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

Sorry for being late with this installment of the Blind Reads.  I’m back on schedule so you can expect another one coming tomorrow!

This story, at first glance, seems like a fairly innocuous and straight forward horror story (for as much as Lovecraft has straightforward stories, that is).  In fact there is a Twilight Zone episode (aired in 1963, this was, for me, the scariest of the Twilight Zone episodes.  Check it out here:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5rouxl

The basic premise is that a German u-boat takes down a British ship, then submerge.  When they come back up, they find that (supposedly) one of the crewmen is dead and clenched onto the submarine.  When they extricate him from the metal railing, they find that he has a marble statue, which they take.  Then while they are throwing the body over the edge, a few of the sailors swear that the dead body opens his eyes.  Then, another sailor swears that he swam away instead of just sinking.

The crew goes on and they all start to see and hear things that makes them go a little crazy.  The submarine eventually has problems and sinks, seemingly surrounded by dolphins.  Those dolphins follow them down to depths not known for dolphins, and as they sink the crew starts a mutiny.  Eventually it is just the narrator and one other, and the other holds onto the marble statue and eventually goes crazy.  He tells our narrator that he wants them to join him.  The last of the crew leaves the submarine, far too low beneath the waters to live and kills himself.  We think.  Then as the submarine slides deeper into the waters, there is an Atlantean civilization there, complete with a temple that has the same face as the marble statue.

This is obviously a massive abridgment, but I wanted to get a few ideas out.  The first is that of the marble statue.  I have now read about marble and it’s use as channeling some otherworldly being in a few of these stories.  It does not seem coincidental that the statue that corresponds to this buried temple is made of marble.  The second is the city itself.  We have a possible Atlantis in the world of Lovecraft, and because of the marble connection, this ties into the story, “The Tree”.  Atlantis is an ancient city buried under the water, which would go along with the idea of the Great Old Ones being buried in the earth.  This was probably a civilization that worshiped the Great Old Ones, and for some reason it was buried.  Probably the same time that Cthulhu was put to rest in the earth.

Lastly we have these strange dolphins.  I normally would have thought this just a strange story addition, but because of just reading “Arthur Jermyn” I think there may be more to this.  Could these strange dolphins who don’t seem bothered by the intense pressure of being that deep in the ocean, actually be the denizens of this Atlantis?  It seems to be so, because they seem to follow, during the story, but I would purport that they actually led U-29 to the city.

There is one more things that I cant quite figure, however.  At the beginning of the story, there is a script that says that this manuscript was found on the coast of the Yucatan.  There has to be meaning to this, because in every other story I’ve read Lovecraft just jumps into the story.  There is no explanation for the reason behind the story.  I have to think there is some significance to the Yucatan.  Does anyone have any insight?

Join me tomorrow for a Blind read of The Moon-Bog!

 

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft Arthur Jermyn

This was a sad and tragic tale of the Jermyn lineage.  We start the story with the knowledge that the titular Arthur commits suicide.  This fact weighs on the reader and becomes the driving force behind the mystery of the story.

Throughout these blind reads, I have come to understand that there is a deep mystery in every one of Lovecraft’s stories.  Something terrible, otherworldly, or macabre lies at the heart of every story and through it’s telling the reader strives to understand this mystery.

This story is fairly straight forward, in that, we are reading to see what would make someone immolate themselves.

In the end, Arthur finds evidence that his great-great-great-grandfather traveled to the Congo and took a humanoid white ape as a concubine and Arthur is the descendant of this ape.

At the beginning of the story, our narrator tells us that everyone should do what Arthur did to himself if they found the same.  Where bestiality is repugnant, there seems to be something more going on here.

The civilization where Wade Jermyn (the ancestor) goes speaks of the White God and the ape-princess, which is obviously Wade and his concubine, but the great civilization was told (to Arthur by Mwanu) to house “hybrid-creatures”.

Could this be a sect of Outer God worshipers?  Or is this a culture built on interbreeding with apes, and Wade got caught up in the fervor of their culture?

My predilection is to think of the prior, because as horrible as it is that Arthur finds that he is descended from an ape, he is not a young man, and must know about his own soul.  I would think that even if it would lead to suicide (if for no other reason than to end the lineage), it might take a little longer.

The housekeepers heard a horrible scream once Arthur opened the box.  We assume as the reader that it must just be the mummified corpse of his great-great-great-grandapema, but at the beginning of the story the narrator tells us that there is an object.  It is possible that Lovecraft is being coy and skirting around that it was a mummy, but there is also the peculiar golden locket which I believe holds the key.

When Arthur opens the box, it takes him a while to scream.  It is readily apparent by the appearance of the mummy that it is his ancestor, but it takes him a while to scream.  I think there must have been something leading to a cosmic horror discovery in the locket.  Maybe that there is something far more sinister that just the white ape in his lineage?

What do you think?

Join me on Halloween for a Blind Read of “The Temple”

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The White Ship

Welcome back to another Blind Read.  This story is an interesting departure from the normal cannon.  I have read a little about Lovecraft’s religious leanings and understand him to basically be an Atheist, so that’s what makes this story so fascinating to me.

The story follows our nameless narrator who watches a lighthouse.  He sees a mysterious White Ship that sails in over the seas and seems to sail calmly, no matter the state of the ocean.  The narrator eventually walks out over the waters and joins the White Ship.  They sail past the horrible land of Xura “The Land of Pleasures un-attained”, and they continue to follow the “bird of heaven” which takes them to the wonderful Sona-Nyl.  This is a land where everything is beautiful and wonderful and everyone is happy.

The narrator driven by curiosity and tells the crew that he want’s to visit a land he heard of in Sona-Nyl.  The Land of Cathuria.  He convinces them to take him there, and as they sail out of Sona-Nyl, they run into a horrible storm and the ship crashes.  The narrator finds himself back at the lighthouse and finds a mysterious dead bird on the shore and for the rest of his time, he never sees the White Ship again.

This story is obviously about humanity and the afterlife.  We have our narrator who has died, and walks upon the waters to join the crew of the White Ship.  They sail past Hell, because that is not where he belongs, but follow the “bird of heaven” to the actual Heaven.  A place where everyone is content and happy and there is no strife.

But there is a curiosity in Human Nature that drives us for understanding.  I think this hits home more in Lovecraft than many people and I think that’s why he wrote the type of stories that he wrote.

The narrator wants to see this other land, so he coerces the crew to take him, and though they know what will happen, they agree.  They sail away from Sona-Nyl and reject it and he is returned to the real world never to see Sona-Nyl again.

Could this be Lovecraft’s veiled attempt at telling his story of the rejection of religion?  you can gather a glimpse of heaven, but it is sallow and thin.  There is more mystery in the world and to ignore it is to live in ignorance.  So Lovecraft is rejecting heaven to gain a darker understanding of our terrestrial world.

What do you think?

Join me Tomorrow for a Blind Read of “Arthur Jermyn”

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Dagon

Back for another Blind Read.  I am trying to keep honest to the Blind Reads and not do research on the side to gather connections, but if my memory serves me correct, Dagon is one of the lesser gods in the Lovecraft pantheon.  That makes this story very interesting to me because this story could have wide ranging implications for the building of the Mythos (or apparently as Lovecraft called it, Yog-Sothothery.  It was actually August Derleth that coined the phrase Cthulhu Mythos).

The story follows our narrator during WWI, as his ship was taken by a German sea-raider ship.  He escaped them and found his way to a strange, unknown of island in his dinghy.  As he explores the island, he finds a strange monolith with images carved that are humanoid, but fish-like.  They have webbed hands and feet, they have large eyes and large lips, and they are huge, nearly the size of a whale.

As he stands there one of these creatures comes out of the sea and hugs the monolith, then prays to it.

The narrator immediately thinks of Dagon, who is an ancient fish god.

What is provocative about this story is that there have been small connections in the past with figures like Nyarlathotep, which make a connection with our actual world.  The difference, however is that in every previous story I’ve read the characters in the stories are fictional, in a real setting.  This is an actual god that people have worshiped in the past, and here Lovecraft uses the same name and adopts it as his own.  Thus bringing his pantheon into our cultural reality.

There are two different ways to look at the story.  One is that the creature that comes out of the sea is a disciple of Dagon, and the monolith is what it prays to in supplication to Dagon.  This event keeps Dagon as a god, and now we have a race of cthonic creatures, whom live under the sea and live under Dagon’s rule.

The other way to read it (and this is what i believe Lovecraft intended) is that the creature that comes out of the sea IS Dagon.  This is a much more horrific idea.  This means that this creature, which made the narrators mind break (“I think I went mad then”) at the mere sight of it, is actually supplicating to something more than itself.  So this creature which in our real life mythology is considered a god, has a being so much more powerful than it (Cthulhu himself?) that it prays through the form of the monolith.

What do YOU think?

Join me next Tuesday for another blind read of “The White Ship”.

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Lurking Fear

Here, we jump into a story that at first glace seems to be traditional horror fare from Lovecraft.  We have our monster hunter/ ghost hunter narrator (who is made to be unreliable because of his ambiguous motives.  He is surrounded by death, and every person he recruits to help him dies, or mysteriously dispersal, but yet he soldiers on, for reasons unknown) who is seeking out his “Lurking Fear” whom he thinks is using an the old Martense Mansion as it’s diabolical abode.

He hires some muscle, whom he has been with before on different cases.  And they go to the Mansion.  While sleeping there, they disappear.  Then he hires another man, and while they look out into the forest, the helper stands at the window and is unresponsive.  When our narrator shakes him, thinking him asleep, he discovers that something ate his face off whilst he looked out the window.

Then our narrator is convinced that the perpetrator is the ghost of one of the previous residents of the Mansion, Jan Martense, whom supposedly died by lightning strike.  Our narrator finds nothing during his exhumation except for ashes.  But he does find a passageway, some deep tunnel that he sees a horrible paw of some unknown creature.

During this time there is another storm and a shack is burned to the ground.  The squatters who lived there tell our narrator that a creature burned up in the shack and it had one victim.  Searching the ashes, our narrator finds the squatter victim, and what looks like a human skull.  Curious.

He goes back to the Mansion, and during another Thunder storm, he finds a tunnel, at the base of the chimney, and while he is standing there, hundreds and thousands of these creatures come out, some with tentacles, or just what look like tentacles.  He shoots one as they exit and finds that they have the same genetic mis-colored eyes of the Martense’s.

Seems like a normal monster story, but then when we dig deeper we find that it is indeed a cosmic horror story.

The first an most obvious connection is the tentacles.  This is a Lovecraftican trope, and though I haven’t seen it too much in his stories, the image of Cthulhu is enough.

The second is the fact that the monsters are Cthonic (meaning dwelling underground.  Funny how that and Cthulhu are so similar, no?).  The Elder Gods are buried in the earth and they await being awakened, so it bears to reason that their followers would dwell under the ground.

The final connection is in the lightning and thunder.  Something that connects the heavens to the earth.  The Outer Gods and the Elder Gods communicating…Or even coming to earth?

What makes all this so interesting is that, in the story, the creatures don’t begin to appear until Jan Martense is supposedly struck down by lightning.  Could this be a ritual that the Martense clan had found?  Did their ritual call down the lightning and thunder and transform their brood?

Provocative and fun stuff.

Join me on Thursday for a Blind Read Through of “Dagon” and let me know what you think!

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Imprisoned with the Pharaohs

This was the last story in the Del Rey edition of The Doom That Came to Sarnath, and it was a surprising one.  There is a disclaimer on the first page that this story was written in conjunction with Harry Houdini, and what makes that so intriguing is that now we finally have a face for a narrator.

The story begins innocuously enough, with Houdini and his wife exploring Cairo, but progressively getting more and more bored with the watering down of the Egyptian culture in the tourism culture (this story takes place in 1910…it’s good to know that things don’t change).  They find a new guide, a man named Abdul Reis el Drogman, and immediately his moniker, and thus his plausibility is called into question. “Reis” is apparently a name for someone in power.  “Drogman” is apparently a “clumsy modification” of the name for the leader of the tourist parties “Dragoman”.  He also looks suspiciously like a Pharaoh (This in and of itself is suspicious.  How does one look like a Pharaoh?  This is just Lovecraft’s clumsy, whimsical, and adorable foreshadowing).

They go around town and go on a few adventures, then they make mention that they don’t trust magic.  That that has been cast down as evil.  So a group of Arabs tie Houdini up (presumably to see if he can escape) and throw him down into a tomb.

Thus far this has been the longest of the stories that I’ve gone through the blind read.  Throughout this story, nothing untoward had happened, and even when they throw him down the tomb, there are some strange happenings, but Houdini is in and out of consciousness, so there is a little call to unreliable narrator.  Then Lovecraft comes in full force, and we see more of the creatures that Lovecraft is so known for in the last few pages.  We also see one huge deity, of which we only see one single paw.

This goes along with the whole cannon of Lovecraft, I’m not sure exactly where this deity fits in yet, but it is a Cthonic creature, which follows with the established world.

This story also gives a certain credence to Lovecrafts mythos, because now it is the famous Harry Houdini who is experiencing the cosmic horror, even though the very last line, denies such experiences, by telling the audience that it was only a dream.  Oddly enough this is the one story that I truly believe the narrator experienced it, specifically because he presupposes that it was a dream.

Join me again next Tuesday as I start doing a Blind Read of The Lurking Fear, also by Del Rey.  We’ll jump right into the story “The Lurking Fear”

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; In the Walls of Eryx

This was such a spectacular escape from the classic Lovecraftian stories.  This is a Science Fiction/Horror story, that deals all together with the concepts of despair, fear and claustrophobia.  This is also the first story in which the narrator actually dies in the story.  There is very little to connect with the cannon in the narrative, but it is totally worth it.  The only possible connection would be the main residents of Venus (where the story takes place), which are reptilian creatures with tentacles.  These could be a form of a descendant of one of the Elder Gods.

The story follows our narrator, Kenton Stanfield, as he is on a quest to find a crystal on the surface of Venus.  He travels through a jungle and eventually gets through it, and in a big open marsh he sees a body with the crystal he is looking for. When he approaches the body he finds an invisible wall.  Eventually he finds his way past the wall and gets the crystal from the body, only to find that it wasn’t a wall at all, but an invisible labyrinth.

The rest of the story is a psychological profile in fear, and a brilliant one at that.  If you have no interest in Lovecraft, this is the story for you to read, and if you love Lovecraft, then you must devour it!

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Crawling Chaos

This was a fairly early iteration of Lovecraft’s work, and a clear indication of the direction that he intended to go in the Dream-Cycle.  This is a collaboration, so it is a bit of a stretch from Lovecraft’s other work, and frankly, not nearly as precise and put together.  The language is pulled together with cheap word positioning (“the doomed shack”.  The only reason doomed is used here is to give the story a creepier effect, when in reality, it shouldn’t have been written as a creepy story, but as a cosmic horror story because the whole planet is doomed) and a rambling tone, when on close inspection of Lovecraft’s other works, he tends to have loose meaning and trite verbiage, but it is precise.  Where it isn’t in this story.

Basically we follow the narrator into a cosmic horror dream.  The use of Opium is prevalent, though the narrator says that this experience is neither an Opium dream, nor a fever dream.  He goes on a cosmic journey, meeting gods and leaving the earth, only to find that there is a cosmic event that has destroyed the world.

The plot line is a Lovecraftian story, but what is absent is all the beautiful references, and subtleties.  From the preface of the story Lovecraft thought highly of Winifred Jackson who this story is based on, but I fear that his collaboration with Elizabeth Berkeley sapped the story of it’s needed umph.

Join me tomorrow for a Blind Read through of “The Walls of Eryx”, another collaboration.

Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Quest of Iranon

Quite an interesting and lore building story.  From the preface to the story it seems as though Lovecraft was very proud of the language of this story, but what goes far beyond the language is the depth of character and world building.

The story follows a young man named Iranon who is looking for the city of his youth.  He tells everyone he meets that he is a Prince of Aira, and he is trying to find that city once more. He travels around and sees all of the world, and even though he is young, he experiences much, that is until the twist at the end.

I would portend that Iranon is actually the narrator of most of Lovecraft’s stories.  He tells of Sarnath, he tells of ancient cities in Egypt (the nameless city), and other strange locals.  He strangely doesn’t remember when these visits happened or much about them, just that he has been there.

Then at the end of the story we find out that he is much, much older than we initially thought (in fact much older than he himself thinks), and that there is a certain amount of madness in his personality.

Then we couple that with the fact that we very nearly never hear a narrators name, they just tell the story.  The narrators of the stories we see all are unreliable, which partners with the madness of Iranon.

The world of Lovecraft just keeps getting better and better.

Join me next Tuesday for “The Crawling Chaos” blind read through.

Blind read through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Nameless City

This one is a pure horror story.  This reminds me of the times my friends and I sat around and played the table top game.

The story follows a narrator through Egypt to explore and he comes across the nameless city.  A city whose inhabitants seemed to be some prehistoric creatures that were part man and part reptile.  Our narrator finds a tunnel and happens upon some kind of deeper creature sleeping within the earth.

The absolute best part of horror, is the fear of the unknown.  There are things in the world which we can even fathom and what makes Lovecraft so amazing is that he tunes into this with his Chthonic Deities and their followers.

Best line in the story?  “To convey any idea of these monstrosities is impossible.”

And even though he gives a semblance of a description right after this, it still hits the fear meter.

We are also reintroduced to the Mad Arab who wrote the Necronomicon off the horrible experiences he had in places similar to this.

We are left with the wonderful, famous, Lovecraft line from the Necronomicon:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,

And with strange aeons even death may die.

Lovecraft is also a precursor to all the modern day Urban fantasy, with his first person narrators who are describing these strange happenings, with their own voice.  If you notice every Lovecraft narrator is invariably, Lovecraft.  His discernible prose streams through each narrator’s tome, and what makes it work is the absolute weirdness and uniqueness of the tales.

Join me tomorrow for a blind read through of “The Quest of Iranon”