead, which licks its colossal chops in the unsuspected abyss, fed hideous morsels by soulless absurdities that should not exist. The five-headed monster that emerged... that five-headed monster as large as a hippopotamus... the five headed monster—and that of which it is the merest forepaw...
~ The narrator of Imprisoned with the Pharaohs after escaping from Nyarlathotep.
To Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, must all things be told. And He shall put on the semblance of men, the waxen mask and the robe that hides, and come down from the world of Seven Suns to mock... Nyarlathotep, Great Messenger, bringer of strange joy to Yuggoth through the void, Father of the Million Favoured Ones, Stalker among...
~ Excerpt from a recording of an Outer God ritual.
And at the last from inner Egypt came
The strange dark One to whom the fellahs bowed;
Silent and lean and cryptically proud,
And wrapped in fabrics red as sunset flame.
Throngs pressed around, frantic for his commands,
But leaving, could not tell what they had heard;
While through the nations spread the awestruck word
That wild beasts followed him and licked his hands.
Soon from the sea a noxious birth began;
Forgotten lands with weedy spires of gold;
The ground was cleft, and mad auroras rolled
Down on the quaking citadels of man.
Then, crushing what he chanced to mould in play,
The idiot Chaos blew Earth's dust away.
~ Fungi from Yuggoth, verse XXI: Nyarlathotep.
And vast infinities away, past the Gate of Deeper Slumber and the enchanted wood and the garden lands and the Cerenarian Sea and the twilight reaches of Inquanok, the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep strode brooding into the onyx castle atop unknown Kadath in the cold waste, and taunted insolently the mild gods of earth whom he had snatched abruptly from their scented revels in the marvellous sunset city.
~ H. P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
This avatar of Nyarlathotep is closely connected to the Haunter Of the Dark. Lrogg is a double-headed bat creature composed of living, icy blackness. The bat-god has countless star-like eyes that twinkle and move about on its two faces, and each head has several fanged mouths.
~ Scott David Aniolowski about Lrogg.

Trivia

  • The name of this deity is noted for its Egyptian suffix hotep, which gives its name an Egyptian tone.
  • Due to being H.P. Lovecraft's most used deity, and serving as the main antagonist of more stories than any other character, Nyarlathotep is the main antagonist of the Cthulhu Mythos.
    • A common misconception is that Azathoth (or possibly Yog-Sothoth or Cthulhu) serves this role. However, Nyarlathotep is the true main antagonist, since, despite working for Azathoth, he is obviously more evil, and (in some versions) has plans to usurp him as well.
  • Despite being not as powerful as Azathoth or Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep is easily the most evil of the Outer Gods in the mythos.
    • This might be due to his understanding of human morality, emotion, and even speech, an ability that Azathoth himself is never said to have.
      • Interestingly, Nyarlathotep is also more human than any other God in the mythos, in addition to being more evil, meaning that Lovecraft may have been commenting on the evil nature of humanity.
  • Despite similarities in theme and name, Nyarlathotep does not feature at all in Lovecraft's story The Crawling Chaos, an apocalyptic narrative written in collaboration with Elizabeth Berkeley.
  • His name is similar to that of the Munchkin monster Gnarlythotep, whose design he slightly resembles. Gnarlythotep is a level 14 monster who appears in Munchkin Cthulhu, and his weakness is Professors and Investigators, which is worth +2 (+4 if both confront him) against him. Although Nyarlathotep himself is naked, Gnarlythotep wears purple shorts and uses a skateboard and a surfboard.

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Abhoth | Azathoth | Cxaxukluth | Daoloth | Ghroth | Hydra | Lu-Kthu | Nyarlathotep | Shub-Niggurath | Tulzscha | Ubbo-Sathla | Yhoundeh | Yibb-Tstll | Yog-Sothoth

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Deep Ones | Elder Things | Flying Polyps | Ghouls | Hounds of Tindalos | Horsemen of Nyarlathotep | K'n-yanians | Many-Angled Ones | Men of Leng | Mi-gos | Shan | Shoggoths | Tcho-Tcho | Xothians | Zoogs

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The Black Brotherhood | Brotherhood of the Beast | Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh | Brotherhood of the Skin | Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign | Chesuncook Witch Coven | Chorazos Cult | Church of Starry Wisdom | Cthulhu Cult | Cult of the Bloody Tongue | Esoteric Order of Dagon | The Slaves of the Flame Undying

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