Sorry for the radio silence the past few months, but I’ve been head-down, grinding away at my Chapter Book Series “Elsie Jones Adventures”. To break up the monotony and stave off burn out, I’ve decided to take on a new project. Once a week (or so) I’m going to read through a H.P. Lovecraft story and give some insight and critical analysis. This is purely meant to be a fun project and I’d love for feedback or discussion surrounding it.
I’ve read very little Lovecraft, but I love the idea behind his stories and have even incorporated some into my own fiction. So, each story I will read and discuss will be brand new to me, which is why I’d love some discussion surrounding my thoughts. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! Anyway, here it goes…
The Other Gods
This story seems to be told by an observer who goes to a village named Ulthar. This observer is obviously interested in the religions of this village, which is said to be based upon Earth’s Gods (which probably pertain to the Elder Gods, which were the benevolent Gods who have since left earth to return to the cosmos). Earth’s Gods had lived high upon a mountain peak called Hatheg-Kla, but as humans expanded thier knowledge of the world, Earth’s Gods recede to Kadath (which I believe is the Dreamworlds, but I’m sure we’ll get more information through future reading). This gives way to the Other Gods (Probably intending to mean the Ancient ones, or the malevolent gods) to take position on the peak of Hatheg-Kla.
The story holds two of the supposed staples of Lovecraftian stories. The lust for knowledge to understand the world and the fact that the cosmos are much larger and stranger than any human mind can possibly understand.
We follow the story of Barzai the Wise (Lovecraft’s choice of nomenclature calls back, purposefully, to ancient times. Babylonian and Arabian where all religions started. Whereas he himself was atheist, he somehow tapped into the idea that there was a reason that these locations were where religion started, but it seems that his idea was that the genesis of religion was based in Cosmic Deities, instead of the more terrestrial tied that we as a species associate with), and his apprentice Atal, as they climb to the peak of Hatheg-Kla. The climb becomes impossibly difficult, but the desire for knowledge is too strong in Barzai, and he reaches the strange peak to gaze upon the Earth Gods, only to be fooled and absconded by the Other Gods. To be tormented and become mad in the Presence of the Ancient Ones. Atal, could not make the journey, so he makes it back to Ulthar to tell the story, which is then related to the narrator, through the filter of the villagers.
It’s a great beginning to the mythos of Lovecraft I think, because it introduces all the themes we’d expect, and gives a glimpse into the burgeoning cannon that would become the Cthulhu Mythos.
There’s a ton in just a few pages, and it even introduces one of Lovecraft’s famous documents that many people for years (some still do) thought were real; the Pnakotic Mnuscripts. “…which were too ancient to be read.”