You’ve got first class tickets for a horrifying submarine ride this week, folks, as we visit The Temple!
Except for you. You’re in coach. You know who you are.
Podcast: Play in new window
What a fantastic episode — a great story with great commentary. Alas, I too am pretty darned certain there aren’t any portholes in U-boats (why would one need them?), but I’m happy to overlook that for the great atmosphere this piece has. And it would indeed make an excellently creepy film.
To add a bit of substantive commentary to my repetition of others’ observations, I find the portrayal of the Lieutenant-Commander’s hard rationality extremely interesting, since Lovecraft himself was such a determined rationalist. This leads to a feature of his work that I’ve always found fascinating, which is that the source of the horror in Lovecraft’s work, especially his later material, is almost always not about the supernatural per se, or the physical threat it poses, but about how the universe is incomprehensible to our rational mind. Indeed, one could argue that there is a sense that the Cthulhu Mythos is essentially the “naturalizing” (or “science-fictionalizing”) of the supernatural — instead of gods, there are fantastically powerful aliens and beings not completely of our dimensions, but who are nonetheless “natural” in some reasonable sense of the word (or at the very least, the line between “god” and “superpowerful alien being” is so unclear as to be meaningless). The horror isn’t that they are supernatural, or that they can kill us, but that our minds our incapable of understanding them and the universe they inhabit. The horror is existential.
I think there’s an element of that notion in this story as well. When you think about it, the real physical terror of the main character’s situation has nothing to do with any of the weird elements of the story — it’s a story of a submariner whose boat is disabled in a mechanical failure and sinks to the bottom of the sea, where he will die when his air runs out. In some sense, that should be enough to be scary. But the really interesting bit, the very spooky part, comes with the appearance eponymous Temple, which really isn’t a threat to him in any way (certainly no more than his physical situation). The horror in a sense isn’t him being trapped in a sunken sub, but that he has discovered that the world isn’t how he believed it to be, that there was this ancient civilization whose remnants are at the bottom of the sea, and which may yet be inhabited in some strange way. In some sense, our Lieutenant-Commander’s fear is not that he will die (he is an iron-willed German, after all!), but that he will have to give up his rationality.
I’ve always loved this aspect of Lovecraft’s work — it really is an intellectualized, existential horror. What is scary is not that there is danger, but incomprehensibility. I count this as Lovecraft’s greatest contribution to literature.
Chad’s German imitations made me think of the old Warner Brothers’ cartoons that portrayed Hitler as a ridiculous buffoon. Chad’s imitations are hilarious! Keep up the good work!
I’m glad you said it would make a great movie, coz i was thinking the very same thing as i was reading it myself (i read all the stories before the pod cast… kinda like homework).
The commander is such a great anti-hero and the tense conditions of the U-Boat as it all goes to hell would make a great setting.
And of course the filming of the ‘Victorys’ sinking then the massacre of it’s crew would be a hideous but great opening scene.
The whole thing would be like H.P.-Das Boot!
And of course yet another great podcast.
Liking it all very much.
Matthew (in jolly blighty)
Here’s a lonely dork I am: at 24, I don’t have any friends who are into H.P. Lovecraft, so I’ve been making my mom (who’s never read a Lovecraft story and isn’t likely to any time soon) listening to these podcasts with me, just so I can share my Lovecraft nerdiness with someone.
I’m so glad we’ve gotten to the reasonably awesome phase of HP’s career. This is the first good story y’all have covered since “Dagon,” and it’s always been one of my favorites. His descriptions of the dark, slimy sea-bottom and the mystery of the temple are some of the finest spine-tingler moments of his career. I particularly love the way our narrator, while clearly trying to keep his wits about him, can’t help imagining a little of what might be in the temple’s “utterly black interior which might prove the lair of some indescribable marine monster, or a labyrinth of passages…” I would have liked to hear Andrew read that line in particular. It’s a good one.
Keep up the great work, guys. I’m not crazy about “Arthur Jermyn,” but you fellows have proven yourselves more than able to wring some entertainment and insight even from the scrapings at the bottom of the HPL barrel. Good on ya, lads.
Yeah, well – this comment was the highlight of my Friday night, so we’re all dorks together
On a slightly-related note (no funny ideas, mister), one of the Google ads over on the right side of the page right now is for a “geek dating service.”
That’s right, Google just called Lovecraft fans geeks.
This is certainly a very “cinematic” story, but I can’t see it ever getting made because the necessary sets and effects would cost a lot, and as we all know, Lovecraftian films are not the most lucrative, so any investors would cower away. Also, the whole supernatural submarine story has already been done in “Below”. Have you guys seen that film? I guess however, having “been done before” has never stopped anyone in Hollywood
Excellent podcast guys, this really is an awesome story, and although I consider myself quite a big Lovecraft and ‘wierd fiction’ fan this podcast has given me good reason to go back and read his earlier work which bar Curse of Yig, the Mound and his Sci Fi story (Curse of Eryx?) I’ve never really bothered with. However this podcast kind of makes it a homework assignment, but in a good way
This story is a fine example of Lovecraft never giving anything unnessecary away, though the dolphins are an odd element neither comically silly or ominous as I assumed Lovecraft intend, just a bit odd.
Anyway keep up the good work, not found of the White Ape but I have to admit basically cribbing the premise for a story of my own so I can’t attack it too much.
It’s “In the Walls of Eryx” or “Within the Walls of Eryx” (more commonly the former, but the latter always sticks in my head, since it’s more correctly descriptive).
Hey, I’ve been listening to this podcast since it started, and I look forward to it every week.Keep up the good work.
First off – great discussion. Thank you for making these podcasts. I laugh and I shiver!
Fascinating that our “hero” looked out the porthole to see if Keinze’s body would be crushed like the dolphins should have been – not to make sure that he didn’t swim away or out of sentimentality, nein! – all in the name of science – ja? Gut genug!
The story really creeped me out (despite my own iron German will!) even more as you two talked about it and Andrew read it – the music – the laughter – just fantastic all the way around. A great production.
Now I’m gushing! Thanks again – keep going …
It’s an easy one to gush over. The Temple rocks.
The sad thing is, when I was working on adapting this story for my audio dramas, I consulted someone with some knowledge of WWI U-boats, and the description in the story is apparently very inaccurate… for instance, there aren’t actually a bunch of portholes on one… Ah well. Literary license, and it’s not like Lovecraft could just call up some U-boat plans on the internet…
I also was going to mention The Below. This story very much reminded me of that.
But Below is a straightforward ghost story. Nothing big and supernatural at the bottom of the ocean. At least it’s a really good ghost story.
Yeah, it’s very different in the details but the general feel of the story reminded me of the way I felt watching Below.
THIS time, finally, the story takes the limelight from the commentary. One of HPL’s favorite tales was Algernon Blackwood’s THE WILLOWS; THE TEMPLE is just as frightening in its own aquatic, iron-German-willed sort of way. In earlier efforts Lovecraft overdid the oblique approach which works so well in Blackwood’s best work; in THE TEMPLE he NAILS the technique, showing us just enough to set every nerve on end, but wisely never revealing exactly what sort of spectral horror the U-boat has wandered into.
While the German narrator is an anti-hero par excellance, one of HPL’s rare triumphs in characterization, I find that his villainy actually detracts from the horror. One feels that he “had it coming,” like the various rotters and cads that would populate Wm. Gaines’ horror comics some decades later, and so his doom becomes a tale of Divine Justice. We’ll see the Lovecraft cosmos become a lot more impersonally malevolent as time goes on. You bet.
True, True. This is a bit of a cautionary tale. Bad guys getting what’s coming to them. But I think this in a necessary step for HPL to take to get to his much darker later works.
I still effin’ love this story.
Ok, silly, picky question… but do U-Boats have portholes?
Regarding the dolphins. I assumed that these were what the other members of the boat saw as the swimming corpses. Which brings up an interesting point; was it the sailors hallucinating corpses from dolphins, or the protagonist hallucinating dolphins from swimming corpses. Perhaps the overly rational mind of Herr submarine captain transmuted what “could not be” (living corpses) into something more plausible (dolphins) even though this led to its own inconsistencies (dolphins shouldn’t be able to stay under water as long as they did, and should have been crushed by incredible pressure).
That is a fascinating idea … . Just wonderful creepy stuff – makes those “comical entanglements” super crazy! What a movie it would be! Ahem, anyway – great observation!
I agree this would make a great movie. I can see the poster before my very eyes!!!
I’ve made changes to the original art. It was too dark, so I brightened it up a bit. Hopefully viewers will be able to see more detail now.
yeah yeah I’m ALWAYS stuck in coach….
Lackey great to hear your and AHL’s voice again, great podcast, hilarious Prussian jokes
I’ve always liked the story… BUT…
No portholes on military submarines and no underwater searchlights.
WWI era subs would never survive below, say, 500 feet (they were only intended to dive to 200 feet or so) – and the area specified in the story bottoms in the 5-6000 foot range.
No airlocks, as described, on subs of that era. And no such diving gear as described in the story…
I suppose the U-29 must have been some sort of secret weapon and the depth must have been far less than implied.
Other than that I can only suppose very powerful supernatural forces enveloped the boat and nullified the laws of physics.
OK, I’ve talked myself into it.
What? Lovecraft wasn’t a German sub expert? That charlatan! Screw this podcast! I’m done with HPL!!!
I… I didn’t mean that. I was hurt… angry. I guess he was just doing his best and that’s all any of us can do.
Thanks for the fun facts, though! I love that kinda stuff!
[Oops, I should read all the comments before I reply.] Yup – so many technical inaccuracies, but I console myself by saying “no internet to look up those U-boat plans”… And i used Lovecraft’s magic submarine for my show, since the rewrite would have had to be DRASTIC.
This reminds me of the film “Throw Momma From the Train.” Billy Crystal’s character is a writing teacher, and has a student who insists on writing naval stories even though she’s never been on a boat. “He looked through the little circle-thing in the wall and said…”
Sorry to leave a bunch of comments at once – that’s what I get for being on vacation…. Love your show, and of course, this is one of my favorite stories. You hit all the best points. One thing, though, I wanted to comment on is the idea that the very analytical-ness, the very rationality, right to the bitter end, right in the face of weird weird crap – could be an instance of insanity of its own. The insane INABILITY to accept that there is anythign supernatural going on. [sometimes called panzaism - as the opposite of quiotism, at least to those of us who played Call of Cthulhu]
Whoah! Well put!
“Manuscript found on the coast of Yucatan”
Well, HPL got that right. I live in the Yucatan peninsula and about the WW2 years something german was found on our coasts. It was not a manuscript in a bottle, but a war rocket. I’m not sure what kind exactly, it is around 9 feet long.
It was properly disabled and has been standing in one of the avenues of Merida (capital city of the Yucatan state) for decades.
Nice podcast, found about it a week ago and i’ve been catching up.
STAY AWAY FROM THAT ROCKET!
That’s really cool – glad to have you aboard.
I am a little late to this podcast but enjoying catching up. Sometimes the audio is a bit quiet for listening during my morning commute but I love the banter and dramatic reading inserts.
Here’s a site with the text of this one:
(Couldn’t find the audio…)
I was reminded of the Indiana Jones PC adventure game “Fate of Atlantis” where you also reach the city of Atlantis via German U-boat.
This was the first HPL story I read. I was about 9 or 10, — or so years ago. It was, I’m pretty sure, in a magazine although I can’t recall the title. I do remember that it was at the home of Mrs. Myrtle Phelps who was my sitter while my parents were at work. I didn’t pay attention to the author’s name and it was a few years later after really discovering HPL through a couple of Lancer paperbacks and the old versions of Arkham House’s 3 collections that I reread The Temple with a bit of a shock.
The Greeks considered dolphins good luck and welcomed them when they rode the bow waves of their ships. I’m not entirely sure, I’ll have to dig through my books for a citation, but I remember reading that dolphins were thought to be reincarnated drowned sailors. HPL put a twist on that. In a similar vein, read The Deep Ones by James Wade. You’ll never look at Flipper the same way again.
The Temple is in my top 10 list of Lovecraft stories. I think you guys did it justice with all of the information that you had. I didn’t know that it was the first story that Lovecraft had gotten published.
I wonder if Lovecraft knew the difference between dolphin (mammal) and dolphinfish such as mahi-mahi.
[...] to such I also recommend the episode dedicated to The Temple. The looming suspense that is carried out throughout the tale is absolutely terrifying and [...]
This is by far my favorite story yet! From the first sentence I was imagining it as a movie and agree 100% that it would make a phenomenal movie.
After listening to the podcast I was thinking more about how a movie adaptation would look and it dawned on me that the end of The Abyss has many similarities to the end of The Tenple. Replace Germans with marine biologists and elder gods with aliens and you have a very similar frame work…
Anyways, great podcast. I’m digging it.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>