Zoogs are from H. P. Lovecraft's Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
In the tunnels of that twisted wood, whose low prodigious oaks twine groping boughs and shine dim with the phosphorescence of strange fungi, dwell the furtive and secretive zoogs; who know many obscure secrets of the dream-world and a few of the waking world, since the wood at two places touches the lands of men, though it would be disastrous to say where. Certain unexplained rumours, events, and vanishments occur among men where the zoogs have access, and it is well that they cannot travel far outside the world of dream. But over the nearer parts of the dream-world they pass freely, flitting small and brown and unseen and bearing back piquant tales to beguile the hours around their hearths in the forest they love. Most of them live in burrows, but some inhabit the trunks of the great trees; and although they live mostly on fungi it is muttered that they have also a slight taste for meat, either physical or spiritual, for certainly many dreamers have entered that wood who have not come out.
Carter, however, had no fear; for he was an old dreamer and had learnt their fluttering language and made many a treaty with them; having found through their help the splendid city of Celephaïs in Ooth-Nargai beyond the Tanarian Hills, where reigns half the year the great King Kuranes, a man he had known by another name in life. Kuranes was the one soul who had been to the star-gulfs and returned free from madness.
Threading now the low phosphorescent aisles between those gigantic trunks, Carter made fluttering sounds in the manner of the zoogs, and listened now and then for responses. He remembered one particular village of the creatures near the centre of the wood, where a circle of great mossy stones in what was once a clearing tells of older and more terrible dwellers long forgotten, and toward this spot he hastened.... Finally the greater light of those thicker fungi revealed a sinister green and grey vastness pushing up through the roof of the forest and out of sight. This was the nearest of the great ring of stones, and Carter knew he was close to the zoog village. Renewing his fluttering sound, he waited patiently; and was at length rewarded by an impression of many eyes watching him. It was the zoogs, for one sees their weird eyes long before one can discern their small, slippery brown outlines.
Out they swarmed, from hidden burrow and honeycombed tree, till the whole dim-litten region was alive with them. Some of the wilder ones brushed Carter unpleasantly, and one even nipped loathsomely at his ear; but these lawless spirits were soon restrained by their elders. The Council of Sages, recognising the visitor, offered a gourd of fermented sap from a haunted tree unlike the others, which had grown from a seed dropt down by someone on the moon....
— H.P. Lovecraft, Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
Lovecraft described the Zoogs only sketchily as small, brown, slippery, secretive creatures with weird eyes, a fluttering language, and a taste for human and Cat flesh. In the Call of Cthulhu RPG, Zoogs are further detailed as small, rodent-like creatures with tentacled snouts concealing rows of small, very sharp teeth. The creatures live in mossy burrows and tree-trunks in the Dreamlands' Enchanted Wood, where they mostly live on fungi, but also indulge a taste for meat both spiritual and physical, including that of unfortunate Dreamers who have strayed too carelessly into the territory of the Zoogs. Do not let their mouse-like appearance deceive you: Zoogs are cunning, nasty, mischievous, intelligent and ever-vigilant for easy prey.
Zoogs are furtive, secretive, cunning, and inquisitive, having learned many secrets of the Dreamlands, and are said to maintain a catalogue of those places where the borders between Dream and Day are thin, and creatures can easily walk from one world to the other.
Zoogs are capable of forming uneasy treaties with those who are willing to bargain with them: trading in secrets, news, information, good stories, books and scrolls, guides who will lead Dreamers through the Dreamlands, intoxicating Zoog Moon-Wine, and curious treasures carried over from distant places in the waking world.
Heresies and Controversies
- Zoogs resemble rodents with tentacles on their snouts. (this appears to have been invented by Chaosium?)
- Unfortunate Zoogs are sometimes enslaved by Witches and Wizards and bound to them as Familiars. (fan theory)
- In some cases, the Thing Under Your Bed is merely a curious, or hungry, Zoog. The dark spaces beneath beds and nearby closets are often among those places where the boundaries between Dream and Day are thin. (fan theory)
- Zoogs cannot usually travel far into the Daylands, but are intensely curious about it, and explore it and bring back small trophies from it whenever they can. If you've ever noticed small objects gone missing or having been moved around when you weren't looking, it was probably taken or borrowed by a questing Zoog. Zoogs are particularly fond of shiny trinkets, which some Zoogs like to hoard; Zoogs are also fond of socks, and will not infrequently carry off one sock of a pair from warm, dark, Dayland laundry rooms, carrying these prized treasures back into the Dreamlands to be worn as comfortable caps, hoods, and other Zoog clothing. (fan theory)
Zoogs might generally serve well as slippery and sinister guides through the Dreamlands.
Zoogs might make nice introductory monsters for a new group of investigators - after all, they're small, relatively weak, and don't travel very far into the waking world. (I think of Zoogs as one possible "Thing Under the Bed" to haunt the nightmares of children.)
Zoogs might also make untrustworthy but interesting allies - being easy to "buy off" with shiny trinkets or a good story, but prone to getting into mischief, turning on their 'allies' when food gets scarce or the allies seem vulnerable, wandering off when things get tough, and so on.
Dreamers might get caught up in the uneasy politics between Zoogs and Cats, when something begins killing the Zoog hostages held in the Temple of Cats in Ulthar with cats being the only obvious suspects, or cats begin disappearing and Zoogs are unfairly blamed....
Associated Mythos Elements
- Zoogs are denizens of Earth's Dreamlands
- Cats are among the Zoogs' more fierce enemies; an uneasy truce between Zoogs and Cats has been maintained after a Cat victory in war against Zoogs, in which hostages were taken and kept in the Temple of Cats in Ulthar
- Moon-Wine brewed from the fruit of a tree grown from seeds dropped from the moon, a Zoog specialty
- Fiction: H.P. Lovecraft, Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
- Fiction: Brian Lumley, Titus Crow: The Clock of Dreams
- Fiction: Daniel Ranier, "When Riseth Cthulhu"
- Sourcebooks: Zoogs are described in more detail in Sandy Petersen's Field Guide to Creatures of the Dreamlands, H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands, and Malleus Monstrorum