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Author Topic: EPISODE 73 MEDUSA'S COIL  (Read 18796 times)
Cloven Sunfish
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« Reply #30 on: March 31, 2011, 08:59:43 PM »

Anybody know if Lovecraft ever wrote about Medusa's Coil to friends or correspondents? I wonder if it was one of those spiteful jobs like his de Castro revisions. I mean, there are some genuinely cool scenes in here - like the discovery of her body and the description of the painting - but then we have...snake hair! GASP!
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Eric Lofgren
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« Reply #31 on: March 31, 2011, 09:13:52 PM »

I'm trying to find some redeeming things in this (please note that I haven't read the story and probably won't now) so I'll just comment on how I chuckled at the mention of an unknown colour in the painting. And of wondering where the artist got the pigment Smiley   

All the same, you guys did a great job, as usual! I seriously can't wait for the next one. Seriously, I can't :/ But I will Smiley
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« Reply #32 on: April 02, 2011, 12:10:39 AM »

I liked this story alot until the ending - but not so much for the "negress" revelation, which I guess tried to explain why she was known to the Zulu woman Sophonisba.  And, yes, the art critic with a gun is kinda silly, but we've seen excessively strong reactions to art (Pickman's Model, etc) before.

I got goose bumps when they described Marceline's breaking out of the cellar and how she went after them.  What it sounded like - the long distance view of her taking the old man.  Great writing!  Marceline so prefigures Asenath from "The Thing on the Door Step."

But what really confused me was that the house burnt down six years ago - why?  What was the point of shifting it six year ago?  Was that the old man's grey hair that he saw or was it his own (had he aged?) - it just confused me - it just felt unnecessary. 

I wasn't a big fan of Yig, liked Mound a little more than Yig (believe it or not), and basically liked Medusa's Coil - but conditionally on all these.

The podcasts were all great though!  Smiley
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« Reply #33 on: April 02, 2011, 09:46:59 AM »



I am not familiar with this story, but very much enjoyed the presentation.

Great job, guys! Thanks.
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« Reply #34 on: April 02, 2011, 08:52:05 PM »

Things we could have done instead of having read this story.

1. Emptied Cthulhu's fish tank.

2. Stolen the socks from dead guys, hey they sure aren't going to need them once we're done with them.

3. Painted our black ships white. (Boom! Double entendre.)

4. Fed half of the thousand young with the other half. They say you are what you eat, wouldn't that balance it out?

5. Gone out, met a girl, fallen head of heels in love, proposed, planned the wedding and then left her at the altar because SHE'S A NEGRESS!

Number 5 is also synonymous with my feelings on the story.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 08:54:10 PM by TFeldt » Logged
osyrisdiamond
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« Reply #35 on: April 03, 2011, 01:44:09 AM »

Somehow I cannot watch the commercials for the new Disney Rapunzel movie without thinking of this story... sad thing is, methink that movie is a better story than this one, but I guess that is a low bar to overcome. It had a lot of good ideas that never came together.
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« Reply #36 on: April 04, 2011, 02:36:18 PM »

Man, I know at the end of the story was a bit of a let down with the monster( side note: Cousin it from the adams family scared the ever lovin' crap out of me a kid) but man I think that would be awesome to have that kind of hair! do you know what, throw me in for whole lovecraft family pack,Grandmothers a Fish, grandads an ape, they're both negros! I don't care! that sounds like the most bad ass family tree ever! but hey thats just cause I'm dutch, anything would be an improvement..jk
 
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Ruth - CthulhuChick
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« Reply #37 on: April 05, 2011, 09:55:33 AM »

I actually enjoyed it up until the twisty bits at the end. It's not one of his best ones and it has a lot of the grating stuff like the plantation racism (there was a moment where I wished I could throw a computer across the room like a book). And yet, there was something in the imagery of all of it...the priestess, the secrets, the manor. I knew it wouldn't be good, but I was able to enjoy the setup part.
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« Reply #38 on: April 07, 2011, 11:17:31 PM »

Lovecraft was quite the racist.

However, I don't think that the infamous final line is intended as cheap Jim Crow racism. I actually think its a deeper and more twisted racism.

In this story, as in the Last Test, Lovecraft is talking about the idea that traces of Atlantis can be found in North Africa, or that Atlantis itself was in North Africa. This was a somewhat popular idea in the 1920s, that it was perhaps a sunken continental shelf bit off the coast of Tunisia and Libya, or something to that effect. This was promoted by several people and "researchers" of the day, including the colorful Count Bryon de Prorok, who sold a lot of his adventures to the NYTimes during Lovecraft's most creative period. We know that in at least one letter, Lovecraft suggested he might believe the North African Atlantis idea.

But it goes deeper than that. Robert Waugh has previously explored how Lovecraft mixed Huxley's ideas of a pre-Aryan race into Murray's witch cult concept. But in examining some of Lovecraft's other reading and comments on anthropology, I've come to the conclusion that he might have bought into a semi-popular hypothesis of that time regarding human evolution, that would potentially make for an explicit break with Africa and other parts of the world from Eurasia. This might be tied to his ideas on race (he eventually came to view the people of Eurasia as being culturally different but not terribly physically unequal, whereas he continued to despise Africans and native Australians). I'm not going to go into all of the details, but these stories of a black prehistory in Africa apart from that of Eurasia, much older and less-than-human, seems like a fictionalized version of Lovecraft's ideas about human evolution and prehistory. We can see some of this in his continued use of Great Zimbabwe, including in the story. Literally at the very time Lovecraft was writing this, Gertrude Caton-Thompson was providing the definitive determination that Zimbabwe was medieval in age and African in construction. But even after this, and after Lovecraft has recommended books that explicitly support Caton-Thompson, Lovecraft continued to use Zimbabwe as an icon of dark pre-human and certainly non-Aryan evil.

I am not defending his racism in this story at all. I'm suggesting that it actually signals a much deeper sentiment, backed with faulty scientific rationalization, of race steeped in HPL's ideas about human evolution and prehistory.
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Bob Lovecraft
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« Reply #39 on: April 08, 2011, 08:23:11 AM »

Thanks for the background there, Ahtzib. Knowing the context in which this, or really any, story was written goes a long way towards putting it into a perspective that otherwise we just wouldn't have. I don't know much about the era Lovecraft was living in, more's the pity, so I tend to judge it (as I think most people do) based on the cultural touchstones of my own time, and that often leads to incorrect interpretations of his work. That is one of the main reasons I love the podcast so much: it offers a different perspective based much more on the times Lovecraft was actually living in.

And as much as I agree that Lovecraft was a racist, I can understand why he clung to that for so long, A man who strives to be as rational and scientific as possible may very well consider the idea of "greater and lesser humanity" viewed from what today we would call faulty science. In a very real sense, you can only reach the conclusions (logically speaking) based on the evidence you are given to work with. If that evidence is faulty, it will lead to conclusions that are both very accurate and very wrong all at the same time. And of course when you throw in Lovecraft's rather jaundice view of class/race, well you get comments like the last line in this story.

Bob
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« Reply #40 on: April 09, 2011, 09:56:00 AM »

When I began re-reading this, I found it helpful to imagine everything as an Archie comicbook. Archie pulls up in the old jalopy, then old man Applegate tells the tale, where Denis looks suspiciously like Archie with a single detail changed, Frank Marsh is Richie, Marceline de Chemaux (Mars-Celene of the Camels) is Veronica, and the old local at the end is Jughead.

Also, I used this song as a sort of background theme music soundtrack:
http://www.thenewrbc.com/music/Rhodesia The Brave/01 Old Zimbabwe Ghost 1.mp3

Even so, I couldn't help noticing a few things.

All of the black servants have either Carthaginian names or Biblical names. Scipio, Sophonisba from Carthage, Delilah the wife of Samson who stole his strength hidden in his locks, Sarah the matriarch, Mary the Holy Mother of God.

Second, the story makes a strong connection between African and Classical Greek myth. Jung hinted at the same thing, which was elaborated by Martin Bernal more recently. The religion of the Semitic Phoenicians in Carthage is directly alluded with Isis-Tanit. Since Tanit is also a Berber goddess, and the Perseus Medusa myth involves the Atlas mountains, HPL is making a physical connection for the connected myths in North Africa west of Tunisia. If you trace Gorgons from the Gorgades islands, that puts them geographically somewhere approximate Atlantis, "beyond the Pillars of Hercules," but not on Atlantis.

"Her complexion called up thoughts of Babylon, Atlantis, Lemuria, and the terrible forgotten dominations of an elder world;..."

If you take the initial capitals here, you get BAL, for Ba'al, and Tanit is also called rabat (feminine "rabbi" as in leader) pene Ba'al, the Face of Ba'al. Medusa is being interpreted as a Greek accretion of Tanit: Tanit's feature is her face, while Medusa's power is all in her head, literally if not figuratively. In other words, the Greeks adopted pre-Greek gods and goddesses, and Tanit as representing an earlier serpent adoration cult in North Africa and Europa is being identified by Lovecraft as continuing in Medusa and the Gorgon myths, just as Chronos and the Titans were adopted from traditions probably more local and limited in or near Greece.

Lovecraft might also be putting Tanit as prior to Egyptian civilization, since her symbol looks suspiciously like a Tau cross with supernal circle, also know as Ankh, portrayed under a lunar crescent. Python/Typhon/Set also seems to be an aboriginal religion in Egypt later absorbed into a different sort of cult in Egypt.

This paragraph looks to contain coded symbolism, either by Lovecraft or Bishop:

"Somewhere near the river I heard the mournful note of a dove, and it seemed as if the coursing water itself were faintly audible. Half in a dream, I seized and rattled the ancient latch, and finally gave the great six-panelled door a frank trying. It was unlocked, as I could see in a moment; and though it stuck and grated on its hinges I began to push it open, stepping through it into a vast shadowy hall as I did so."

Dove, water, six, door. No idea what it means. Possibly a rebus, pictogram or heiroglyphic series.

The surname de Russy seems to refer to Russia, just as Fort Ross in California is the name of a Russian fort. That the family traces its nobility back to the Crusades adds to the idea, as in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales where a knecht who had rydden in Rus, Letua and Prus is mentioned. Or perhaps it's supposed to refer to Rousseau and his savage nobility?

Chameaux means camels.

Aegipans are little Pans who are half fish, half goat. This is the original ancient Chaldean image of Capricorn. Perseus and Berenice and other names dropped in Medusa's Coil hint at astrology, but would have to be looked at by a qualified astrologer to see if there were any deeper sense to them.

When the hypnotic eyes appear, Marceline shapeshifts from Veronica into Hypnotoad on the old canvas. That explains the strange color observed, an unknown pigment because it only appeared much later in time as part of a Photoshop color palette. This idea that the picture captured some of the vital essence of the female monster might come from Poe's The Oval Portrait, but other writers have played with the same idea, of course.

Obviously, the ending is an injunction against race mixing, the ultimate horror offered here. The elder religions were so repugnant to the Greeks that the goddesses turned into hideous monsters. The snakey coils of Medusa are a racial trait, as are her hypnotic snakey eyes, alluring and yet capable of ruining your life if you get sucked in. Coil in the sense of spirals, kinks and tumult. The image of the spiral was taken for the aegis from Medusa's severed head and contained the power of the monster to turn the living to stone. The same idea stands behind the adoption by the National Socialist Worker's Party of the swastika as an emblem, borrowed from Aramanen, Thule and Blavatsky, all of whom had rather definite ideas about race, race mixing and who were real people and who were not.

"I have spoken to the Herrenmensch. He frightened me. He just called from Lhasa on skype. He had a handlebar muostachio like Salvador Dali's. The chunky video gave the firm impression of an ancient walrus speaking from the hoary depths of time."

And hey, if you liked the theme music, here's a couple more:

http://www.thenewrbc.com/music/loveandwar/09 Rhodesians Never Die.mp3
http://www.thenewrbc.com/music/Rhodesia The Brave/22 The UDI Song 1.mp3

Warning: lyrics are extremely awful and show what sometimes happens to the best-laid plans.







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« Reply #41 on: April 09, 2011, 02:52:21 PM »

old book, I don't know what language you're typing in, or what chemicals might be in that cigarette you're smoking, but you always have interesting posts. Keep up the good work!

I now feel compelled to cast the Archie gang in the next Lovecraft story I read.
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« Reply #42 on: April 09, 2011, 06:12:58 PM »

oldbook I think the slave name thing may be part of an older tradition, however, of giving slaves new names and biblical names to replace their "heathen" names and Lovecraft is referencing that.
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« Reply #43 on: April 10, 2011, 04:42:28 PM »

Having been to the Cape Girardeau area before, that did help my consumption of the story (which I read for the first time about a week before the podcast, though I knew the jist of it). I went once, indeed in search of an ancient mystical object containing an Atlantean substance (I refer of course to vodka in a crystal skull

http://spookyparadigm.blogspot.com/2010/05/crystal-head-vodka-update-quest-for.html

, not so much with Atlantean semi-sentient hair).
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« Reply #44 on: April 11, 2011, 03:28:47 PM »

Aye, matey! Hair of ye snake what bit ye! That last photo on the blog is the coolest btw.

Thanks, RuthChtulhuChick, I forgot that slave-naming tradition! Lovecraft must be doing that, but slipping in allusions to hair and Carthage while he's at it. Bad hair aeon... oh well, that might've been funny about 10 years ago.

OJimbo, domo arigatoo gozaimashita! Sprichts du schnapps, vieleicht? I'll keep smoking my royal freak flag until daddy takes my rollerskate keys away!
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We live on a placid Rhode Island and Providence Plantations of ignorance in the midst of the black seas of an infinity of dark foreigners, and it was not meant that we should voyage too far.
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