Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lovecraft 101 - The Crawling Chaos

The Crawling Chaos
The Crawling Chaos, not to be confused with a name often attributed to Nyarlathotep, was printed and credited as being by Elizabeth Berkeley and Lewis Theobald, Jr. Now in reality, this story was written solely by HPL, but was based around a letter that had been written to him. The letter was from a fellow writer, Winifred Virginia Jackson, who is credited under the pseudonym of Berkeley. In her letter, Jackson tells Lovecraft of a dream she has had, and it is from that dream that this story is based. There is a lot of interesting history between Jackson and Lovecraft, both before and after his death, but it seems to lengthy to get into here and hardly crucial to understanding the story.
The central protagonist of the story is a man sick with disease who is being medicated with all sorts of opiates. Drugs do turn up a lot in Lovecraft stories, though they often aren't featured centrally (apart from the Herbert West stories of a drug capable of resurrection), but in this story we have a rather psychedelic set up of allusions to drugs opening the experiences of the mind. Not too far removed from the scientific efforts of the doctor in From Beyond, looking to perceive things unseen.
In the pounding paranoia of a drug overdose, the narrator finds himself in a strange world far into the future where the oceans are tearing away at the land. A small child appears and tells him of the mystical land known only as Teloe, perhaps derived from the Greek word for the end. Along with other youths, he is pulled outward toward the lands "beyond the Milky Way" but he is distracted and looks back to see the entire world consumed in watery cataclysm.
This final scene draws connections to other works of Lovecraft, including Dagon. As the waves consume the world, a hidden continent is uncovered. The endtimes world also described in Dagon and later in some Cthulhu stories.
During the time that HPL was writing these last few stories, roughly 1919-1921, the world was in turmoil. Coming out of World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic, millions of people around the world were dead, the economy was plumetting and the world just seemed to be falling into chaos. It is no wonder that Lovecraft would react to this atmosphere with tales of a dismal end of all things. Conjuring up images of shouting evangelicals citing Revelation over the grumbling nods of the unemployed and futureless.

If you want to read this poetic dream-fuelled trip, you can check out the full text here: HPL's The CrawlingChaos
Illustration by Jeff Powers © 2013

1 comment:

Chris said...

Wow, this illustration is amazing. And in only two colors!

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