I posted this on the episode blog post, but figured I'd say it here too, with a few added elements
I’m kind of surprised that you guys didn’t like The Very Old Folk. I had never heard of it until I started going through the Selected Letters, and it was sort of shocking. Some comments
- I do think he actually dreamed it. He had no problem saying “I made up a story,” but he really emphasized how this was a dream. Maybe other research shows problems with this, but I believe him. He was pretty obsessed with the Classical World, and especially the Romans, so I buy he had the knowledge in his head to flesh out the dream to that level of detail.
- This story can’t be understood without the full context of knowing that it is a witch cult story. As I wrote in this post,http://miskatonicmuseum.blogspot.com/2010/10/witch-and-cthulhu-cults.html
the witch cult was integral
to HPL’s fiction in the mid-1920s. He seems to shake its influence off a little in the 1930s. But I think it is defensible to say that without the witch cult notion he lifted from Murray (more on that in a sec), there would be no Cthulhu, and no Cthulhu Mythos. It marks the difference between his Poe and Dunsany works, and his Mythos works
- As I note in that post, it’s the one bit of pseudoscience, other than scientific racism I suppose, that HPL really bought into. Heavily. He clearly believed Murray’s thesis for at least a few years, and he expounded on it at length to REH. I suspect he really did believe in a pre-IndoEuropean race inspiring fairy stories, ala Machen and Victorian theorists.
- Lastly, I believe HPL is referring to Lake Nemi in the story.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nemi
This is the title inspiration for Frazier’s The Golden Bough, which spawns Murray’s Witch Cult book, and had another profound influence on HPL. Also, he wrote several letters noting that he was following the archaeological dredging and raising of the the Lake Nemi barges, which Mussolini was pushing at that time.
PS: If the story is reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead
or the movie The Thirteenth Warrior
, I’m not sure it’s a coincidence. In the faux monograph that makes up Eaters of the Dead
, the author cites as a general reference work
Azhared, Abdul. Necronomicon
[ed. H. P. Lovecraft], Providence, Rhode Island, 1934.
The work is exactly as Lovecraft suggests, a winking literary hoax. Unfortunately, in the edition I own, Crichton had entered into his politically jerkish old man stage, and puts in an afterword that he wished he had never written it that way because of the post-modern degradation of truth blah blah blah, and then he probably denied global warming at the end, but I stopped reading.