Episode 7 – The White Ship

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Happy Birthday HPL!  Howie Phil was born August 20, 1890 and if he were alive today would be 119 years old! How do you like them apples?

This week we talk about The White Ship and how you can never get enough of moonbeam bridges.

Special thanks to our reader: Andrew Leman

Check out  some sweet 60’s Psychedelic action with the band H.P. Lovecraft and The White Ship.

Next Week: The Doom That Came to Sarnath

Post Comment 28 comments on “Episode 7 – The White Ship

  • Mike Davey on

    Another fascinating review.
    I was originally dubious of your looking at the stories chronologically, thinking it would be the best part of a year before you got to what I think of as the good stuff. You’ve proved me wrong, though, by giving me a whole new appreciation of HPL’s “earlier, crappy work”.

    Saying that, though, The White Ship’s only redeeming point is being the inspiration to the song…

    Keep up the good work, and thanks!

  • Genus Unknown on

    Lovecraft gave you a lemon, and you made lemonade. Well done.

    If nothing else, Andrew Leman reading George Carlin just made my week.

  • Matthew on

    I’d just like to say I love the podcasts. I’ve been meaning to re-read Mr. Lovecraft’s work for ages and this is the perfect excuse. Admittedly the stories so far aren’t his greatest but I good to see how his work evolved.
    Just one question… I’m sick of taking the tube to work each morning… Can I get to work using moonbeams?

    M. Comben

  • chrislackey on

    HA! HA! I WISH! England has great public transportation, but moonbeams would really knock it up a notch.

  • Chad Fifer on

    Chris is wrong. You can.

  • Theodore Kiffer on

    I had just recently read MEMORY, and noticed that the Genie is “The Genie that haunts the moonbeams.” I’m surprised he didn’t run into Basil, those moonbeams are popular

  • Michael Littlefield on

    While “The White Ship” may not be one of Lovecraft’s better works (personally I think that Lovecraft was better at writing longer stories such as “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”) it does provide a good introduction to his “Dream Cycle” in that many of the locales that are mentioned are visited again in “Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath.”

  • Danial Carroll on

    I’m impressed that you made 30mins out of such a *boring* story. Good job!

    When reading, I find myself envisioning the story almost cinematically, and that came completely undone in this one as soon as the moonbeam came into it. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how that could possibly work visually. This one’s a definite strike for Mr Lovecraft I’m afraid.

    I do look forward to visiting Sarnath next week and its impending DOOM!

  • FNH on

    Moonbeans appear in a number of other stories, not sure if they all contain bridges… Memory, The Color Out of Space, The Moon Bog, The Quest of Iranon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth

  • Wowser on

    Great show today. Not sure I’ve read the story, but I am TOTALLY with you on preferring the horror to the dreamscape stories. Am currently wading through Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath – when will it end!

  • John D. Corrado on

    I actually like the story. It may not contain horror elements, but it is still haunting and eerie in the style of the writing. Andrew Leman’s reading of it reminds me of the readings of 17th and 18th century journals in documentaries. It has that style of writing which has been long forgotten that Lovecraft is well known for. I don’t think you should take the imagery of the moonbeam literally. I imaged it as when the moon shines down on a body of water is makes a sort of path of light out from the shore. Perhaps the ship was at the end of this and either a dock led out in the same spot or there is some mysticism to it and he was able to walk out over the water to the ship. It leaves more to the imagination as you can see.

  • Genus Unknown on

    One thing that’s occurred to me since re-reading the story is the way the ship comes off as some sort of poetic embodiment or personification of the moon’s reflection on the water. It’s white, it only comes when the moon is full, and it glides smoothly across the surface of the sea in any weather to take our dreamy-headed narrator on magical journeys of fancy.

    The azure bird, of course, represents communism.

  • Sam on

    Yeah, this story was lame as crap. The gothic horror stories are definitely better. The one dreamscape story I really truly like though is “Ex Oblivione.” I just love the concept of dying in your sleep and getting ‘trapped’ in the dream world, in a blank, unending nothingness.

    This story was just too silly though. Lovecraft writes like a little English girl. I mean, not only do you have a guy walking on a golden bridge of moonbeams in the “Land of Fancy,” but also, later in the story it says that in the “flowery mountains of Cathuria stand temples of pink marble.” …Seriously?! Pink temples and pretty flowers??? Wow, Lovecraft. I guess that’s what happens when your parents clothe you in dresses as a child.

  • John D. Corrado on

    This is common imagery and descriptions for this style of writing. Poe wrote similar descriptions in some of his work that would come off “feminine” or for a more proper term as “romantic.” I think this work was supposed to be more poetic and allegorical.

  • Piotr on

    Yet another brilliant podcast – can’t wait the next weekend to hear another one!

  • Phil on

    Good job guys with a tough one.. I think you were right on the money with the allegorical nature of the story.

    It reminded me a bit of Aleister Crowley’s “The Wake World” (1906) – where a girl goes from house to house with her “Fairy Prince” as he describes the nature of the houses and their short commings – much like the bearded man does. (There is a room full of books and people who sit around all day reading until they don’t know what they’re doing any more.) Some people are content to stay in a certain house for their entire lives without moving deeper or further beyond. Crowley’s piece is an allegory of an occult initiation… as opposed to Lovecraft’s anti-epicurian PSA…

    Not my favorite HPL story, either, but interesting none the less… thanks to you folks.

    Looking forward to next podcast.

  • Genus Unknown on

    I’m not sure I’d call it an anti-epicurean PSA. I know next to nothing about epicureanism, but if it’s the way Lackey describes it, with its seeking of modest pleasures, it sounds like the very moral of “The White Ship.” A pro-epicurean PSA.

  • Phil on

    I stand corrected. Where was my dictionary when I needed it?!
    Thanks – Go Epicurus!

  • chrislackey on

    Check out this bit…

    Epicurus’ philosophy is based on the theory that all good and bad derive from the sensations of pleasure and pain. What is good is what is pleasurable, and what is bad is what is painful. Pleasure and pain were ultimately, for Epicurus, the basis for the moral distinction between good and bad. If pain is chosen over pleasure in some cases it is only because it leads to a greater pleasure. Although Epicurus has been commonly misunderstood to advocate the rampant pursuit of pleasure, (primarily through the influence of Christian polemics) what he was really after was the absence of pain (both physical and mental, i.e., suffering) – a state of satiation and tranquility that was free of the fear of death and the retribution of the gods. When we do not suffer pain, we are no longer in need of pleasure, and we enter a state of ‘perfect mental peace’ (ataraxia).

    I got it from wikipedia, but further digging confirmed it, so there you go.


  • Julie H on

    I’m curious as to why you stuck to taking the story so very literally – as an actual journey, rather than assuming (as might easily be done) that this guy, all alone in a boring old lighthouse that he’s stuck in because “we’ve always worked here” didn’t just doze off or get drunk or go nuts and imagine the whole thing.

    Imagine his job – how incredibly bored he must be (since the ships don’t come by like they used to) – and suddenly a little trip to cloud cuckoo land isn’t anywhere near so silly. On the other hand, it’s an interesting peek into his psyche and how he (an isolated person) might imagine the rest of the world.

    Plus it explains why the calendar didn’t change.

  • Chad Fifer on

    It’s a good question – we were probably just more amused by it as a literal story. A guy riding a moonbeam like an escalator just makes me laugh. But your point is well taken, and Chris actually has a few words to say about his changing opinion on the story in our next podcast.

    Thanks Julie!

  • Danial on

    Yeah, I agree. I’d say he was just snoozin’ and didn’t wake up until he sleep-walked out the door and fell over. Seeing the white plank of wood at the end might mean that The White Ship may just have been real and crashed while he was asleep (much like the watcher in Polaris).

  • JB Lee on

    About all I can say about this story is that I used to summarize it as a fairy tale for my niece and nephew some 20 years ago. And it worked pretty well in that juvenile state, too.

  • Jon Katity on

    Hey guys. I just recently found the link to your pod cast on the cthulhulives website and have since been listening to them, starting with episode 1, on my many long drives. I enjoy them a lot, keep up the good work. I was wondering though, you keep mentioning (or making fun of) a band or musical artist that I don’t think I’ve heard of but I can’t quite figure out the spelling. Who might that be? Thanks guys!

  • jc on

    “You’ve got the touch” – indeed you both do! Definitely this story is more than meets the eye. Thanks.

  • M David Cox on

    Well while we’re at it, cf. Jeb Webb above, the pronunciation of Dunsany is Dun-SAY-nee.

  • pokey mcgee on

    Couple of things that bothered me:

    1. The land of “pleasures unattained” can’t be obtained. It has pleasures, but you can’t obtain them. If you COULD attain them, they would be “pleasures attainable.” But they aren’t that. So, you can’t attain the pleasures. Instead you get smelly corpses.

    2. Cathuria is the “land of hope.” Turns out there’s just a big cataract there. So, turns out there’s no land of hope at all. So, there’s no “land of” hope. The “land of” hope was just a big hole. There wasn’t any “land of” hope there. That’s your allegory.

    White Ship is, like all the dreamlands tales, is HPL at his absolute best. No racism, no being scared of fishes, no mary sue sickly white scholars who can’t handle a little curiosity, just these weird, awesome, imaginative worlds that reflect how people really feel and dream. HPL definitely falls into a rut around the mid-20’s or so and you get your “IT WAS SO HORRIBLE BECAUSE IT WAS WET!!!!1!!,” but if you don’t like the dreamlands stuff, it’s going to be really tough for you guys for quite a while.

    I like later HPL stuff as much as the next guy, sure, but after one or two they just come off as weird comedies where the protagonist is just obnoxiously useless. I definitely prefer the HPL that built worlds that didn’t rely on mundane physics and spooky frogs instead of just mentioning them offhand and saying they were too scary to talk about.

    Probably, I like this side of HPL better because it’s closer to Dunsany and CAS, who are, you know, much better writers. In my opinion, of course.

    Although I will say the moonbeam bridge was a little unremarkable compared to the other weird stuff in the story, and even compared to actual dreams.

  • Carcosa on

    When I originally read this story before listening to your podcast I loved it. It hearkens back to an olde style of writing that gives me nostalgia, and I felt like I could really connect with Lovecraft.

    But you totally mocked the crap out of him in this story, and I could not help but belch out laughter… you guys have such a great sense of humour, I love it!! Although Lovecraft would be turning over in his grave!!

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