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Friday, January 18, 2013

Even more HPL short summaries


The Doom That Came to Sarnath - A race of people who lived in the land of Mnar along the River Ai decide their domain is not large enough and settle a new city, Sarnath, on the edge of a great lake. Its citizens are irked that there is a city on the other side of the lake called Ib which is populated by ugly sentient creatures who worship a great lake lizard named Bokrug. So they overthrew Ib and burned it to the ground, killing all its citizens. Every year after that for the next 1,000 years the citizens of Sarnath celebrated the destruction of Ib as an unparallelled victory. In the 1,000th year, however, the title of the story took place and Sarnath was swallowed as the water level in the lake suddenly and mysteriously rose to destroy the metropolis during its annual festivities. From then on, the surrounding cities in the land of Mnar began worshipping Bokrug out of fear of meeting the same fate as the city of Sarnath. Meh.

Not a particularly bad read, but there wasn't anything even remotely scary or creepy about it either. In addition, the title's kind of a spoiler in itself, isn't it? Still, though, it's at least a decent, very short and innocuous introduction to the geography of many of the Dream Cycle stories to come.

The Dreams in the Witch-House - A math and arcane studies student at Arkham University named Walter Gilman takes a room at a boarding house known to have been occupied centuries ago by a convicted witch named Keziah Mason. Gilman, whose dreams become increasingly more bizarre and frequented by the old hag and her hideous ratlike companion "Brown Jenkin," begins delving into the occult as well, and he asserts that math (particularly geometry) and the occult are inexpicably intertwined with one another. Eventually Gilman's dreams take him to unearthly realms where he witnesses Keziah Mason fraternizing with a mysterious Black Man (not negro) and strange monsters. One night he dreams that he accompanies the three others in kidnapping an infant from town. When Keziah Mason tries to sacrifice the baby during the subsequent night's sojourn Gilman attempts to stop her, but Brown Jenkin carries out the sacrifice. The next day Gilman's body is found in his bed, apparently having been partially devoured by Brown Jenkin. Years later, the landlord razes the building and finds evil tools and souvenirs between the walls adjacent to Gilman's (Mason's) room.

I liked this story. It was a bit longer than most, but entertaining all the way through. Brown Jenkin is a truly creepy little critter. Imagine a sneaky, filthy, magical ratlike creature the size of a large housecat, only with a human face and sharp little teeth. Now imagine him creeping around town at night, nuzzling people's necks as they sleep. (shudder)

The Dunwich Horror - In the New England town of Dunwich, Wilbur Whately is born of Lavinia Whately (daughter of the local mysteriously creepy old guy known as "Wizard Whately") and an unknown father. From the beginning, Wilbur matures at an alarming rate, not only in size but also in intellect. He's scary enough as is, but once his grandfather gets him deep into witchcraft Wilbur is not only hated by animals (especially the neighborhood dogs), but each and every townsperson shuns him out of fear. For years the two of them cultivate some sort of project in the Whately house. They are forced more than once to renovate and expand the home to accommodate the increasingly larger project. Only after Wizard Whately dies and Wilbur is killed by guard dogs in his search for the Necronomicon with the goal of unleashing the horrible primeval entity Yog-Sothoth does the true nature of their "project" come to light. With no one left to feed it, the horror breaks free to terrorize the town of Dunwich. It's then that Professor Armitage of Miskatonic University assembles a small ragtag team of demonbusters to come to the rescue of the small town (and indeed the world).

Great story! I understand why this one has endured as a fan favorite for 80+ years. It's very suspenseful, intriguing and expertly written. I especially love some of the dialect work in this story, and the clever storytelling methods employed, particularly near the end of it. A MUST READ.