Friday, May 14, 2010

The Hound by H.P. Lovecraft

The Hound
by H.P. Lovecraft

This short story varies from most other Lovecraft tales in its morbidly descriptive and baroque nature.  Although written with tongue in cheek as "Hebert West: Reanimator" was, the wild and darkly humorous aspects of that story are missing here.  "The Hound" takes itself more seriously, or at least it pretends it does, and so it reads like genuine Lovecraft...albeit Lovecraft heavy on the Poe.

Two rather sick and twisted men, our Nameless Narrator and his friend St. John, have taken up the sickening habit of grave robbing. They steal not only whatever valuables they may find entombed, but in some instances even the bodies themselves--or at least parts of them--for display in their secret underground death museum.

Observe:
"Around the walls of this repellent chamber were cases of antique mummies alternating with comely, lifelike bodies perfectly stuffed and cured by the taxidermist's art, and with headstones snatched from the oldest churchyards of the world. Niches here and there contained skulls of all shapes, and heads preserved in various stages of dissolution. There one might find the rotting, bald pates of famous noblemen, and the flesh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children."
One such grisly expedition uncovers an almost perfectly preserved corpse, and around that corpse's neck an odd little amulet which our pair of ghouls instantly know they must have.

But why is that dog howling in the distance? And why can it continue to be heard, even after they make their way home? It's almost as if...it were following them!

This story is a gruesome experiment in horror, and I love the result. Lovecraft himself later all but disowned it, calling it a 'dead dog' (pun intended?), just as he did with "Herbert West", and in both cases, those tales proved to be among my favorites. As I stated in my review of that previous story, it seems hard to believe that Lovecraft didn't like these works.  He seems to have take such glee in his gory descriptions that such a claim seems almost ludicrous.

Me thinks he dost protest too much.

My theory--based on absolutely nothing, mind you--is that Lovecraft really did love the grue, but his Anglo worship caused him to think that taking enjoyment in such things was improper. Kind of like a Catholic school boy shamefully masturbating in the bathroom, liking the way it feels but knowing full well that his god does not approve.  And so Lovecraft, in the wake of his blood orgies, was so overcome with guilt and shame that he pretended to have never liked them, simply because he could not deny that they never actually existed.

Well ain't he a dandy?

Whatever the case, the man's got a way with the colour red.

It should be noted that this story features the first time that Lovecraft's Necronomicon is mentioned by name.

--J/Metro

4 comments:

  1. Definitely one of HPL's best minor tales. However I thought "The Festival" or "The Nameless City" had the first mention of Necronomicon? You should read Poppy Z. Brite's short story "And His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood" if you haven't and compare the two.

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  2. Will: You are correct in that "The Nameless City" did indeed reference the Necronomicon, although it was never mentioned by name. Abdul Alhazred is quoted in the story, and it would later be revealed that the quote came from the Necronomicon, but the book itself was never named here. "The Festival" did mention the book by name, however that story wasn't published until almost a year after "The Hound" (according to the H.P. Lovecraft Archive).

    --J/Metro

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  3. Definitely agree with you whole-heartedly on this one, Jonny. I LOVED this story with every ounce of my wicked heart. Like you said, it's a departure (a refreshing one IMO) from the typical Lovecraftian lore. The Gothic atmosphere and almost comic book-like violence of it brings a smile to my face. Truly one of H.P.'s best. Great write up!

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  4. Just found this today while doing a Google on "The Hound." I love this story so much, to the point where I wrote my own direct sequel to it. E'ch-Pi-El penned it during his brief tryst with Decadent Literature, and some have a theory that in writing the tale Lovecraft was mocking his own style--an idea that I utterly reject, since Lovecraft usually approached writing with intense seriousness. There are some wonderful readings of the story on YouTube, and the H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast have a reading as well--although, strangely, I cannot find that they did a discussion of ye story.

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