Forbidden Texts And Wild Men

This Week’s Research:56. Book or MS. too horrible to read—warned against reading it—someone reads and is found dead. Haverhill incident.
The Resulting Story: Saint Silvanus, Part 1 ,St. Silvanus, Pt 2

At long last the short prompts have given way to something more substantive! We even have a particular place to begin our examination from, and I suspect a potential narrative of Lovecraft’s to examine in the wider mythos. Always delightful to dig into particulars and details, isn’t it?

To begin with, the “Haverhill Incident”. There are a handful of notable facts about Haverhill, Massachusets. It was the home of a key judge who recused himself from the witchcraft trials of Salem, as well as the potential witch John Godfrey. Mr. Godfrey has a more interesting history, but we will save both of them for a bit on witch craft later.

During it’s early days, it was home to a still controversial figure, Hannah Duston who killed a number of natives that she claims kidnapped her. Haverhill was also home to the abolitionist movement in the 18th and 19th century, early in the nations history. It suffered a severe winter fire, that was too large to be contained and striking when the wells had dried. For those interested in politics, Haverhill also boasts the first socialist mayor.

This is a long way of saying, I have no clue what the “Haverhill” Incident is. 1919 puts it before the outbreak of the Haverhill diesease, which involved bacteria commonly found in rats. It could have, knowing Lovecraft’s fascinations, referred to any number of the above. Or it could have referred to some of the stranger things. In order to avoid delving into too many topics, we will table witchcraft for now. Looking at the prompts, we will return to witches broadly on 99 and 110.

The Wild Man of Haverhill is an individual reported by authorities in the early 1900s and the 1800s. In 1826, a local man was struck mad with fever and fled into the woods. Authorities later had reports of a man causing a disturbance in the area. Believing this to be the unfortunate man, a Mr. Fink, the authorities were shocked to find an unrelated individual described as a wild man. Another report of a wild man comes in 1909, although much briefer and only from a small newspaper clipping. The Wild man was again approached by authorities, but nothing came of it that is recorded. And wild men are…interesting.

WoodWose1.png

The wild man dates back, arguably, all the way to the Epic of Gilgamesh, with Enkidu. Medieval European takes on this archetype include both those cursed to the wilderness by God and those who retreat into the wilderness for ascetic reasons. Thus both Nebachanezzer and a saint are wildmen like. One might even argue that John the Baptist, who lived off honey and curds in the wilds, was one of these wildmen. A more modern wild man of the saintly mold would be the folk hero Johnny Appleseed, who was both missionary and spreader of the apple crop throughout the United States.

More benign wildmen, at least as understood by modern audiences, include satyrs and fauns. To put it lightly, satyrs are much more the wild man cursed then the wild man who is a saint. Despite what perhaps has been presented, the average satyr was a rather unpleasant and often extremely sexual creature that was not well liked. Fauns on the other hand were more like shepherds as we imagine now, less crazed but more decent.

Two Satyrs By Peter Paul Rubens.png

It is sadly accurate for a Satyr to look at you like that.

Other famed examples of men from the wilds, often extremely strong ones, include the likes of Grendel who at least partly resembles a fierce man stalking in the mire. In Ireland, there are records of a cryptozoological creature that resembles a large hairy man outside of social bonds, the Grey Man. The creature’s height varies, sometimes up to ten feet tall.

The creature does resemble another breed of wildmen, more in Grendels lineage then satyrs: the great apes. Sasquatch for instance falls into this category. The sasquatch or bigfoot has some precedent in the stories of First Nations, including the skookum, a group of cannibalistic wild men. The idea of great apes lurking in the wilderness can be found elsewhere however. In Nepal, the equally famous yeti exists. The Yeti, a large furred creature in the mountains, has unclear origins. At least one author suggests it is a creature that was once revered as a lord of the hunt. Others have posited that it, along with sasquatch, is really a form of bear that has been misidentified.

Sasquatch.png

Quite a photophobic family.

The Almas, a group reportedly not that far from the Yeti, bears a more human resemblance. Interestingly, it is only 6 feet tall, well within human heights. Further, it is rather sophisticated. While it lives in “squalor”, it seems to possess habitations more advanced then most supposed wild men. Also, its mute. A strange trait to give a great ape. Details like this help separate the variations.

Orang Pendak is another wild race, this time from Indonesia. The Orang Pendak, depending on describer, is a large ape that has lived in the jungle for large amounts of time. The Orang Pendak often has reversed feet, and is a herbivore that raids farms frequently. Resembling more an ape than a wildman, the Orang Pendak almost resembles a large orangutan, with long arms and short legs.

In Pakistan, there is the Barmanou, a creature that resembles a great ape and sits between the Yeti and the Almas. Unlike the other creatures described, however, the Barmanou has a desire to mate with human women or at least abduct them, a trait that has…strange implications that Lovecraft would approve of. But we will get to Lovecraft’s assorted takes on this in time. There is more to unearth.

Mapinguari.png

Looks Lovecraftian, don’t he? (Image from:http://www.freaklore.com/legends-of-the-mapinguari)

In Brazil there is what might be the strangest of these creatures. The mapinguari is silent, has the hide of a crocodile, emits a terrible noise when startled and smells horrible. Its feet are backwards and it has a lizards long claws, and maybe strangest of all, it has a mouth on it’s belly. The creature cannot cross water, and while carnivorous does not eat humans.

It is interesting to note, as a brief aside, that there was once a group of hominids that matched these massive heights, and at least one species of great ape that grew truly large. Densiovians were, by some estimates, eight feet tall and in the Himalayas region. Not much is known, but at least some mention of scientific grounding might be nice. We also know of prehistoric apes that grew to insane sizes.

Lovecraft himself features these sorts of creatures in many distinct forms. The first is the white apes, a species of ape in the Congo that can interbreed with humans. The questionable facts arising from this are…well, need less to say we will not pursue Mr. Lovecraft’s taste in this direction. Its…less than appealing. The mythos does have three more distinct and stranger connections.

The Gof’nn Hupadgh Shub-niggurath, creatures of Mr. Campbell’s creation, are describe as worshipers of the Black Goat of a Thousand Young who she swallows and then spits out, rendering them immortal and bestial like the satyrs and nymphs. They thus resemble wild men the most closely, without being…disturbed. The capacity for horror with these creatures needs only a return to form, of wildness, barbarity, chaos, and lack of control in an environment. The horrifying wild man is the wild and part of a man, and in such interactions are dangerous. If we take away the racist fear of miscegenation, we can still produce a horror of giving into baser instincts or the animal within –werewolves do this to, by the way.

In some cases, the yeti in particular resembles the Wendigo. The wendigo, in real life, is a creature of folklore that is cannibalisitic. The details of the Wendigo varies from story to story. Often, they are floating, but sometimes they are possessing spirits like we discussed here. The wendigo in mythos is known as Ithaqua. Ithqua is a creation of Dereleth, a creature of the far north that often steals his victims away into far off worlds for his amusement, siring children with mortals, and generally being a terror where he can be. But Lovecraft himself has the strangest addition.

Migo

Yeah, I can totally see the Yeti connection…

The Migo are not what one thinks of when one thinks of abominable snow men or wild men. They are crustacean like creatures, that also resemble insects and fungus. They fly through the space on wings, they have claws like crabs, the have a colony on Yuggoth, the 9th planet of the solar system(Pluto was discovered after Lovecraft wrote the first story. He wrote that maybe Yuggoth was found after all). The Migo have some startling qualities, however, that might be interesting. They are devotees of Shub-Niggurath at times, and thus have some commonality with the wildness earlier described. One of their better known traits is the capacity of mimicking voices to lure others towards them. And Lovecraftian authors have advanced the Migo as a number of folkloric creatures origin point. These include not only the yeti above, but also the Greek goblin kallikantzaros, a creature who’s resemblance to a corpse crab insect I do not see. Another wonderful blog, Lovecraftian Science, has spent a good deal of time with these creatures, their biology, and their customs.

Yellow Sign.png

But there is another Lovecraft mythos connection, returning to the prompt. The book that must not be read is a trope in Lovecraft that becomes manifest in a number of ways. Most comparable to this one is the King in Yellow, a dramatic play tied to the horror of ambiguous nature that is Hastur. The King in Yellow is a play and the character of the play and the name for an anthology which the play is found in, by Robert Chambers. The themes of the stories are various, but the mythos has taken the King in Yellow as a dreadful, decadent, nihilist, and decaying force in the world. And, as frequently known, to read the play is to invite misfortune at large. Hastur’s name was made ineffable via the Dungeons and Dragons book Deities and Demigods, who asserted that to repeat it three times was to conjure the mysterious old one and doom us all. This attribute has appeared since in various stories. There are also dangerous texts such as the Necronomicon, who’s knowledge cost it’s author his life(but more on that when it arises), and various records of the Cthulhu cult, which invite death from it’s members.

All in all, a lot to work with. And we are out of space to discuss the many story possibillities! But do not worry. The wild woods will beckon soon. Oh! And before carrying on, to my amusement, there is a local to Haverhill story about Mr. Lovecraft’s “youthful escapades”, and how he bribed a young woman he was dating to visit him with promises of the dread Necronomicon. The layers of impossible that are at play there are hilarious.

If you’d like to support the Society, receive more stories or research, or are feeling generous, please check out our Patreon here.

The Battle of Timalt Tower

This Week’s Prompt:26. Dream of ancient castle stairs—sleeping guards—narrow window—battle on plain between men of England and men of yellow tabards with red dragons. Leader of English challenges leader of foe to single combat. They fight. Foe unhelmeted, but there is no head revealed. Whole army of foe fades into mist, and watcher finds himself to be the English knight on the plain, mounted. Looks at castle, and sees a peculiar concentration of fantastic clouds over the highest battlements.

The Research: The Storm Comes. The Dragon Roars.

Slowly I ascend the stairs of the old stone tower. Timalt was built in the old days, before the Normans came, before the Saxons came, before the Romans came, when all was still British in the North and South of the Isle. It’s stones were strong blocks from Faerie times, and its foundations the bones of the earth. I drifted up past sleeping guards, long enchanted by aged magics, to the roof of the tower. For outside there was the sound of clashing steel and the roar of the war horn.

I sat atop the towers roof, and saw the forces arrayed on the field. On the West end of the field, there was a host of Englishmen. Bright red were their shields, with the great wyvern of Wessex on their flags. Shining swords and spears of steel marked them, and they were the ones bellowing such dreadful horns. At their head stood a man with a great helm and sword, taller by a foot then his fellows, atop a mighty steed and dressed in chain.

Arrayed on the East side, with the setting sun, were men foreign and familiar to my eyes. Men in yellow shirts and tabards, come from forgotten hills and mountains. They bore no marks on their shields or banners, just a bright yellow plain. A host of great serpents, with red scales and eyes of fire walked and flew above them. They had teeth like swords and claws like spears, and from their mouth issued fire, that destroyer of cities.

At their head walked a man tall and mighty, like a giant born again. His blade was notched along it’s edges, and not of steel but some strange darker metal. He rode atop the greatest of the wyrms, a beast with five heads and belching thunder as well as flame. And he too was foreign and familiar. For the English had a name for his kind, that they oft forgot. These were the men beneath the hills and dales, whom the Faeries drove out when they fled. They were the sons of Death and Time, great terrors of the world. The clergy would say that they were the parody of man, made by the enemy. The wise speculate the opposite. That such beasts seem to have culture older than our own inclines unfortunate conclusions. They are the Igvs, creatures that have been and will be for many years to come.

The two engaged in melee for sometime. The English let loose their bows, raining arrows down on the wooden shields and scaly hides of the enemy. The response from the enemy is the calk-clak-clak and a loud whirring sound. A number of them lift up strange weapons that resemble spears and let loose volleys of darts and arrows. A multitude of the Englishmen are sent writhing, their armor glowing like stars atop the misty ground.

The swords now meet, and here at first the English have the advantage, driving steel between tabard and skin. But the serpents now roar, and at the front runners direction, belch fire onto the men. Shields are feeble tools against a dragons flame. The tall Englishman, their champion and leader, strides forward despite the fire and shouts in a strange tongue to his opposite. I understood it’s meaning, if not it’s words.

“This land is under my protection still, vile creature of the Gurganthor! By my blade you will be undone as before, and sent scurrying back below!”

I find it strange that he speaks not in English, doubly that he seems to know this dark king of the Igvs who swarm up with him. The King of the Igvs draws his marked blade in reply.

“The time has come, the sun is fading, the light below is growing great. Come forth, you fool of Avalon and lost kin, and meet your fate. My blade is sure, my body still, my blood will not be split.”

And with that the Englishman, or at least the body of one, charged forward. Some bravery infected his horse, stirring against it’s natural enemy. The Dragon roared, and the flame spilled forth, but by some trick the horse was unscathed. The clang of steel rang out as the king of Igvs and the English Lord dueled. There was an unusual grace to the King of Igvs, each blow slowly flowing into another. It was as if the sea rose and fell, wave after wave assaulting the coastline.

Perhaps, against the stony style of another English lord, or Saxon brute, or Norman conqueror, it would have overcome. The weapons of time are gradual and grinding, like wheels and sands. The steel makes roots that crack the armor, the shimmer bypasses it as the wind of ages does. But all these powers found a strange foe in the Englishman.

For he did not, as I expected and have observed elsewhere, hold a rigorous guard. His blade was swift, his arm a flickering flame. His shield relented and shifted, his body liquid and sinuous. As the King of Igvs grew in size, his arms swelling like trees, so did the Englishmen seem all the smaller and more nimble. His sword a stinger, his form a scorpion or a bees. One moment he was beneath the tremendous blow of the King of Igvs, the next he slipped away. Never has a mortal man been so artful.

At last, the fateful blow came. The Englishman’s sword felled the great tree of Igv’s head, freeing the great metal mask that lay on that knotted trunk. But then I was astonished. Beneath the helmet of the king, there was no head at all.

And then I was no longer on the oldest tower, atop the bones of the world. I had a body again, of tired flesh and sinew, of worn muscles and rapidly pulsing heart. I was atop a horse, who shook violently. I blinked rapidly, looking about, sword still in hand. I saw the old tower, the wretched tower, built round an old tree according to the men of God.

And atop it a strange storm flickered and flashed. My mind slowly receded from my memories in that tower, but I could not recall what had happened when I was here. I knew not why I was on the field, nor why I led so few against so many. Before me fled into the hills the Igvs, leaving clattering armor behind. And my memory with them threatened to recede, with nothing but the silver and crimson lighting left.

If you’d like to support the Society, receive more stories or research, or are feeling generous, please check out our Patreon here.

The Storm Comes. The Dragon Roars.

This weeks prompt reads: 26. Dream of ancient castle stairs—sleeping guards—narrow window—battle on plain between men of England and men of yellow tabards with red dragons. Leader of English challenges leader of foe to single combat. They fight. Foe unhelmeted, but there is no head revealed. Whole army of foe fades into mist, and watcher finds himself to be the English knight on the plain, mounted. Looks at castle, and sees a peculiar concentration of fantastic clouds over the highest battlements.

The Resulting Story:The Battle of Timalt Tower
Welcome back, brothers and sisters of our esteemed order! We apologize for the delay, but tests must be taken and some recovery was need after dwelling on the abyss for too long. So we begin this week looking at something a bit new. A dream again, of a great battle worthy of the father of fantasy, with dragons and swords and duels and inhuman powers! So, let us take it a part bit by bit and begin.

I will not begin by examining the nature of the color yellow. That is a doomed rabbit hole of hundreds of cultural contexts that might not lead anywhere. I will, however, begin by addressing Mr. Lovecraft’s most famous character in yellow: The King in Yellow. The King in Yellow and his city of Carcosa actually predates the works of Lovecraft.

Yellow Sign.png

The King in Yellow is in fact a play initial, about the arrival of the King in Yellow from his realm of Hali. The book it is found in deals greatly with many horrifying concepts, but chiefly the play is famed for driving those made with truth at the end. The King in Yellow comes as a revelation, a terrible truth that will expand his realm over into Carcosa. The book as a whole focuses on similar revelers, artists and decadents.

For these, the King in Yellow is also often associated with decay, decedance, and entropy. And the allies of the men in yellow, the great red dragons, are similair. While the term dragon has grown to apply to just about anything vaguely serpentine (as giant applies to all things big, and fairy to all things magical), there is something of a concrete definition to be found. In general, a dragon is a serpentine creature, possessing magical powers, and often legs.

This includes a variety of creatures of course. The dragons of the Journey to the West, who are lords of vast treasure and the undersea realms, fit the mold as easily as the great wyrm Fafnir, a transfigured dwarf of the Volsung saga. It also includes perhaps the Feathered Serpent (a proper deity, who we will discuss on article only to him and his kin), and my favorite dragons: the slavic Zmey, who have three heads and spit thunder and occasionally have children with mortals.

zmey

Best dragon.

But these dragons are known to Englishmen, and are brilliant red. The color is the key here. And as I would not try and unearth all the secrets of the color yellow, I will likewise not do so with red. But a red dragon? That symbol is known. The red dragon, as those who play various tabeltop games or read Biblical lore might know, is the most fearsome of all kinds. For that is the beast of revelation, the great dragon with seven heads and seven crowns upon it’s heads, and a blasphemy on each crown.

RedDragonRevelation.png

So we have an allegiance of somewhat diabolic forces, and an air of enchantment. For if this story is to have weight, I would certainly not permit a dream to be the focus of an entire plot. Thus we have the last section, the strange clouds floating over the tower. Strange clouds and storms are often means of transportation and conscious movements.

But storms also have a second role: They are marks of strange and dangerous creatures. The Umu dabrutu, the Zu, and Pazuzu of Sumerian mythology, for example, are terribly and chaotic storms bearing weapons into battle. The Maruts form another host, underneath the greater storm gods. The thunder birds are kinder creatures, but still, beholding one forces one to do all things backwards. The storm, as a symbol of power among many a high god, is also a dangerous and chaotic force at times. In more recent times, ariel spirits are often counted among the ranks of demons and horrors.

lighting-sprites

In other news, these were seen above hurricane Matthew. Delightful.

Thus we have something of a notion of what is at stake. There are great forces of desolation and diobaltry on the rise, threatening to overcome the English dead. There is some strange sorcery on the tower, kindly or no. Perhaps some wizard has switched places with the leader of the english, in order to save them. Perhaps it was some working of the enemy leader, who possesses some magic if he’s able to hold a form without a head or body.

This would be where I dwelled a great deal on the formation of our story…but it is again rather plainly laid out. Likewise, we have a protagonist and narrator already. So again, we will leave it be with these wondering on the things themselves.

What relation to these yellow tabard men have with the dragons? Are the dragons their beasts of battle, or are they the dragons servants? They are willing to engage in a duel on foot, and appear to be proficient at their swordsman ship. The dragon might bespeak a welsh character, or even a Norse, with the dragon as a flag or figurehead on a ship.

somersetflag

What is the history of this war? Is it recent? Is it habitual, for men in yellow to assail England from some country unseen? We are told this is a group of Englishmen, not a group of men from any particular reason. This places it probably after the Norman Conquest, or shortly before it. Interestingly, if we take the terms metaphorically (and thus in a way that I, dear brothers and sisters, find incredibly dreary), we find that a flag of such resembles the flag of Somerset. Of course, Somerset is distinctly and definitely English. Still, perhaps that will be useful for your reconstruction.

We will come again next week, then, with this English leader’s corpse. And all will be well.

If you’d like to support the Society, receive more stories or research, or are feeling generous, please check out our Patreon here.