The Art of the Elder Thing (Part II)

In Part II of this series I’ll be taking a look at the Elder Things interacting with their natural environment — either the snowbound Antarctica of At the Mountains of Madness, or their titanic cities of long ago.

This illustration of the creatures shows them checking out a ship that has been stuck in the ice. The Pabodie expedition did not use ships with sails, so this one must be from a time before coal-fired engines. Maybe it’s Shackleton’s ship before it sank. Could the Elder Things have had something to do with it…?

Not a bad depiction, but the heads need to be more substantial, IMO.

Artwork by thatartistfeller

The Elder things stand like sentinels here, taking a pause from pulling their stolen sleigh. They remind me of a group of UFOs poised for takeoff. The texturing on the bodies, which looks metallic, is a nice touch.

Some illustrators have depicted the creatures actually attacking the human expedition.

Artwork by Mark Witton

Artist Mark Witton theorizes the Elder Things might have been bioluminescent, which would have aided them in the sunless depths of their city. In his depiction they have attacked Lake’s camp and set fire to it. I love the contrast of colors here and the reflection of the firelight on the creatures’ bodies.

Artwork by Jake Murray

Danforth and Dyer are having one hair-raising escape! Though without weapons, the Elder Things have managed to bend the wing of the airplane, dent in its side, and cause it to lose a tire. One is in the process of ripping off a horizontal stabilizer and two more are approaching from the upper left. But pity the poor Thing whose eyeball has just been shot out!

This scene never took place in the novella. But it could have. Or not. The creature’s wings are arranged radially, which would have given them problems with a direct attack. They are not birds that have a top side, with wings, and a bottom side, with claws. It’s more likely they would have lashed out with their locomotive tentacles, hooked on, and sheathed their wings for protection while their crinoid arms did the dirty work.

The Elder Things grieve for their companion who didn’t make it. Poor creatures! How their tentacled heads droop in sadness. The one at the left has prepared a star-shaped marker for the grave. This scene was in the story, albeit happening off-screen.

Artwork by Borja Pindado

An Elder Thing before the Mountains of Madness, poised to take flight. This kind of wing seems the most plausible to me: radially oriented, as in the description and large yet thin enough to be folded completely inside. A simple depiction, yet I like it, especially the green cilia on the head that looks like moss contrasting with small red eyes.

How did the Elder Things convey themselves in their cities? The chubby one below, which has the appealing texture of an avocado, is conducting some experiments. Those look like humans in the steampunk-style tubes.

A tongue-in-cheek comic depiction of a lounging Elder Thing being served drinks by a shoggoth as more Elder Things direct a shoggoth to to build a column. The shoggoth seems to be panting with the effort. Overhead a pterodactyl carries another piece for the growing city. This was in the Mesozoic when their civilization was at the height of its power. The artist has many other fine Lovecraft sketches on his website.

Artwork by David Lee Ingersoll

Robed Elder Things gesticulate as a shoggoth sullenly slides behind them. That’s a neat conceit: clothing! Fashioned for a pentagonal, columnar form.

Artwork by Jacen Burrows

Another comic illustration, this time showing the Elder Things defending their city against a shoggoth rebellion. The laser cannon makes a star-shaped explosion when it hits, but not before the shoggoth has speared the Elder Thing at the top with its tentacle. Poor Elder Thing!

This graphic is very busy, as some comic illos are, and delightful. It’s very rare to find a picture of the creatures at the height of their civilization. That these three I’ve found are done in a comic style makes me think the subject matter is just too difficult for a more realism-oriented artist to paint. The setting reminds me of a sewage plant of some sort, and the creatures are true to Lovecraft’s description.

Artwork by Steve Maschuck

Steve Maschuck’s illustration also depicts a shoggoth, but it’s harder to tell what’s going on. The main Elder Thing might be commanding it, or frozen in terror as the two other Elder Things skedaddle through some doorways. Maschuck’s shoggoths are pale, translucent, ghostly protoplasmic masses which glow from within. It’s a different take, and I like it. Maschuck also shows the plasticity of the Elder Things by picturing the one on the right squeezing through a narrow doorway.

The Elder Things on the losing end again, this time from a member of the Great Race of Yith who has zapped it with a “camera-like” (per Lovecraft) weapon.

Holding court with the penguins. A sad end for such an abandoned, lonely being.

Elder Thing, by kkkiri@deviantart

“Am I the only one left?” The creature turns its head to the sky, searching for its fellows.


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