Found manuscripts were a common framing device in early science fiction. It was used in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and is still incorporated in horror films today. The idea of a remote possibility that the fantastic things you are reading may have been true adds an extra layer of texture to the story. It is a framing device I toy with in my own novel. It also lends well to HPL's love of writing in the archaic style of old handwritten journals and letters.
The Temple tells the first-hand accounts of a lieutenant-commander in the German Navy during World War I. Essentially a "buried-alive" story, this frightening tale may in fact be the very first story of the horrors of being trapped in a submarine deep beneath the ocean. Submarines were still new, but a growing threat in world military events. That alone, makes this story rather eerie, but Lovecraft adds what would come to be his signature elements into this story.
Themes that started in Dagon, also a World War I story, and that continue into the Call of Cthulhu, The Temple conjures up ancient prehistoric cities and unholy temples, underwater nightmares and strange haunting idols. Oddly enough, in this story, the city appears to be of human origin, perhaps even being the lost city of Atlantis and the birthplace of human culture.
The Temple was HPL's first publication in the famous Weird Tales magazine that would become the center of his publishing career. Lovecraft defined Weird Tales as much as they defined him. Both relying on each other for mainstream success. As the story progresses, Lovecraft once again conjures up imagery of madness. Even by the end we are left wondering if the events, in all their fantasy, are even real, or purely the works of a madman trapped in isolation under the sea.
The Temple is one of the most accesable of the HPL stories we have covered so far. It is not surprising it would be picked up by a popular adventure magazine of the day. Cinematic in scope and presentation, The Temple is certainly an enjoyable read, and if you want to check out this tale of undersea psychosis and nightmare you can check out the original text here: HPL's The Temple
|Illustration by Jeff Powers © 2013|