This Weeks Prompt: 31. Prehistoric man preserved in Siberian ice. (See Winchell—Walks and Talks in the Geological field—p. 156 et seq.)
The Resulting Story:At the Bottom Of The World
Finding textbooks is getting easier and easier my friends. Sadly, what exactly caught Mr. Lovecraft’s eye in Walks and Talks is unknown to me. The source I used can be found here, and seems to be dealing with the distribution of iron veins across multiple strata. It might relate to the lodestone, given the lodestone’s association with arctic locales. But given that it seems a bit distant, and obscure, we’ll focus on the other trope. The frozen caveman.
The frozen caveman (unfrozen for our amusement) is a trope of television that is primarily the realm of comedy. Hence finding people frozen for their preservation in places like Scooby Doo, Futurama, and Austin Powers. But clearly there was something frightening about such a being to Mr. Lovecraft, and to explain that we’re going to have to look at the nature of time and ‘evolution’.
I don’t mean ‘evolution’ as in the biological process of change over time on a massive scale. That is another discussion. I mean the more classic model of human change often accepted in the ancient world, the progress of Golden Age to Iron Age (back to Golden Age sometimes). These epochs are marked by mass changes in size and power and intellect, with mankind often shrinking in every capacity as time goes on. Occasionally there are tales of men from past time coming forth, and being revered for their older better ways. Ogier the Dane and Muchukunda.
There are exceptions, of course. The Aztec passage of deities does not include a continuity, but rather a violent termination of each world by one or another of the gods, and the creation of animals instead of simply declining. In fact, the Aztec cosmos has a world where in man is growing more refined instead of weaker.
This theory of spiritual evolution had growing popularity in Lovecraft’s time, with the arrival of both Theosphany and the increasingly prevalent notions of eugenics. The past ancestors of mankind, as presented by pulp fiction authors of the era, where either alien in form and mind or inhabited an untamed and alien world. This is where we might find some of our horror, in the savagery of the past, but we discussed the problems (and strangeness) of that prehuman path here. Likewise, the snake men, who are often placed in the past of mankind were discussed here as a possibility.
So what does that leave us, for describing the shape of a plot? We fundamentally have a story of two worlds meeting, albeit separated by the gulf of time rather than of space. This disturbs both (well, barring time travel, it disturbs the one) and things begin to fall apart. How and why is then the questions.
Well, we are left with two possibilities. The one is a story where we sit as we normally do, as moderns observing the behavior of a discovered savage. Here, perhaps, the horror is formed like a monster story. We are concerned with a monster that is a man, almost a slasher film on the page.
Alternatively, we examine the discovery of a savages…well, savageness. If we begin with believers in the Five Ages of Man, then it is horrifying to find how cruel and monstrous humanities origins are relative to their expectations (we could attempt this with our modern understandings, and the numerous species of the homo genus we have, but that would be far less entertaining and frankly significantly harder). This basic outline could also be reversed, with the discovery of some primeval Adam or Eve that was as noble and civilized as the ancients would have expected being discovered by moderns looking for monsters.
Finally, there is the perspective of the awakened one. Either as a most noble ancestor shocked at the decline all around him (again, Muchukunda is more than applicable here) or the primitive ancestor horrified at the strange and noisy sights around him as modern technology is quite terrifying to the unawares.
Of these, the middle seems the most interesting. A ‘noble’ ancestor can be horrifying in unexpected ways, alarming moderns with antiquated ideas of proper behavior or with their bizarre physiology (drawing from Muchukunda’s accidental annihilation of a man with his mere gaze). There is something more horrifying about a well meaning monster. There always hope of relief from monsters and beasts, that some salvation will come in the form of civilizing endeavors. But when the opposition is the more ‘civilized’, than things are strained. When a demon comes, there is always hope an angel will arrive. When an angel comes, there is little refuge left.
That is what I will be starting with then. An ancient ancestor of a stranger, more noble sort. Constructing that sort of entity without treading into Theosphany’s imperialism or racism will be tricky if one wants to avoid going completely alien. But we will try. Multiple subjects might be better.
What ideas do you have from this prompt? What lies beneath the Siberiean ice for you?
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