This series is a blind read of H.P. Lovecraft’s works. The idea is that I will read through the entirety of his published works and probably move onto a few successors (which will absolutely include August Derleth). That being said, I have only rudimentary knowledge of the Gothic and cosmic world of Lovecraft. Because of this There will be some pretty crazy theories coming through this blog, but it’s something I love to do, so if you have a better theory, or a clashing theory, please respond!
The Shadow Over Innsmouth is cut into 5 parts, so I’m going to dedicate a blog post for each section. The first is merely the set up; our narrator is planning a trip in New England and wants to find cheaper transportation so a ticket agent tells him that he can take a bus through Innsmouth, a port town that is nearly deserted. This first portion is basically about our narrator getting information about this strange little shady town, but he comes across a few interesting nuggets. The first comes from the ticket agent. Though he is an unreliable source, he tells the narrator that the people of Innsmouth are strange. That they come from a lineage of a sea Captain, Obed Marsh. Apparently Obed’s son married a strange girl, “a South Sea Islander” of strange physiognomy. Then the son of these two is Old Man Marsh, who married a girl from nearby Ipswitch.
The people of Innsmouth have an oddly fish-like appearance. they seem to be mostly bald with narrow heads, flat noses and bulgy eyes that never seem to shut, their necks are shriveled and creased up (gills), and their skin has a rough, or scabby look and feel to them. This is probably stemming from the “South Sea Islander” mother of Old Man Marsh.
What is strange about this is an intermarriage theme, which is held over from “Arthur Jermyn”, though in this story is seems to be fish related (we’ll get to that later), rather than ape related. I am still unsure of where the ape beasts come from, (I.E. what god they are related to), but it is apparent that the fish theme comes from Dagon.
So The Old Captain goes out to an island, just off the mainland, where no one else has seemed to go, but there are rumors that he has made contracts with devils out on that small island. If we go back to the short story “Dagon”, we will remember a seaman who crashed on an island with a strange monolith, and on that monolith were drawings of fish-men worshiping some sort of creature under the sea. He makes contact with them an nearly goes insane. Could it be that this is a similar island, that worshipers of Dagon have formed? Are these the devils that Obed Marsh has been communicating with?
It seems so. As the story progresses, we find that a person from Innsmouth made thier way to state street and pawned a tiara, then he died shortly thereafter (intentionally? Or by curse?). Our Narrator was shown this tiara by a curator who had it under a case. There are strange reliefs on the tiara, similar to the images we saw on the monolith in the story “Dagon”.
I’m particularly interested in the lineage of these peoples. Are they gradually being changed? It is said that the town only has about 400 people now (at the time of the telling of the story) and that it was far bigger before that. It doesn’t seem possible that the entire town was populated by the inter-species breeding of the Marshes. Could their dealings with Dagon be transforming the townsfolk? Or have other piscatorial denizens come to the town through Marsh’s worshiping and interbred with other townsfolk? We might find more clues in part 2…
What do you think?
Join me tomorrow for “The Shadow over Innsmouth” part 2!
What a beautiful, haunting story. This innocuous story, may very well be the most important of all the stories I have read thus far. It is the story of a person (probably a man) who has lived thier entire life in a castle. There are trees outside that cover all light, and he is too terrified to go far away. There is one tower in the castle that goes beyond the canopy of the trees, so one day he climbs the tower, and finds that he is in yet another building, yet this one is at ground level.
The ground level is the first shock of this story, but the more I dig into it, the narrator does not tell of thier childhood. It seems as though they just attained consciousness in the lower castle. Around them were bones and corpses of other humans, but this fact does not bother the narrator. In addition, the narrator understands (English?) language, but cannot speak it. The reason is given that there is no one to speak to.
Once the narrator gets above ground they wander for a while and see a church and another castle which looks much like the one he’s been living in underground. He smiles, because there is a party going on in the castle. He goes to join them, and when he gets there the entire party is terrified at his appearance (it is fairly obvious at the time, but it is solidified at the end of the story…the last shock), and they run away. The narrator thinks there is a presence in the room and looks around, eventually seeing a horrid creature. He tries to scream out in English, but all that comes out is “a ghastly ululation”, instead of any kind of human scream. The narrator also says this is the first and last thing he ever uttered. The narrator is looking in a mirror. He then leaves the castle and goes wandering through the night, calmed by the fact that he’s a monster, a creature of the night, so he will prowl like one.
First off. He has no childhood. He comes to memory as a being that can think and read. He also thinks that he’s a human, or that he once was. This means that he has undergone a transformation, and when he is woken, he is a creature. The fact that he’s interred underground could mean that his transformation was an affect of the Great Old Ones. maybe he was one of the previous narrators of one of the other stories, and he and his fellows were trapped in this tomb (they are the other corpses and skeletons), and for some reason he was transformed.
He has to go through great strides to get out of the underground castle, which could mean it was a castle build to honor the cthonians. There were efforts put into place to keep him in, inferring that he could be dangerous.
There seems to be a correlation between this story and “Arthur Jermyn” and “The Lurking Fear”. Arthur Jermyn has a man procreating with an ape like creature, and the Lurking Fear has an ape like creature (actually multiple ape like creatures), and in fact the narrator of the Outsider is described as ape like at one point. Could the White Ape from Arthur Jermyn actually be a woman who was transformed by the Great Old Ones? Are the Ape like creatures in all of Lovecraft, actually people who have been transformed and submit to their new proclivities? Because of how this story is framed, I think that’s the case, it is not creatures from another plane (at least these ape like creatures), or the moon, but in fact humans who have been influences by the madness of the Elder Gods, or the Great Old Ones and have been transformed into beasts.
What do you think?
Join me next week for a blind read through of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. Because of the length of the story, i will be doing it one section at a time, so this story will consist of five blind reads, and possibly a sixth to sum the experience.