Shoggoth—not so much living creatures as masses of protoplasm capable of moulding their biomatter into temporary organs—were originally created by the Elder Things as a servitor race. They were introduced in H. P. Lovecraft's novella At the Mountains of Madness, although he had mentioned them only by name in earlier stories. (See also Proto-Shoggoth and Shoggoth Lord.)
A Shoggoth is a gigantic protoplasmic glob of cells that were created billions of years ago by the Elder Things to be used for manual labor. It is uncertain how intelligent they are. They were originally designed to be nonsentient creatures, but eventually they gained minds of their own and rebelled against their masters.
An average Shoggoth is about 15 feet in diameter when contracted into a sphere, but larger ones exist. The only permanent structures that they seem to have are eyes and mouths, each Shoggoth having dozens of both. Shoggoths are generally amoeba-like and so presumed to capture prey using tentacle-like pseudopods.
Shoggoths often mimic the habits and speech of their old masters, and it is not unusual to hear them shouting "Tekeli-li" in the piping voice of the Elder thing. Shoggoths are incredibly strong creatures, and when not being controlled, very aggressive. They are noted as killing their victims by sucking their heads off, and Elder Things also used them as weapons of war.
Shoggoths are found primarily in Antarctica, the last bastion of the Elder Things, though there is mention of various other cults and groups, such as the Deep Ones, making use of the creatures.
"Sculptured images of these shoggoths filled Danforth and me with horror and loathing. They were normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles; and each averaged about fifteen feet in diameter when a sphere. They had, however, a constantly shifting shape and volume; throwing out temporary developments or forming apparent organs of sight, hearing, and speech in imitation of their masters, either spontaneously or according to suggestion."
"The newly bred shoggoths grew to enormous size and singular intelligence, and were represented as taking and executing orders with marvellous quickness. They seemed to converse with the Old Ones by mimicking their voices—a sort of musical piping over a wide range, if poor Lake’s dissection had indicated aright—and to work more from spoken commands than from hypnotic suggestions as in earlier times. They were, however, kept in admirable control. The phosphorescent organisms supplied light with vast effectiveness, and doubtless atoned for the loss of the familiar polar auroras of the outer-world night."
"Danforth has on rare occasions whispered disjointed and irresponsible things about 'the black pit', 'the carven rim', 'the proto-shoggoths', 'the windowless solids with five dimensions', 'the nameless cylinder', 'the elder pharos', 'Yog-Sothoth', 'the primal white jelly', 'the colour out of space', 'the wings', 'the eyes in darkness', 'the moon-ladder', 'the original, the eternal, the undying', and other bizarre conceptions; but when he is fully himself he repudiates all this and attributes it to his curious and macabre reading of earlier years. He, indeed, is known to be among the few who have ever dared go completely through that worm-riddled copy of the Necronomicon kept under lock and key in the college library."
— H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness
There is little more than the vaguest hints in Lovecraft's stories to what a proto-shoggoth might be, and how it might differ from other shoggoths; the name implies that a proto-shoggoth is the original form or stock from which the shoggoths were developed by the Elder Thing scientists, which might or might not have been a formless, protoplasmic slime. A proto-shoggoth is sometimes reckoned to be a smaller, more flexible/fluid Shoggoth lacking mutational qualities but instead being able to maintain its shape for long periods of time.
The Pit of Shoggoths
Heresies and Controversies
- Proto-Shoggoths are smaller, more flexible/liquid Shoggoths, lacking the mutational qualities of Shoggoths but instead holding the ability to maintain a shape (such as humanoid) for extended amounts of time, perhaps with the help of a stiff human-shaped suit of leather, rubber, etc. (Sandy Petersen)
Associated Mythos Elements
- tome: Necronomicon - the tome's author claims that Shoggoths have never been on Earth
- Shoggoth Lord
- similar races - compare/contrast with:
- Elizabeth Bear - Shoggoths in Bloom
- Edward Lee - Haunter of the Threshold
- H. P. Lovecraft - At the Mountains of Madness (fiction)
- H. P. Lovecraft - "The Thing on the Doorstep (fiction)"
- H. P. Lovecraft - "The Shadow Over Innsmouth (fiction)"
- Brian Lumley - The Transition of Titus Crow
- Michael Shea - "Fat Face"
- Charles Stross - A Colder War
- Colin Wilson - "Tomb of the Old Ones"
- Shoggoth (short film) (2012)