Lackey phones in from a deep, shadowy ravine and Leman drops more arcane knowledge as we take a third gander at The Dunwich Horror!
(available now as a radio drama)
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Hey there. Got my nerve back again and thought I would post. Another great installment! I agree with your thoughts on H.P. about how he wrote his characters/heroes and villains; Wilbur is a bad ass, but H.P. gave him a phobic dread of dogs (my interpretation) and bad luck with a pistol. Or maybe that was one damn big dog guarding the library. Enjoyed Andrew Leman’s reading as always. Missed Mr. Price. I’ve listen to him on several occasions and he always adds class, intelligence and humor. Well, that’s about all that I can add. Keep the pod-casts coming. Looking forward too part four of my favorite H.P.Lovecraft story. Thanks!
Another great show, though I have to admit that I was disappointed that you chose to cut it short in favor of finishing the story next episode.
Wilbur says that he “learned the Aklo for the Sabaoth”; Sabaoth being an alternate spelling of Sabbath, as in a day of religious observance.
Aklo, in both Machen and Lovecraft, refers to a fictional language. In Lovecraft, Aklo is apparently the language of the Great Old Ones and, in turn, their cultists. Lovecraft is going to mention Aklo again in both “The Diary of Alonzo Typer” and “The Haunter of the Dark.”
If you want to read a really great Mythos story specifically about Aklo I suggest you checkout Alan Moore’s “The Courtyard” which exists as both a prose short story and a comic book adaptation.
Sabaoth is actually another name for God, meaning “Lord of Hosts” or armies, as sung in Christian churches in the hymn “A Mighty Fortress”, by Martin Luther.
@Andrew – You are absolutely right! I feel sort of stupid now. So when Wilbur says that he “learned the Aklo for the Sabaoth” he means he “learned the Aklo for the ‘gods of armies.’” Who do you suppose that is? I assume the Abrahamic god isn’t actually a possibility. Could it be Cthulhu?
From the Catholic Dictionary:
“Sabaoth: (In Hebrew, plural form of ‘host’ or ‘army’). The word is used almost exclusively in conjunction with the Divine name as a title of majesty: ‘the Lord of Hosts’, or ‘the Lord God of Hosts’.
[But wait, there's more!]
The origins and precise signification of the title are matters of more or less plausible conjecture. According to some scholars the ‘hosts’ represent, at least primitively, the armies of Israel over whom Jehovah exercised a protecting influence. Others opine that the word refers to the hosts of heaven, the angels, and by metaphor to the stars and entire universe (cf. Genesis 2:1). In favour of the latter view is the fact that the title does not occur in the Pentateuch or Josue [?] though the armies of Israel are often mentioned, while it is quite common in the prophetic writings where it would naturally have the more exalted and universal meaning.’
So I suppose Wilbur could be referring to an “Army from the Stars”.
Hey guys! The thing I always took away from Wilbur’s attempted robbery was that it was the last ditch effort of a desperate “man”. Wilbur had spent a lot of time away from the house, trying to get a copy of the Necronomicon, leaving no one to feed his brother and the time of cleansing was approaching swiftly. The robbery was a gamble, one that failed. As for Wilbur’s last words? A prayer to his father, one that would be echoed on Sentinel Hill.
Your description of Armitage flying into action made me think of Professor Badass. Made the story MUCH better!
One day, I really hope we can get an honest movie adaptation of this story. It would make excellent material, I think. I love the way the party line is employed in this one. It’s sort of an extention in a way of the way the journal was used in Mythos stories where the immediacy of the danger was expressed by the writer, to the point where he would almost write his down his screams as he was being attacked But using the party line in the phone system in TDH makes much more sense and conveys that immediacy much more effectively and quite realistically. Although I’ve always had this silly picture in my head of some old bitties talking on the party line together before the Horror actually begions, gossiping about what Ol’ Wizard Whately had been up to, “Ayup and did ye hear wot Ol’ Whately muttered t’other day? Sumthin’ about the stars a bein’ right and Ol’ Shub Niggurath was on his way to clean off the Earth. So un-Christain like”
Of course, I meant Yog Sothoth, not Shub Niggurath. Oy, all these names sound so alike after awhile :/
The partyline as a medium for the horror works well; the telephoned screams of a victim is almost old-hat now, cinematically. Had anyone else used this idea pre-Lovecraft?
Lovecraft rather proudly wrote that Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright might find this story so “fiendish” that he wouldn’t print it. That’s not because it’s a pastiche of “Great God Pan,” it’s because his subtext is so obviously a mockery of the Christian belief in the Virgin Birth of Christ. The Machen story has no such subtext; it’s pagan through and through.
I think Lovecraft’s youthful Baptist background did more than inspire him to this anti-matter version of the Birth of Jesus; it even gave him the design for his monster. Note that third beast’s face from this excerpt of Revelation chapter 4
 …four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within…”
I disagree completely with Rev. Price on several points. In particular, I don’t think Yog-Sothoth had to use Wizard Whateley as a human vessel to impregnate Lavinia; Yog-Sothoth is the Unholy Ghost here, and Wilbur and his big bad bro are the Immaculate Conception thereof. The face on the creature looks like Wizard Whateley simply because of the Lavinia strain in it.
And we HAD a party line back in my forgotten youth, giving stories like this and Derleth’s “Shuttered Room” an added layer of scary reality. “Get offa the line, Violet! We know you’re listenin’!” Click.
The underlying plan, as I understand it, was to breed an army of these things (is the Horror a shoggoth?) to “clear off” the world. Hence, the use of the term shabaoth for host or army.
One other thing. I think all the talk about the “obvious” Christian parallels is utter nonsense. You can make up any parallel between any two pieces of literature. Try it. It’s not a good way to do exegesis of any text, whether scripture or literature. If the author didn’t say or write that it’s some kind of mockery of Christian belief, I see no reason whatsoever to make up that kind of intent. It’s fun to speculate on stuff, but there certainly isn’t anything “obvious” about this connection, IMO.
@ JBL – “Immaculate Conception” refers to the Catholic theological belief that the Virgin Mary was born without the taint of sin upon her. Its not the same thing as the “Virgin Birth” of Jesus.
@ Andrew – I disagree with your view that “You can make up any parallel between any two pieces of literature. Try it. It’s not a good way to do exegesis of any text, whether scripture or literature. If the author didn’t say or write that it’s some kind of mockery of Christian belief, I see no reason whatsoever to make up that kind of intent.”
You certainly can’t just draw up arbitrary parallels between any two pieces of literature. If I tried to draw up parallels between the themes found in “Moby Dick” and those in “Tom Sawyer” I think I would most certainly fail. A comparative analysis in either fiction, mythology or scripture (and are they not all the same anyway?) is one of best and most useful techniques any scholar can use when looking at a text. You also don’t need an author to state flat out either in the text or outside it that s/he is making certain parallels in order for them to be there. In particularly because there is a good chance that the author doesn’t even know s/he has placed them within the text. For example there are a great many thematic similarities between the story of “St. George and the Dragon” and “Dracula” but there is no evidence that Stoker was thinking about dragon slayers when he wrote his famous vampire story. Nevertheless they are there, having slipped in past the author and having hailed from the archetypal realm from which all stories come.
Yes, we Vermonters have a “weird accent”:)
@ Justin – The archetypal realm from which all stories come? I think we’re tieing together things that don’t necessarily fit. Do you really think you would fail if you tried to draw thematic parallels between Moby Dick and Tom Sawyer? It certainly can be done. Here’s an example: Aspects of both stories take place on the water. Boom, and the mind could leap from there to an infinite variety of potential “parallels”. I understand that comparative analysis is an interesting and useful endeavor, particularly in literature education, but I personally see no thematic parallels between The Dunwich Horror and Christian theology, any more than I see them between The Dunwich Horror and Star Trek.
My main point is that anyone can make up a parallel, claiming to “see” it, but unless it REALLY fits, how relevant is it? If it isn’t part of the author’s intent, isn’t it just made up? My point is: Where does it end?
Love the discussion. Love the podcast. Hope I didn’t offend anyone! Thank you.
Fascinating observation on the offbeat weaknesses of Lovecraft’s characters. I hadn’t previously thought much about it, but it really shows in “The Dunwich Horror.” This story shows a lot more about recurring themes in Lovecraft than it initially looks like.
@Justin: oops! Thought “Immaculate conception” and “virgin birth” were the same. Shows you how little I know about Catholicism.
@Andrew: no offense taken, if I was the guy you were worrying about offending. But, to throw one more spoke into the wheel before going on to the next podcast: I not only think Lovecraft was consciously writing the Cthulhuoid version of the birth of Jesus here, I think that whoever wrote the episode of Jonny Quest titled “The Invisible Monster” was doing the last chapter of “The Dunwich Horror,” substituting Weird Science for Weird Magic. “Let’s paint that booger, Race. Not that we need to, but we want to scare the kids to death with a really nasty monster.” HPL does the same thing, for the same reason; he’s gotta get the thing visible to make his Big Scare work at the end. And it does, too!
U Guys RAWK!
Really, I listened to the audio book, and back again to these pod casts… what a treat to hear it all talked about in depth. One of the best horror, nay “Monster”, stories written!
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