Post Comment 39 comments on “Episode 11 – The Tree & The Cats of Ulthar

  • Genus Unknown on

    You seem to be skipping ‘Arthur Jermyn.’

    Oh, and you DO see the cat in ‘The Repairer of Reputations.’ Several times, our nutjob narrator mentions seeing the cat throw itself at Wilde, and Wilde teasing it. It’s not a mysterious, unseen cat at all.

    Otherwise, good show. Can’t wait for ‘The Temple.’

  • Chad Fifer on

    We’ll be all over Arthur Jermyn like an ape on a banana in two ‘casts (after The Temple).

    And you’re right on with The Repairer of Reputations. Since it came up spontaneously, we probably made a few errors in talking about it. Forgot that the character’s name was Wilde, for example. I love this – especially since there’s a throwaway line in Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray about a curious yellow book… Lots of maddening art in the 1890s. Thanks for the correction!

  • chrislackey on

    It’s been a long time since I read it. Cut a brother some slack. CUT IT! CUT IT!

    Seriously, though, please keep pointing that stuff out. If we’re gonna keep the standards up, we need folks to call us out when we get stuff wrong.


  • Anton on

    Hey guys,
    I just got a new elder thing green ipod nano for my office and was looking for things to put on it while I was doing paperwork. Being a collector of all things Lovecraft ( The type of things you go to private estate auctions for, not the type of things that come from Hot Topic) I happened to find your site, I am happy to say I really enjoy the podcast. It’s really great to listen to people talk about his work and history and still show respect to his work. Thanks for doing this.

  • coughman on

    another great episode guys, real quick, whats the music you used in this episode?

  • Regus on

    Great episode guys, I love the production quality of these, there is a really good progression with each episode, they get better and better. I love the music you guys use for these. I NEVER would of read these older Lovecraft stories if not for your podcast.

    As for the stories, I HATED them, these early stories are so tough for me to read, even though they are short my mind wanders like crazy.

    I made the connection that the one guy killed the other in the Tree, I figured it must of been foul play otherwise what would be the point of it all? I don’t even want to discuss the Ulthar story.

    And thanks for reminding me of The King in Yellow, I’ve been meaning to read that since I first learned about it via the Arkaham Horror board game.

  • chrislackey on

    Honestly, I don’t think I would have read them if I wasn’t doing a podcast. I thought I read them all, but as I go back I’m realizing I didn’t.

    Can’t tell you how much I’m getting out of doing the cast.

    Thanks for the kudos!

  • Kevin on

    Since we’re on the subject of Chambers, might I be permitted a plug? is a website that provides free audio books of public domain literature. They have a smattering of HPL up there but none of it is as good as the readers you’ve had so far.

    BUT they have a killer reader on all the “King in Yellow” stories. HIGHLY recommended.

    Dig it:

    P.S. They also have decent recordings of a lot of HPL’s major influences, Dunsany, Poe, Blackwood, Machen, etc.

  • JulieH on

    Don’t forget William Hope Hodgson – they have a bit of him too. Lovecraft was a big fan of Hodgson.
    [One of my actors, Glen Hallstrom, has done a lot of the librivox Lovecraft readings.]

    I can’t wait for the Temple!!!

  • J.B. Lee on

    Tonight’s “Supernatural Vengeance” theme worked beautifully, but guys, there were quite a few Tyrants of Syracuse in history. Back then the word “Tyrant” didn’t have the ugly aspect we connect with it; it simply meant some guy who usurped power by winning the hearts of the people. Practically every President of the US is, by that definition, a Tyrant. Those who aren’t are, alas, tyrants by the MODERN definition. But I digress.

    As far as “The Tree” goes, I never understood it either; it’s pretty clear that HPL had a great revenge idea here, but just wasn’t good enough yet to pin it to the mat. As in “Juan Romero” he’s TOO vague about the goings-on for his own good, not to mention that of the story. I remember reading it in the Ballantine paperback “Doom That Came To Sarnath” and just scratching my head at the finish. What th –!

    On the other hand, “Cats of Ulthar” is a finely crafted little gem, more fantastic than “Terrible Old Man,” but just as atmospheric and well-written. I once used the Hungry Cat Spell in a “Call of Cthulhu” scenario, in fact: the bad guy had found Menes’ diary, learned the chant, and was bringing ailurophobic DOOM down on his archeologist rivals. Our adventurers survived the scenario, but had to go in for RABIES SHOTS. Ow!

  • Danial Carroll on

    I really liked The Cats of Ulthar. I think it’s what the story DOESN’T tell you that makes it interesting.

    The Tree was alright, though I must have read previously that the guy was poisoned because I knew that’s what was going on when reading it.

    I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Temple, but I know many people love it and when asked what story they’d like to see adapted to film, it is more often than not the one they say, so I look forward to next week!

  • JulieH on

    In the cats of Ulthar, another Egyptian connection you might have mentioned is the “singular beetles” at the end – Scarab beetles are so very integral to the beliefs and symbology of the ancient Egyptions that I’ve always assumed Lovecraft was referencing them there…

  • Andrew on

    Seeing Carmen Miranda do the Carmina Burana at the Hollywood Bowl is a summer concert experience you will never forget.

  • Sam on

    Man, Lovecraft really screwed up on “The Tree” didn’t he? That poisoning plot was just totally not evident. I mean, Musides was genuinely depressed here. If he really hated the guy, that wouldn’t be the case, and if he really LIKED Kalos, aren’t there better ways of sabotaging his work than f*ing KILLING your BFF??? Geez, what an idiot.

    I think another question which ought to be raised is: How insanely HUGE must that olive tree branch have been to crush an entire bloody temple??? I get the poetic significance, but can’t we have a “little” bit of realism? Oh well, maybe these two guys were just really good artists, but super crappy architects when they built the place…

    The Cats of Ulthar was pretty good though. Cats are awesome creatures.

  • Al Bruno III on

    A am a new listener and I must tell you that I am really enjoying these.

    I would love to have played a game of CoC with you guys.

  • Phil on

    I am so surprised no one has commented yet on the “Cats up a Tree” connection here!

    Great podcast – again. I actually really liked both these stories. Contrary to popular opinion – I do think “The Tree” was well written – just for those last lines – Twilight Zone-ish. I suppose I watched just enough “I, Claudius” when I was growing up.
    And guys, kudos for the Carmina Burana thing – now I can’t get the damned song out of my head! Fantastic!

  • Bob Kimbro on

    I just finished getting caught up on all your pod casts. I work from home and it’s nice having you guys to listen to; sort of like sitting in one my better English Lit classes. Keep it coming!

  • Regus on

    I’ve listened to this episode a bunch of times now, and I have to really commend you on the Cats of Ulthar section, I love the music you use during the begining of this, it makes the story seem a lot more sad, and interesting than it actually is.

  • Chad Fifer on

    Thanks! We wanted to go for more of a spaghetti western vibe as it’s a revenge tale.

  • Owen on

    I actually discovered this podcast after reading The Tree and being like WTF, what’s this “I know I know” business about. I tried to find an explanation online, failed, but found this podcast instead. That he was poisoned crossed my mind, but I dismissed it due to a complete lack of textual evidence. I still don’t understand how that’s such a popular reading, even if it’s maybe the only way the end makes sense. This is still bugging me.

    I really liked that Cats of Ulthar. Maybe because it was abundantly obvious why the cats killed people.

  • rodonn on

    Crosspost from Forum

    Coming to this rather late in the game.
    I think The Tree is somewhat underrated in its subtlety, especially when compared with other stories of the genre of tale wherein the reader finishes the the story knowing ‘more’ than the narrator tells. Stanley Ellin’s ‘The Speciality of the House’ is probably the best know tales of this sort.
    When I first read the tale, I thought of it as little more than an exercise in atmosphere that HPL managed to get published. On my second reading a few weeks later, it ‘clicked’

    “Many months passed yet in the sour face of Musides came nothing of the sharp expectancy which the situation should arouse.
    Then one day Musides spoke of the illness of Kalos, after which none marvelled again at his sadness, since the sculptors’ attachment was known to be deep and sacred.”

    “Sour.” A strange word to imply ‘sadness’. It implies bitterness, not sadness. Yet the next sentence dismisses it to the reader as much as the acquaintances of Musides dismissed it. It’s literary misdirection. A slight of hand.
    The previous narrative’s context changes if you don’t dismiss the idea, that in Musides’ mind, the collaboration and competition that Tyrant had hoped for has become a bitter rivalry. The latter part of the narrative, while superficially bland, gains the sort of menace one gets in programmes like ‘Medical Detectives’. It’s interesting that Kalos has an insistence on being burried with the branches of ‘certain’ trees, not simply olive branches. The question then begs, what else lay in the tomb of Kalos. The ‘odd completeness, and the disappearance of the statue is the ‘final’ clue. Musides was going to claim Kalos’ work for his own, and either the disembodied intelligence of Kalos, or one of the dryads, got Musides.
    It’s more subtle than Ellin, but it telegraphs the story points well enough. In a story so short, one can never assume that HPL was wasting words.

  • Eric on

    Awesome intro reading. I was hooked when I heard “unnaturally large olive tree.”

  • Richard on

    A very creepy and well done video called “The Call of Tutu.” A man describes his cat, or does he? A must watch.

  • Sarah Perry on

    I just listened to this one, I was sort of surprised that other people are surprised by the poisoning, it seems very heavily suggested in this line:

    “(Musides) was clearly distracted with anxiety and who pushed aside all the slaves in his eagerness to feed and wait upon his friend with his own hands.”

    which is shortly followed by

    “As Kalos grew inexplicably weaker and weaker”

    still though, i HATE that story!

  • Greenwind on

    Just listened to this one today and loved it. Just wanted to post a little about Greek culture that you guys brought to mind. The word “Tyrant” in ancient Greece was equivalent to the modern King or Czar (Which came from the name Caesar). A tyrant could be good or bad, as the word only picked up its negative meaning in more recent history.

  • Shankar Abeir on

    In ancient Greek city states usually a tyrant was elected for military emergencies only for a period of time. The Romans gave it the negative connotations, as they translated the idea into the early kings of Rome, who were reviled under the republic, and still in the imperial period, as the Senate was still seen as more powerful than the Imperator, aka Caesar, even though it wasn’t true.

    Concerning cats; they can be needy too, they want attention if they live with only people. Two cats can eye each other from across the room all day and be happy. The Cats of Ulthar is a great arabesque tale; a simple cautionary story. Don’t be cruel to cats.

  • BennyNitro on

    Great podcast, my first exposure to Lovecraft has been through it.

    Regarding The Tree, I don’t know if it is a mistake in the version that I read (I got it off Feedbooks for my iPhone) but in the third paragraph Kalos is named Saios. I don’t often pay enough attention at the start of Lovecraft stories, but thought it was strange that the character was misnamed.

  • Kallisto on

    Actually, Tyche is a goddess :o)

  • Andy H on

    I don’t think much of The Tree, but I absolutely took it as a revenge tale, when at the end the tree whisper’s “I know” — but it’s just not made obvious in the story, which is a nice break from us too often knowing everything that’s happening.

    Also, I just assumed “tyrant” had a different meaning in those times, according to some comments here I guess that’s true.

    Still, “Cats…” is a much better tale.

  • Longo on

    The impression I got from “The Tree” was that the two characters were actually lovers. There was nothing of the revenge tale here for me at all.
    HPL is the last person to write a romance, and I’m the last person to notice sexual overtones, but the setting of ancient Greece combined with the fact that the writing style reminded me of Oscar Wilde pointed my ideas in that direction.

    At the end of the tale, the titular tree destroys the building, but we aren’t told, or even given a hint, that the tree harmed Musides in any way, he just disappeared.
    When I finished reading, I got the impression that no one, not even Lovecraft nor any beekeeper (no matter how profitable his honey), knew what actually happened. We’re not supposed to know what happened, because no one does.
    My guess would be that Kalos, somehow by means of the tree, made it so that he and Musides were in the same place.

    P.S. great podcast, I discovered it yesterday and have really enjoyed these first eleven episodes. Even my more literary friends aren’t much for Lovecraft’s brand of oddness, so I’m sort of on my own and it’s nice to hear someone else’s perspective on the stories.
    I’m half hoping that at some point you’ll mention something I haven’t yet read, but so far my boast of having read all of H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction at least twice is holding solid.

  • Monstah on

    Guys, thanks for this. I truly did not understand The Tree, now I know for sure it’s in the Stuff Just Don’t Make Sense category.

  • David Larsen on

    I was asleep in class and dreamed I heard the Prof say that Tyrants were non-hereditary rulers, not aristocrats. Reminds me of Blackadder 1 where the Thrush says “it’s time to claim the throne that is not mine by right!” or some such.

  • Zeupater on

    Apologies for leaving this reply a couple years late. Catching up has been a bit

    uneven. Great job anyway.

    Tyrants in general were definitely not beloved figures in the Greek or Roman world. It is an

    interesting inclusion by HPL; it obviously raises questions, if not answering. Great fiction

    often does this.

    There was one in particular, Gelo, Tyrant of Syracuse,

    who drove out the aristocrats of Syracuse and successfully raided a Carthagenian camp then

    distributed the booty to the people and soldiers. These particular citizens seem to have

    liked their tyrant.

    Also, I think the significance of the beekeeper in the story is more clear if you consider

    historical references to toxic honey

    being made from flowering plants around the Black Sea. It will make you sick immediately and

    continued consumption will cause death.

    Kalos, communing with the nature spirits would have been informed of Musides’ plot.

    This is certainly a revenge tale, but I think it also qualifies as kind of an early

    ‘Whodunnit’. Therefore the missing/untold elements are necessary. Personally, I think it’s


  • Zeupater on

    Don’t know why the lines are broken up like that. Sorry.

  • Zeupater on

    Perhaps I should have mentioned Gelo, in addition to dispersing the to his people, took up the building of a temple in Syracuse.

  • Sean Pearce on

    Just as point of fact: Tyrant at the time was just a title, with no negative connotations. Rather like the title ‘Dictator’ in Roman times just meant ‘Ruler for Ten Months’

  • Robert Ficarra on

    I liked this story I was kind of puzzled by the ending but the last line gives you a hint of what was going on also when calose pushes aside the slave to tend to his friend thats a hint as well. After I had read it I began to suspect the whole poisining thing and it gave the story a really sinister feel. Because the whole time you think its a story of friendship but theen youre led to suspect that despite the friendship their was this evil underlying it. I think that was the point. You trust calos throughout the story and there is no doubt he has a genuine attachment to his friend but yet he still betrays him I think the gradual relization that he killed his friend after the story is finished is what makes it so creepy and disturbing. It makes you wonder about your own friends you cant help but imagine that they are like catos.I enjoyed the story as i was reading it and i can sympathize with being dissapointed in the ending but i think the intent was that you would be initially puzzled and then gradually begin to grasp the ugliness of what you thought was an idyllic friendship. It hits home because youre initial warm feelings about the friendship between these two men are replaced with suspicion And just like in life there is no definite answer as to what happened it suggests that the people you believe love you are not to be trusted which is a very disturbing thought.

  • J. Merrick on

    I realize that I’m somewhat late to the party here, but I just wanted to leave a comment regarding The Tree. You two mention that the killing of Kalos by Musides wasn’t evident at all from the text, thus the story was poorly written. Well, when I first read this story I immediately recognized the double-dealing of Musides and how he was secretly killing Kalos. So….maybe the story wasn’t written poorly, rather your reading of it was poor. I don’t mean to sound rude because I have so far thoroughly enjoyed your commentary (even though I think that you were exceedingly unfair with The White Ship, even considering your reconsideration that you explained in the next episode).

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to listening to your commentary of The Temple. Discovering this podcast has given me an excuse to re-read Lovecraft and for that, if for no other reason, I’m grateful.

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