The Tree is a complicated story to grasp. I read it multiple times just to be able to write this simple post. I will be honest, the true meaning of this story is somewhat lost on me. It is apparent that HPL was being heavily influenced by Arthur Machen, who is notorious for his fictional tales of the dark powers of Pan. But in all honesty, as much as I love HPL, this work is near unreadable and would overtly recommend Machen’s The Great God Pan instead (which many have called the greatest horror story in the English language). So how can Lovecraft really compete with that when writing a tale of Pan? Well, he can’t. And so he doesn’t. I mean Pan hardly factors into the story unless you agree with some of the interpretations of the tale, that the faun god himself was the force that used the tree to destroy everything at the end.
My own interpretation is sketchy at best. Working solely from what I know of Lovecraft and the words written in the story, the most I can glean is that the two artists’ work was equal in skill. But perhaps the work of Kalos was just that much more inspired. Perhaps his daily communion with dryads and other beings lead to a work equal in skill but just slightly more imagined. I can possibly conceive that in his grief Musides took up work on Kalo’s sculpture. I am not convinced he would have done so entirely because Kalos’ was better, but out of the honor of his lost friend, he would seek to finish his work. This may have ultimately angered Kalos whose work was not being completed by him or it could have angered the gods who bestowed the artistic gift upon Kalos and not Musides. Whether it was the will of the dead Kalos, the god Pan, or just random weather patterns, something struck down Musides and the completed work before it could be fully unveiled to the world.
So where does this sit in the larger Lovecraftian scheme of things? Well that is really hard to say. Part of me wants to say no where as this story is really not very good. It can vagely be attached to the future ideas of godly forces, unseen inhuman creatures, or the almost otherworldly gifts of the artistic set, that would all appear in future HPL fiction, but then I am stretching things. This connects to Lovecraft because it was written by Lovecraft. A one-off poorly written piece inspired by a master contemporary of HPL. Because it is hard to see it is as little more, let’s move on.
If you want to try, you can read the whole text here: HPL’s The Tree
|Illustration by Jeff Powers © 2013|