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Archive for June, 2017

Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft, The Doom That Came to Sarnath

This was the first story from the “Dunsany” period and probably the first iteration of his eventual shift into the Cosmic Horror genre.  Published in 1919 (full of mis-spellings and embellishments), this story tells of the city of Sarnath in the land of Mnar.  Sarnath was built next to a river, near the Ancient City of Ib.  The city of Ib, as we find out from the extremely old and archaic writings on brick walls of another ancient city and parchments, is housed by strange beings, who are green and have a green halo, and bulging eyes and flabby lips.  These beings are mute and supposedly descended through this green mist (which occasionally also surrounds the moon) from the moon to create the city of Ib next to the still green lake.

The primitive warriors of Sarnath decide that they hate the minions of Ib because they are disturbing looking and worship Bokrug, a water lizard.  They kill all the creatures of Ib and push them into the lake.  They destroy the city of Ib, and keep only the green statue of Bokrug.  Soon the high priest of Sarnath (Taran-Ish) dies, with an expression of great horror and writes on the sea-green stone idol of Bokrug the word…DOOM.

The city moves on and goes through decades of prosperity, mining out precious stones and living richly, until one day, during a ceremony commemorating the destruction of Ib, a mist floats down from the moon to the still lake, and green creatures come forth and destroy Sarnath.

Lovecraft is obviously describing Inuit’s when he talks about Sarnath and it’s peoples.  The land of Mnar, has some Norse inclinations as well.  The reason I say this is because the green haze must indicate the Northern Lights, which seem to emanate from the heavens and descend upon earth.  Then at the end of the story Aryan men go to view the ruins of Sarnath (showing Lovecraft’s prejudices, since they were the only people on earth with enough courage to view the ruins), indicating that it is a different location than Europe.

The story attempts to pull its horror from the fear of religion and the bible once again, and I’ll be curious to see if that is indicative of all the Dunsany stories, or if it’s a theme throughout.  The Ultimate story is a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Babel themes, mixed in with a little Old Testament, good old, God fearing idol worship.  The people of Sarnath are being punished for their worship of a false god and their love and lust of the material, and then the Ancient Ones come back for retribution with their strange descendants, the creatures of Ib.

Because this is a blind read through and I haven’t read any Lovecraft before I dont know if Bokrug is part of the mythos cycle of Gods, but I would probably argue that it should be at least a lesser god.

For purposes of categorization, Bokrug will be a lesser god, based in Greenland area.  We’ll see if that has any bearing on the future stories.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Tree

I finished this story and my first response was…What was that?  This story is from his Dunsanian period, which I assumed to mean part of a otherworldly mien.  This extremely innocuous, and seemingly disparate narrative focuses on two artists who are commissioned to create a marble sculpture of Tyche, the Grecian Goddess who governed prosperity and fortune of a city.  One of the sculptors, Kalos, dies and asks to be buried with two olive branches by his head.  The other sculptor, Musides, is his best friend and complies.  Musides continues working on the sculpture, and eventually finishes as a tree grows from the grave site of Kalos.  The tree looks like a man. When the Grecians come to get the sculpture and give accolades to Musides, they find the house destroyed, the tree’s roots grown into the house and no sign of the sculpture or Musides.  The narrator tells us that in the boughs of the olive grove one can still hear whispers that say “I know, I know.”

That’s the story.  In it’s entirety.  It took me about an hour of rumination to come up with what it truly means.

In the first paragraph the narrator tells us that the grove is thought of as belonging to Pan, the Greek god of mischief.  Which would make sense since strange happenings go on there.  Then at the end of the paragraph, he tells us that he hears a different story.  This is where the Dunsany influence comes in, and why the story is truly Lovecraftian.

Kalos is said to speak to the creatures of the forest, in his Olive grove, and when he dies he asks for two olive branches to be put by his head.  Lovecraft was atheistic, but religion seeped into his writings because he thought that was the ultimate horror.  So the two olive branches indicate knowledge of the Gods and creation of a church. The creation of the Church was the tree that looked like a man, and the olive branches next to his head meant that Kalos was given the knowledge of the Gods as the branches grew through his head.  However it was thought that the god of the grove was Pan, but we are told that was not correct.  Kalos was given sight of the Great Old Ones.

Musides goes to finish his creation there, but in reality he comes to the realization of Kalos, because of the whispering of the tree.  The Great Old Ones are upset with his creation of a “graven image of another deity” in Tyche, so they destroy the house.

The whispering of “I know, I know” is not a comfort of one spirit of a friend to another, as I originally thought (I mean come on, this is Lovecraft, after all), but of knowledge.  Kalos is whispering to the world of the horrible knowledge of the Elder Gods he gained by communion in the olive grove.  The tree is Kalos ascended with that knowledge and he whispers in torment in his jail that is a tree in the shape of a man.

“I know, I know”


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Other Gods

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.”