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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dr. Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos in Deities & Demigods

Cthulhu by Erol Otus, from DEITIES & DEMIGODS (1980)
     Every player of AD&D knows the story of how the Cthulhu Mythos was excised from later printings of Deities & Demigods ("Banned!" as some Ebay auctions would have you believe). Theories abound as to why this occurred, but what is little appreciated is the role Dr. Holmes played in co-authoring this material. In the Credits and Acknowledgments section of D&DG (pg 4), Holmes is thanked "especially for his help with the Cthulhu Mythos", but his contribution was more extensive than this implies.
     Back in the summer of 1977 at Gen Con X, Dr. Holmes and Rob Kuntz met and discussed writing a summary of H.P. Lovecraft's mythology for a revision of Gods, Demigods & Heroes for AD&D. This was just prior to the initial release of the Basic Set edited by Dr. Holmes (Fall '77). Holmes and Kuntz corresponded several times, which resulted in a collaboration, "The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragons", published in The Dragon #12 (Feb 1978). This article was presented in a Sorcerer's Scroll column by Rob Kuntz, but the introductory paragraph attributes it to "Dr. Holmes ... with additions by my humble self". Kuntz later wrote that the original draft was by Dr. Holmes and that he added "Hastur and a few others". A letter from a reader in The Dragon #14 criticized some details in the article, and was followed by a letter from Dr. Holmes in The Dragon #16 (May 1978) titled "A Rebuttal to "The Cthulhu Mythos Revisited"", which ends with an editorial note indicating he was a co-author of the original article. In this letter, Holmes implies that he worked on at least the entries for Azathoth, Cthulhu, Elder Signs, the Necronomicon, the Old Ones, and Shaggoths [sic]. For example, he writes: "My description of Alhazred's fate is taken from H.P. Lovecraft's "History and Chronology of the Necronomicon"". Now compare the material concerning Alhazred in the original article and in D&DG:

"Alhazred was seized in the streets of Damascus by invisible demons and devoured horribly in front of many witnesses. Those who have studied his writings have sometimes met a fate nearly as terrible" (The Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D, pg 18-19)

"Alhazred was later seized in the streets of a desert city by invisible demons and devoured horribly in front of many witnesses. Those who have studied his writings have sometimes met a fate nearly as terrible" (D&DG, page 48)

      As can be seen, the two are almost the same. Some entries in the D&DG chapter were revised more than this, but each entry in the D&DG chapter corresponds to one found in the original article. Only one entry in the original article ("Yig, Supreme God of Serpents") is not found in D&DG.

      I think the evidence, particularly Rob Kuntz's statement, points to Holmes being the primary co-author of the original article, and since much of the original article remains in the D&DG chapter, in my opinion he deserved a co-author credit for that section of D&DG.

-"The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragons", article by Rob Kuntz and J. Eric Holmes, THE DRAGON #12, Feb 1978, pg 18 & 20-21
-“A Rebuttal to “The Cthulhu Mythos Revisited”", letter by J. Eric Holmes, THE DRAGON #16, May 1978, pg 22.
-"Cthulhu Mythos", DEITIES & DEMIGODS, 1980, pg 43-48
-Post by Rob Kuntz, 2002, Pied Piper Publishing Forums, "General OAD&D Trivia" thread
-Post by Frank Mentzer in, 2004, describes auction of Holmes-Kuntz correspondence and manuscript

-J. Eric Holmes Annotated Bibliography

This topic was originally discussed here at the OD&D Discussion Forums.

See also: Part II, where Holmes' original manuscript for the Dragon article is examined.


  1. Is the original document anywhere online?

  2. Anarchist, are you referring to the Dragon magazine article or the manuscript?

    A pdf of Dragon 12 or 16 might be found by Googling some text from the article (frex, the sentence I quoted above).

    If you mean the original typed manuscript, that's not online. The owner asked me not to distribute that document, so I've just provided a description and a few quotes. The content is the same as the Dragon article.

  3. Thanks. I'll have a look. I wasn't completely clear on how many versions there were.