Dagon, between Lovecraft and the Phoenicians

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Lovecraft’s second tale, Dagon, is deeply tied to the biblical and Mesopotamian imagery, providing the reader with very interesting anecdotes of “divine mutations”.

Dagon according to Lovecraft

The story of Dagon was Lovecraft‘s second to be published, one more clue as to how the famous American writer took inspiration from ancient Babylonian and Phoenician myths. In this story, in particular, we will be transported to the tale of a former marine taken prisoner by the Germans during the First World War and then fled to a desert island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here, with incredible reticence, he will set out to discover the place, finding disturbing signs of inhuman presences.


Venturing onto the atoll, in fact, he will first discover the existence of a sort of fish cemetery in the open, then a monolith decorated with a marine-themed bas-relief and finally the beast depicted in them. The latter will suddenly appear from the water, going to embrace the same monument and driving the protagonist to madness. It is no coincidence that at the end of the story he will even attempt suicide, still too upset by the disturbing sighting.

Dagon, the Phoenician god

Lovecraft’s story is particularly interesting for the figure he chooses, a divinity worshiped by many peoples of the Middle East, yet with very different interpretations related to it. In fact, it originally presented itself as a being linked above all to cultivation, both for the name, which in the Ugaritic language means “wheat“, and as a graphic representation: half man and half ear. Dagon was long considered to be a sort of alter ego of the Greek Cronus, thus becoming in effect one of the fathers of the gods of these areas. In the Book of Samuel, the statue of the latter will shatter at the sight of the Ark of the Covenant, becoming a symbol of the decline of the ancient pagan gods in favor of the only Jewish god.


It is from this biblical passage that the Lovecraftian imaginary has taken its cue, going, in a certain sense, to redeem a fallen god by providing him with new lymph and life. Interesting, however, how he went to take one of his rarest representations, transforming it into the best known of all.

From wheat to fish

As already mentioned, in fact, traditionally the figure of Dagon is associated above all with wheat and cultivation, certainly not with the marine world. The change took place with the passage of this divinity also to Phoenicians and Philistines, who began to represent the god as a sort of “triton”, leading him to become the de facto lord of the seas.


This meant that more and more Jews, a population geographically closer to the 2 peoples, also began to associate it with water, transmitting precisely these characteristics within their texts, including the Bible. This made his figure global, but altered it forever. A curiosity: in the medieval demonological treatises, Dagon was transformed into a second level demon, in charge of cooking pies in the kitchen of hell; from the pan to the oven.

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