by Raymond H Rich
The Zanthu Tablets are twelve pieces of black jade inscribed in hieratic Naacal, the high language of ancient Mu, by a high priest named Zanthu over 150,000 years ago. One of the most powerful wizards of all time, Zanthu had coveted the post of high priest of Ythogtha since his youth, and through his acquisition of the powerful Black Seal of Iraan, he was able to attain it.
In 161,844 B.C., after Zanthu achieved his dream, the priests of Ghatanothoa banned the worship of all gods except their own in the lands of Mu. Zanthu, now the last high priest of Ythogtha, sought to revive his god’s worship and oppose the priests of Ghatanothoa. Searching through the annals of his predecessors, Zanthu found a formula which would free Ythogtha from his prison in the Abyss of Yhe. When he and the other remaining priests of Ythogtha sundered the first chain, a great cataclysm was unleashed. Mu was wracked by earthquakes, the fiery Elder Gods descended from the stars, and the entire continent sank beneath the waves. Zanthu and his followers fled to the Plateau of Tsang in their sky-chariots where he later inscribed the tablets.
The Zanthu Tablets give a partial history of Mu and describe in detail the worship of various Muvian deities, including Ghatanathoa, Shub-Niggurath, and Cthulhu. Nug and Yeb, Zoth-Omog, Yig, Dagon, and Hydra are also discussed. Certain other passages hint at the existence of insubstantial beings called the lloigor or yuggya, who act as servitors to the Muvian pantheon. The tablets were entombed with Zanthu by his followers in a stone mausoleum on the Plateau of Tsang after his death.
In May, 1913, Professor Harold Hadley Copeland led the Copeland-Ellington expedition into Indo-China, following instructions given in the Ponape Scripture to find the Plateau of Tsang and the tomb of Zanthu. Ellington died in the first few days and most of the bearers followed suit or deserted. Three months later, Copeland wandered into a Mongolian outpost, raving of the things he had seen and bearing the dozen stone tablets.
After his recovery, Copeland worked on his translation of the tablets, publishing his findings at the Sanbourne Institute for Pacific Studies in Santiago, California in 1916. Four hundred copies of the 32 page pamphlet The Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation were printed.
His work was denounced and ridiculed, and in 1925, Copeland was committed to a California asylum after suffering an emotional breakdown. Copeland bequeathed his Pacific artifacts collection to the Sanbourne Institute, consisting of twelve steamer trunks full of notes and artifacts, as well as both the original Zanthu Tablets and the infamous Ponape figurine. On May 15, 1926, he burst his restraints while being shaved, overpowered an orderly, and slit his own throat with a straight razor.
In 1928, the Sanbourne Institute’s curator of manuscripts, Dr. H. Stevenson Blaine, went insane after trying to catalogue the Copeland bequest. Hoping to capitalize on the scandal, the Institute set up an exhibition of the bequest in 1929. The original Zanthu Tablets were held at the Sanbourne Institute until their theft in 1933, shortly before the Institute’s closure due to financial troubles.
Copies of Copeland’s pamphlet can still be found in various collections of Pacific esoterica. Scholars have noted the similarities between the Zanthu Tablets and the Celaeno Fragments and The Pnakotic Manuscripts.
based on material given in “The Dweller in the Tomb”, “The Offering”, “Out of the Ages”, “Strange Manuscript found in the Vermont Woods”, and “The Thing in the Pit” by Lin Carter; The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana by Daniel Harms; “Books of the Cthulhu Mythos” as part of Call of Cthulhu, 5th ed. by Keith Herber and Kevin Ross; A Resection of Time by Sam Johnson; “Out of the Aeons” by H.P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald; The Worm Shall Ye Fight! by Philip O. Marsh.; and Miskatonic University Graduation Kit by Sandy Petersen and Lynn Willis.
- Some references in The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana give the number of tablets as ten, not twelve.
- Harms gives San Francisco as the place of publication for The Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation.
- The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana states Copeland was committed in 1918, not 1925.
Game statistics for The Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation are given in the Call of Cthulhu, 5th ed. rulebook and further elaborated upon in A Resection of Time by Sam Johnson.