Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lovecraft 101 - The Quest of Iranon & The Moon-Bog

The Quest of Iranon
Sadly we go from the great lovecraftian story last time, The Nameless City, to this...thing. I really don't know what is up with this story, that essentially rehashes a lot of things from other stories like Celaphais. I have never cared much for the characters in this story, and I have always found it all a bit comical. I agree with Chad Feifer over at HPPodcraft, that this story often does feel like a Footloose-style 80s movie set in the midwest.
We do once again get some reference to other Lovecraft stories, which will become more and more common in the stories to come as HPL develops his myths. In this story, the main character, Iranon, mentions Sarnath and Lomar. Lomar being the land where Polaris took place. If you remember, Polaris was a Dreamlands story, but this story is not. So I wanted to write about the existence of places in Lovecraft's cosmos. As I have mentioned before, Lovecraft created worlds on other planes of existence, one of which can be accessed through our dreams. This is the Dreamlands. What we haven't really talked about before is that the locations in the Dreamlands are either the products of our collective human consciousness, manifestations of our imaginations, or they are the misplaced locations of other times. The places in the Dreamlands can be places from our own world, existing in any number of centuries at once. In The Nameless City, we had ancient cities and civilizations once present on earth, but that continue to thrive in other worlds. Lomar and the places mentioned in this story are probably the same. The story of Polaris exists in the Dreamworld, but mirrors a people from our own world over twenty-six thousand years ago. Perhaps this is a clue that the Quest of Iranon take place in our own world that long ago, happening to a prehistoric civilization of people long since forgotten by time.
Location becomes central to this story. As the places set up not only the plot, but also the identity of the characters. They identify themselves by places. They two main characters are not happy where they are, and strike out for places better suited to who they are. And the final revelation at the climax of the story, reveals how vital location is to the life of the main character.
This story is a chore to get through, with far too much flowery language. I really don't feel it adds much to the growing work of Lovecraft, and might even be a step in the wrong direction. If you still want to check it out, you can read the full text here: HPL's The Quest of Iranon
Illustration copyright Jeff Powers © 2013
The Moon-Bog
The Moon-Bog is another of Lovecraft's weaker stories. Perhaps he was going through a rough patch here in the early 20s. It is obviously inspired by the writing of Lord Dunsany, as is much of Lovecraft's work. In fact, the central premise can be seen in Dunsany's novel The Curse of the Wise Woman. The theme of buying back your ancestral home in Europe, is something Lovecraft would later develop better for The Rats in the Walls and was something he had actually thought of doing.
The setting of the story is deep within the marshes of Ireland, an interesting setting for a writer known for his distaste for the Irish immigrants in New England. But perhaps because Lord Dunsany had set his novel there, HPL felt he should too, or because this story was written for a gathering of journalists with the writing theme of St. Patrick's Day. Either way, the setup is very Poe-esque gothica despite its Dunsany location.
The plot is as general as it gets. It can be seen in countless horror stories and films. A man new the area is given one piece of ancient legend, with instructions not to do something. Finding the local superstition ridiculous he does it anyway and is cursed.
There are some elements of this story that I do like. I am a huge fan of the original Wicker Man movie. To me this film was always a showcase of what could be done with horror. It didn't have to be fast paced and it didn't have to be set at night. Written well enough many things can be frightening. I think of that movie when in this story the man wakes to see the locals practicing ancient pagan rituals to appease the god of local legends. We even get a reference to The Tree which takes us back to ancient Greece, a rather odd thing to find in the marshes of Ireland.
This story does have some interesting set pieces, and a mention of some cool giant frogs. But overall it is not a story that really leaves an impression on you.

If you want to read the whole story, check out the full text here: HPL's The Moon-Bog

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