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->''The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either {{go mad from the revelation}} or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.''
-->-- Opening lines

''The Call of Cthulhu'' is arguably the most famous short story by horror writer Creator/HPLovecraft. It is also the first story to refer to and the only piece written by Lovecraft himself to actually feature the famous EldritchAbomination who would later name the Literature/CthulhuMythos as other writers took over.

The story is presented as a manuscript found among the belongings of the late Francis Wayland Thurston, which is used as a narrative which joins together three short stories, each bigger, darker, bleaker, and more memorable than the last. The first part begins with a document found by Thurston among the belongings of his late granduncle Professor Angell, which describes a series of conversations with a young sculptor named Henry Wilcox, who has been experiencing a series of strange dreams on March 1st 1925, which have inspired him to carve a disturbing bas-relief. Over the course of several weeks, Wilcox and Angell meet, and the former describes his bizarre dreams in which he [[EldritchLocation finds himself exploring the ruins of an unknown forgotten city]]. The next part reveals why this is of interest to Professor Angell.

The second story tells of Inspector Legrasse, a police officer in New Orleans whose investigation of a series of disappearances leads him to a rather sinister cult worshiping a strange idol. The cultists are immediately arrested and taken to prison and the idol is confiscated. Legrasse then shares the idol among various archaeologists, including Professor Angell, hoping to gain answers as to its nature. Eventually through one man's testimony and the questioning of some of the cultists, Legrasse learns that the idol is "Great Cthulhu", a being worshiped by this cult which has presumably lived for centuries.

In the third and final part of the story, Thurston encounters a newspaper clipping describing the rescue of the lone survivor of the crew of ''Emma'', a Norwegian sailor named Gustaf Johansen. Thurston is eventually able to recover a journal Johansen wrote, which tells the tale of how he and his crew commandeered the yacht ''Alert'' from a particularly sinister crew of men (implied to be cultists), and their arrival at the sunken city of R'lyeh, where Cthulhu himself is nearly released by mistake.

[[Film/TheCallOfCthulhu Adapted in 2005 into a film]] by the Creator/HPLovecraftHistoricalSociety. There are also at least two radio adaptations; one by the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, and the other by Radio/DarkAdventureRadioTheatre. Dramatically read by [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIwgXhUWt3Q Chilling Tales for Dark Nights]].

Not to be confused with the roleplaying game ''TabletopGame/CallOfCthulhu'', or the YouTube series ''WebVideo/CallsForCthulhu''.

!!This story provides examples of:

* ActionSurvivor: Johansen manages to escape from R'lyeh while his crewmates are unable to navigate its geometry and fall to their deaths, gets back to his ship, and [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu rams Cthulhu himself]] ''[[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu head on]].''
* AdaptationDistillation: [[WordOfGod Lovecraft himself]] [[http://lovecraftzine.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/hpl-cthulhu.jpg sketched Cthulhu in 1937]] with at least [[ExtraEyes six eyes]]. Nearly all illustrators have given it two eyes, [[WhatMeasureIsANonHuman to allow facial expressions readable by humans]]. So we have [[http://matthershberger.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/cthulhu_rising_by_somniturne1.jpg aggressive Cthulhus]], [[http://static4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120716045812/deadliestfiction/images/2/24/Cthulhu-rlyeh-rising.jpg furious Cthulhus]], [[http://api.ning.com/files/xXHg*Lq*7d6QiToU9u3T0T09vMs2-nBEYXXTGkRKtjNpA0iJXxIoH*tpTktfDbqx5EqtoPBGL9xrLe9Z95OfGuYDLXFYjeWs/MichaelDashawCthulhuBoss.jpg comic Cthulhus]], but in the author's view the entity had no understandable expression and [[EldritchAbomination it's completely alien]].
* AlienGeometries: R'lyeh is said to defy any known dimensions, to the point where the sailors can't tell if a door is supposed to be a conventional door that opens horizontally, or a trapdoor that opens vertically, and a sailor is killed by Cthulhu when he fails to get past a corner which appears to be acute but acts as if it was obtuse.
* AnachronicOrder: The three stories are presented in the order which Thurston finds them. Chronologically "The Tale of Inspector Legrasse" would actually come first, while "The Horror in Clay" and "The Madness From the Sea" happen around the same time.
* ApocalypticLog: The story itself could count, since it is implied that everything that the narrator is caught up in [[spoiler:leads to his murder by cultists]]. Gustaf Johansen's journal also comes close.
* ApocalypseCult: The cultists apparently want to raise Cthulhu from the depths.
* BadassNormal: Johanssen, the only survivor of the ''Emma'', the whaling crew that stumbled across R'lyeh and met a very horrible end. Not only was Johanssen able to retain his sanity despite facing Cthulhu himself, he managed to ''[[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu ram him with a ship]]'', which disrupted him long enough for the ship to get away. He is possibly the only human to have ever encountered the dread Cthulhu and lived to tell the tale.
* BizarreAlienBiology: Cthulhu is said and hinted repeatedly to lack a skeleton. It's described as slimy, flabby, jelly, bursting like a balloon, dribbling like a cloven sunfish. No resistance from a skull, a spine or any other bony structure. A mountain-sized creature can't keep shape in air without a skeleton - unless it's made from something which is not terrestrial matter at all. This is just how the cultists describe the Great Old Ones: made form something which is not flesh and not quite matter either.
* BreakoutCharacter: Considering the title character of the story had ''an entire mythos'' named after him.
* BreakoutVillain: Cthulhu is the breakout character and a villain.
* BrokeYourArmPunchingOutCthulhu: [[spoiler:Gustaf Johansen manages to survive against all odds and presumably stops Cthulhu from bringing about the end of the world. However, Cthulhu is still very much alive, and Johansen not only goes insane as a result of the experience but it is suggested that he was murdered by the same cultists that killed Professor Angell]].
* CosmicHorrorStory: One of the original examples and possible TropeNamer.
-->Was I tottering on the brink of cosmic horrors beyond man's power to bear?
* {{Cult}}: The second part of the story involves a group of police officers arresting a cult of Cthulhu while investigating a series of disappearances—[[spoiler: victims of said cult, sacrifices made for Cthulhu]]. It is strongly suggested that they are behind the murders of [[spoiler:Professor Angell, Johansen, and possibly the narrator]].
* TheDeterminator: Inspector Legrasse, otherwise described in the story as a very mundane man and police officer, is so impressed with the cult's monstrosity that he invests a lot of time, energy and money to discover what lies behind it.
* DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu: Johansen literally punches out Cthulhu [[RammingAlwaysWorks with his ship]], preventing it from ending the world [[spoiler:though at the cost of his sanity and soon after his life]].
* DownerEnding: [[spoiler:The narrator finally understands what is really going on, but he also realizes that both the cult and Cthulhu himself are still alive, and realizes to his horror that he may die very soon]].
* DreamingOfThingsToCome: Sort of. Wilcox is influenced to create a disturbing bas-relief by a series of weird dreams. The dreams themselves don't actually predict the future, but the impact they have helps to foretell the inevitable rise of Cthulhu.
* EldritchAbomination: Cthulhu himself. A, if not the, TropeCodifier.
* EldritchLocation: R'lyeh.
* ExtraEyes: Lovecraft originally sketched Cthulhu with six eyes, but most illustrations and adaptations give him two eyes.
* ForegoneConclusion: When we hear the story of Johansen, we already know from the newspaper clipping found earlier that none of the other crew members will make it, though one other man survives the actual ordeal only to die of fear afterwards.
* TheFourthWallWillNotProtectYou: The final lines of the story involve Thurston realizing [[spoiler: that he knows too much, and that it is very likely that he will meet his end by cultists]]. Then suddenly you realize [[spoiler: ''you'' now know too much]].
* HumansAreCthulhu: According to Old Castro, by the time the Great Old Ones awoke human beings would be very much like them, "free and wild and beyond good and evil", to the point that they'd welcome them as kindred spirits.
* GoMadFromTheRevelation: Gustaf Johansen. The TropeNamer. His crewmate William Briden also ends up in a similar predicament, and two of his men (Rodriguez and Hawkins) outright die from seeing Cthulhu.
* HeKnowsTooMuch: Thurston notices that the cult apparently makes a habit of murdering those who get too close to the truth about Cthulhu, and he expresses fear that it might also happen to him too. The fact that he is listed as dead at the beginning of the story implies that it indeed did.
* IslandOfMystery: The island that pops up with R'lyeh on it.
* KarmaHoudini: While a number of its members were arrested by Legrasse, the cult is still at large. It's also mentioned that the coroners examining both Professor Angell and [[spoiler: Gustaf Johansen]] couldn't determine a cause of death, removing any chance of convicting those responsible. Cthulhu himself is only temporarily stopped, and it is said to be inevitable that he will one day rise again.
* LiteraryAgentHypothesis: Taken to an almost mythical extreme. The principal narrator of the story is one "Francis Wayland Thurston of Boston", but much of the narrative is simply his relating the account of his great-uncle, George Gammell Angell, who at one point acts as the literary agent for an Inspector John Raymond Legrasse, who narrates the account of a sailor and cult member named Castro, who in turn claims to have gained his knowledge from immortal cult members in China, who, arguably, received their knowledge from ''Cthulhu himself''. The final link in the chain is you, the reader, as the intro gently reminds us that Francis Wayland Thurston is in fact the ''late'' Francis Wayland Thurston, whose account closes with the ominous suggestion that anyone who reads these documents is likely to end up dead.
* OctopoidAliens: Cthulhu has a face that resembles an octopus, albeit crossed with a human skull.
* PosthumousCharacter: Professor Angell, the narrator's uncle.
** The narrator himself, given the manuscript was simply found among his belongings.
** [[spoiler: Gustaf Johansen]] also turns out to be an example.
* RammingAlwaysWorks: Temporarily, at least. [[spoiler: Cthulhu regenerates seconds after being rammed by the ship, but he's definitely knocked out for the moment.]]
* ReligionOfEvil: The Cthulhu Cult is built up as such.
* SealedEvilInACan: Cthulhu.
* ShoutOut: Johansen's hair turns white after a terrifying incident at sea, much like the protagonist in Creator/EdgarAllanPoe's "A Descent into the Maelström".
** Johansen's ApocalypticLog makes a clearer one, comparing Cthulhu to [[Literature/TheOdyssey Polyphemus cursing the escaping Odysseus]]. ''Then'' [[OhCrap it turns out Cthulhu can, in fact, swim]].
* SoleSurvivor: It's stated early on that Johansen was the only surviving crew member when the ''Alert'' was found. [[spoiler: Not that it lasted long]].
* SurprisinglySuddenDeath: When the sailors accidentally release Cthulhu himself. Two die of fright on the spot, three more are "swept up by the flabby claws before anyone turned," and another is swallowed up by "by an angle of masonry which shouldn't have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuse."
* TheTamingOfTheGrue: You can buy Cthulhu plush toys, and there's a [[spoiler:meme]] with a Cthulhu carrying a bouquet of roses captioned "Cthulhu needs love too!" The video [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kQuMVffbWA Adventures of Li'l Cthulhu,]] the games "The Stars Are Right", "Munchkin Cthulhu", etc. [[PlayedForLaughs plays being driven insane by the touch of the Elder Things]] [[DudeNotFunny for laughs.]] There is now an entire line (several, in fact) of ''children's books'' introducing the unspeakably eldritch horrors. People are doing Creator/DrSeuss versions of HPL's most famous stories.
* ToCreateAPlaygroundForEvil: The cult seems to have aspects of this:
-->Then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.
* TheUnpronounceable: "Cthulhu" is an approximation of an alien language, that humanity lacks the necessary body components to pronounce.
* YouAreInCommandNow: After Captain Collins and First Mate Green, die fighting the crew of the ''Alert,'' Johansen is promoted to leader.

!!The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company's adaptation adds examples of:

* CompositeCharacter: Thurston plays the role in the story originally played by Gustaf Johansen.
* DeathByAdaptation: [[spoiler:Castro]].
* GenderFlip: Castro. The nickname is changed from "Old Castro" to "Mother Castro".

!!The ''Dark Adventure Radio Theatre'' adaptation adds examples of

* AdaptationExpansion: This version adds a FramingDevice about two police officers who investigate Thurston's death.