Short Story Friday: “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft

160149“The Call of Cthulhu” – H.P. Lovecraft
Original Year Published: 1928 in Weird Tales
Rating: ★★★★☆
Link to Story: Find it HERE
Links to Collection: Amazon, Book Depository

Above these apparent hieroglyphics was a figure of evident pictorial intent, though its impressionistic execution forbade a very clear idea of its nature. It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful. Behind the figure was a vague suggestions of a Cyclopean architectural background.

This is not your conventional horror story that you would expect.  Rather, it is not the contemporary horror you see in the movies.  You will not find the kind of slaughter fest of Saw, but a prelude to the more psychological, strange tales that we see nowadays.  In short, rather than horrify you, “The Call of Cthulhu” will leave you unsettled and wondering about the vast unknown that the universe holds.

Elder gods, creatures around long before the advent of man, entities unable to be understood completely and thus hold such wonder and terror among them.  Qualities that defy our understanding of the natural world.  Grand in scope and size, we are simple ants in comparison. Awakened, they will cause such chaos as to potentially be the end of humanity.

We see one man’s journey of discovering his uncle’s accounts of “the horror in clay”, dreams that plague the minds of people worldwide, hysteria, mania… And watch as all the pieces are finally put together as to what it truly all means.

It felt nice to delve into more classical writing styles… refreshing, perhaps.  It had been a while since I have visited older works.  Lovecraft, unfortunately, reminded me of antiquated views of humanity that sadly permeated many of the great minds of the time.  That is to say, please do not let the racism that does weed its way into the story from time to time completely ruin your enjoyment of the tale itself.  (Sufficient to say, even if being more forgiving due to the time this story was written, that was much of what forced me not to give a five star rating.)

While maybe not my favorite work by this author — I have read “The Dunwich Horror” and enjoyed it to a greater extent, though it may be due to it being published later on — the atmosphere created by Lovecraft’s writing absolutely enthralled me.  Particularly with the scenes of the cult worship deep in the Louisianan swampland.  Maybe it is due to my familiarity with the area, but those passages stick the most solidly in my brain.  No other location, to me, is creepier than swamps at night.  Additionally, maybe one of the most horrific aspects of the story is the dreams and nightmares that came to a sizable portion of people — are there many things worse than being tortured night after night by dreams of such monstrosities?

We don’t necessarily get the strong characterization found in many short pieces of fiction, but it is unneeded.  Various journals, writings, and first-hand accounts the narrator comes across is all that is required to feel at unease as Lovecraft wishes you to.  As if you wished you had never found out the “truth”.  And that is the aspect that makes this story great to me.

I leave you with the opening paragraph, which has ingrained itself into my brain and may be the absolute truth to humanity:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.


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