Blind Read Through; H.P. Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep/Ex Oblivione
I bring you two more vignettes of Lovecraft in this weeks Blind Read through. These two stories seem to be divergent from the cannon as it has been presented, but give an interesting new facet to how the horror in his stories is presented.
In “Nyarlathotep”, we see what I have to think of as a Outer God. He is called the crawling chaos in the first sentence of the story, and that comes to full fruition at the end. Nyarlathotep is seemingly a man who came from Egypt. He is large and dark and mysterious and is described as looking like a Pharaoh. He holds shows to garner followers, and these shows are filled with strange and marvelous things, which bring people from far and wide to find out what he is going to do next. There is a underlying malevolence in everything Nyarlathotep does, then eventually (when the greenish light of the moon comes about) these people are led to a location where it becomes apparent that they are being led to slaughter. Their souls are being consumed by a a large miasma of creeping energy, and where Lovecraft doesn’t tell us that this is indeed Nyarlathotep, it is heavily inferred. He has transcended his corporeal form to his godlike “creeping chaos” form and consumes his followers for strength.
The starting point of Egypt is interesting, because everything I’ve read thus far has surrounded the cold north, with it’s northern lights and frozen tundras. Now we get to see the far reaching grasp of the Outer Gods (or Old God, not really sure which he is yet). Could they, in Lovecraft’s world, be part of the creation of the Pyramids? Could they have given humans portions of their terrible knowledge, and secretly build these structures to their benefit? It’s a provocative concept. I recognize Nyarlathotep’s name, so I look forward to reading more about him (It?) in later stories, as I’m pretty sure this is it’s first iteration.
In “Ex Oblivione”, we catch a decidedly different and much more Poe-like side of Lovecraft. We come across a narrator who is at the end of his life (I’m assuming disease is a factor here, partially because the narrator is cavalier about his Opiate use), and he hears something call to him, so he goes to see what it possibly is. He takes his opiates (more than likely Opium or Laudanum, as I’m not sure if Heroin was around yet), and goes into a dream world within the horrible twisted, swampy grove he rests in. In this dream world he finds a city and within the city he finds a papyrus that tells him to take a drug and that will help him transcend his existence to another world. He takes this drug and happily leave behind the “daemon world”.
There are elements in this story that correlate to others, and even Nyarlathotep, but to me this is about a man who is in terrible pain from a disease and he begins to take Opiates for the pain. The Opiates do what opiates do, and eventually alter his perception. He thinks that he is transcending, but in reality he is overdosing, and riding the wave of drug to his imaginary Oblivion. Though this is a blind read and I haven’t read other than these stories of Lovecraft, nearly every story that involves the horrors of his Mythos, that Green hazy light is present, floating or permeating from the moon. It is conspicuously absent form this story, ;leading me to believe that this is a horror story about a tortured soul.
I’ll return with a blind read of “The Cats of Ulthar”, one of his supposedly literary fantasy stories (by his own description).