Book: The Call of Cthulhu
Author: Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
(In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming)
This slim story was a part of my reading list for a large part of the previous 2 and a half years. I was aware of the near mythical proportions of the story by Lovecraft who is pretty much credited for the foundation of weird fiction and horror.
When last week, I finally got my hands on the book I was disappointed. It is barely a 50 page read! For all the years that I waited to read this, it was pretty much a let down. Anyway, I began reading it with great expectations and I kept waiting for the brilliance to hit me.
The first person narrative begins when Francis Thurston discovers notes left behind his granduncle, George Gammell Angell. In particular, the singular thing that interests Francis is a bas-relief structure found among the notes along with newspaper cuttings and sketches. The structure is that of a modern day Davy Jones from The Pirates of the Caribbean fame. The narrator describes it as “A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings”. Intrigued by the various cuttings and in particular of the figure with wings, Francis starts his own investigation into the various newspaper articles in general and with the sculpture in particular. He begins with the revelations that his Granduncle shared after interviewing Henry Anthony Wilcox, the supposed artist of the bas-relief figurine. Francis’s granduncle interviews him over a period of so called insanity where Henry ‘dreams’ of this monstrous winged ‘god’ and hears the chant of “Cthulhu fhtagn”.
Granduncle Angell further writes in his notes that the dreams of Henry starts becoming more and more pronounced until suddenly, after a period brief heightened activity of the dreams of Henry, where the quality of his dreams take on a higher and more clearly defined structure, stop all together.
Here ends the saga of Henry; and here begins the more interesting part of Inspector Legrasse. The second chapter details how Angell comes in contact with the story of an Inspector who was in charge if the operation where he apprehended a group of men involved in a sort of a voodoo sacrifice. On searching the persons of the people involved he had gotten his hand on a sculpture of a similar winged figure made of a material completely unknown to mankind.
The third and the most interesting aspect of the story comes when Francis, our narrator, stumbles upon a cutting from an Australian journal about a mystery object found amidst heavy storms in a ship bereft of all mates but two, out of which one is dead. Francis puts it all down on paper and realises that the dates of the events that related to his granduncle’s study. The dates of the storms and the loss of the boat Emma match with the period of Henry’s heightened and feverish dreaming.
The Call of Cthulhu is a book heavy with mythical interpretation of the cosmic world and, in a way, it does lay the stones for more books identifying Cthulhu as a recurring theme. But, if I was to judge the book merely by the quality of the reading and what the reader gets out of it, it is nothing brag worthy. The cosmic alignment and the “Great Old Ones” are indeed themes that have been written about repetitively and actively building The Cthulhu Mythos by leaps and bounds to great effects.
This book is a work of fiction and horror, plainly speaking. It is not as great a mythos as I expected it to be. Yes, as a defense, I can clearly say that the entire mythology of the Great Cthulu and other sentient beings that have been written about with great detail in various texts and stories, this might be the start. Might. Lovecraft was definitely not the father of this genre, but he was probably a great contributor to it.
The book is rated low because I’ve rated it as a stand alone text, without complimenting it as a part of the very vast collection of stories on beings that are going to devour our galaxy!