Some recent musings on the unpronouncable horror that is Cthulhu got me thinking about a similarly implacable killing machine with a similarly aitch-bedecked name: No Country For Old Men‘s Anton Chigurh.
These guys have more in common than just their names and their hairstyle. Each is a destructive force of the act-of-god variety. The protagonists in No Country For Old Men and The Call of Cthulhu never really manage to accomplish anything: your best chance of survival, should you be a character in one of these stories, is to hope that the monster doesn’t notice you. In this sense, Cthulhu and Chigurh can be seen as symbols for man’s essential helplessness in the face of a random and uncaring world. But although they’re pretty much above human agency, they are each vulnerable to the random tragedy they embody. At the end of NCFOM, Chigurh gets hit by a car out of nowhere, while Cthulhu’s island home is dragged back into the ocean by an earthquake.
You get the feeling that Lovecraft and McCarthy are both essentially nihilists, but not of the self-congratulatory, clove-smoking, toe-cutting-off variety that we generally see out in our popular culture. These are men who wish that they could go back and take the blue pill. Near the beginning of The Call of Cthulhu, the narrator muses that “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.” Compare this imagery to Sherriff Bell’s dream at the end of No Country for Old Men:
The second one, it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin through the mountains of a night, goin through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and snowin, hard ridin. Hard country. He rode past me and kept on goin. Never said nothin goin by. He just rode on past and he had his blanket wrapped around him and his head down, and when he rode past I seen he was carryin fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. About the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin on ahead and that he was fixin to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold, and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. Out there up ahead. Then I woke up.”