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"The Black Stone": The REH "Story Of The Month"


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#1 deuce

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 05:59 AM

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

This month, we're going to (belatedly) check out one of Howard's finer horror yarns, The Black Stone. As I type these words, it is well-nigh midnight, and thunder rumbles through the low hills, so I'll keep things mercifully short, for now. Hopefully, y'all have the new Best of Robert E. Howard: Crimson Shadows, edited by our own Rusty Burke. If so, our tale begins on page 121. However, there are many other books which contain this story. Find one, read the tale and comment. :)

I've said before that I consider Steve Tompkins one of the best essayists out there. Here is an excellent essay of his on the REHeapa site dealin' with our "yarn of the month":
http://www.robert-e-...g/VGNNss03.html

There are many other fine contributions on the REHeapa site from our own Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Paul "godzilladude" Herman and Frank "Stormcrow" Coffman. Check 'em out:
http://www.robert-e-...d.org/home.html

As a Halloween bonus, here's a poem from Crimson Shadows (p.403)...

A Word From the Outer Dark

My ruthless hands still clutch at life-
Still like a shoreless sea
My soul beats on in rage and strife,
You may not shackle me.

My leopard eyes are still untamed,
They hold a darksome light-
A fierce and brooding gleam unnamed
That pierced primeval night.

Rear mighty temples to your god-
I lurk where shadows sway,
Till, when your drowsy guards shall nod,
To leap and rend and slay.

For I would hurl your cities down
And I would break your shrines
And give the site of every town
To thistles and to vines.

Higher the walls of Nineveh
And prouder Babels spires-
I bellowed from the desert way-
They crumbled in my fires.

For all the works of cultured man
Must fare and fade and fall.
I am the Dark Barbarian
That towers over all.


~Robert E. Howard~

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#2 Strom

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 05:01 AM

I love this story! Definitely belongs in the Best of REH list. I'm gonna read it again and post more later. I did just read the 1982 adaptation of "The Black Stone" by Roy Thomas and Gene Day a few weeks ago. Solid job by those two. B)

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#3 deuce

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 06:00 AM

I love this story! Definitely belongs in the Best of REH list. I'm gonna read it again and post more later. I did just read the 1982 adaptation of "The Black Stone" by Roy Thomas and Gene Day a few weeks ago. Solid job by those two. B)


Hey Strom! Honestly, Tompkins' essay is the best thing written about this yarn that I have EVER read. That RT/GD "Black Stone" adaptation was ROCKIN'. Gene Day (RIP) was a true REH fan (as is RT) and a kick-a$$ artist. I read the adaptation like a year after reading the original. Here's hopin' that others discover/respond regarding this REH classic, which is known far beyond the confines of Howard fandom. It's been called the best "Lovecraftian" story ever written, not counting HPL's own tales.

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#4 Axerules

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 02:44 AM

Thanks for posting that magnificent poem, Deuce. :D

The first time I read The Black Stone was 20 years ago. I was introduced to the Mythos through this REH yarn. Two years before reading (a few) HPL and (a lot) of CAS. It was really frightening for the teenager that I was then.

I read it again two or three years ago, before GM'ing a Conan session. Someone adapted and relocated it in Zamora (for Conan RPG GMs: Dr Skull's Modules). I remember that I thought that "it wasn't one of REH's best" at that moment.
Mainly because there was no Howardian hero.
I don't mean that I need a huge sword-wielding skull-cleaving barbarian character in a story to be happy (I can't stomach Thongor and Kothar), BUT passive characters who become crazy or commit suicide are definitively not REH's standard. In my RPG session, they battled the toad-thing (one character died). Here everything has already happened and the unnamed narrator is something rather unique in his texts. S. Tompkins wrote: "Mythos characters have to know, and they have to live, if they live, with the fact that they cannot ever un-know." Maybe REH's writing was a little bit TOO "Lovecraftian" in this tale for my tastes. I said to myself: what would have Kull or Solomon Kane done if confronted with this "little Tsathoggua"?
A strange story, indeed: the best Mythos story ? Perhaps.


After reading it once again the same day as S. Tompkins' essay, I'm amazed by the many things I missed.

The dark mood and strange atmosphere were a trademark of the setting for me, I hadn't seen the place as a kind of "dreamland".

In his essay, with tremendous insights regarding the influence of Stoker's Dracula, S. Tompkins explained how the Balkans (Hungary is in Central Europe, but every country conquered or threatened by the Turks qualifies) are on the doorstep to Europe. I have to second that: one of my oldest friends, half Serb/half Montenegrin (BTW, Montenegro means "Black Mountain"), who lived in Yugoslavia in his early childhood (and returns there from time to time), explained to me more than once that HE had these kind of feelings about his land. He told me as well how the numerous battles against Turks were taught to young people there.
I had not seen that REH approved the "ethnic cleansing" by the Turks, when it was obvious to me that Bran "re-humanized" the Roman victims of the Worms.
It makes a lot of sense for humans to unite again the "unnatural" in REHs texts, the "ultimate enemy" of humanity being the horror of "bygone ages" and not other humans. How COULD I have missed that ? I was probably mislead by the "torture/ethnic cleansing" stuff.

As a side note: Von Juntz's Nameless/Unaussprechlichen Cults/Kulten was also used in Children of The Night and by HPL.

I will probably add further comments later.

And, of course, I don't think anymore that it shouldn't belong to the "Best of REH list". ;)
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#5 Kortoso

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 06:06 PM

Don't you recognize the Cimmerian national anthem? :)

#6 El Borak's Li'l Brother

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 10:26 PM

Well, well. I'm reading People of the Dark, The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard, Volume 3, and I've just reached this story -- The Black Stone -- which I already read in The Best of Robert E. Howard Volume 1, Crimson Shadows some time ago. A refresher read is needed, so mayhap not tonight but tomorrow I will be commenting. ;)
Crom!

#7 deuce

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Posted 27 October 2007 - 10:48 PM

Hey Bro! Looking forward to your comments. Enjoy yourself. :)


Don't you recognize the Cimmerian national anthem? :)


Hey Kortoso! You've got me stumped. Got any clues/tips/hints?

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#8 deuce

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 03:55 AM

Here's some annotations...

The Black Stone ~ by Robert E. Howard (first appeared in Weird Tales, November 1931)

Epigram:"They say foul things of Old Times still lurk
In dark forgotten corners of the world,
And Gates still gape to loose, on certain nights,
Shapes pent in Hell."

~Justin Geoffrey~

the "nameless narrator": Ironically (or fittingly), he has access to one of the "original" editions of Nameless Cults.

Nameless Cults: also known (in the original Deutsche) as Unaussprechlichen Kulten (according to Derleth and Wright), it was also called "the Black Book". It was originally published in Dusseldorf in 1839, "with heavy leather covers and...iron hasps". A "pirated" edition was issued in 1845 by Bridewall of London. The translation is generally considered as "cheap and faulty". A "carefully expurgated edition" was published by Golden Goblin Press of New York in 1909. The nameless narrator doubts "if there are half a dozen such volumes in the entire world today" of the original, accurate Dusseldorf edition. Many copies were burned after the details of the the author's demise were known.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Junzt: was born in 1795 in Germany (Dusseldorf?) amidst the turmoil of Napoleonic Europe. He "spent his entire life delving into forbidden subjects". Von Junzt "traveled in all parts of the world, gained entrance into innumerable secret societies, and read countless little-known and esoteric books and manuscripts in the original". He was working on a new manuscript in 1840 when "he was found dead with the marks of taloned fingers on his throat" within a "locked and bolted chamber".
Alexis Ladeau: a Frenchman, was von Junzt's closest friend. He discovered his friend's body amid the scattered pages of von Junzt's unpublished manuscript. After piecing them together and reading the contents, Ladeau burnt the manuscript and "cut his own throat with a razor".

the Black Stone: is a "curious, sinister monolith that broods among the mountains of Hungary". It is mentioned in Nameless Cults. Von Junzt seems to imply "that the Black Stone represents some order or being lost and forgotten centuries ago." He "spoke of it as one of the keys". REH's and von Junzt's use of "keys" would seem to have been inspired by Lovecraft's sonnet, The Key.

Otto Dostmann: was a German(?) historian/archaeologist and the author of Remnants of Lost Empires. His "pet theme" were the Greco-Roman ruins of Asia Minor.
Remnants of Lost Empires: was published in Berlin by "Das Drachenhaus" Press in 1809. In it, Dostmann refers to the Black Stone "briefly". His theory was that the Stone "was a remnant of the Hunnish invasion and had been erected to commemorate a victory of Attila over the Goths". Von Junzt contradicted this theory in Nameless Cults, "remarking that to attribute the origin of the Black Stone to the Huns was as logical as assuming that William the Conqueror reared Stonehenge." Dostmann pronounced the defaced characters on the Stone as being "unmistakably Mongoloid".

Stregoicavar: is the name of the Hungarian village "adjacent to the Black Stone". According to Dostmann, its name means something like "Witch-Town".
Dornly's "Magyar Folklore": mentions the Black Stone in the Dream Myths chapter. It notes the superstition that if anyone sleeps in the vicinity of the Stone, that person will "be haunted by monstrous nightmares for ever after". There were tales about those who visited the Stone on Midsummer's Eve and "who died raving mad". These traditions bear a striking similarity to legends in Wales concerning certain stones there. If a person sleeps near such stones on certain nights, then he will awake as a poet or a madman. Justin Geoffrey would fit this discription. While on the subject of "dream myths", there are the mazzerri, or "dream-hunters" of Corsica. In her book, Barbara Carrington discusses them and theorizes that they are remnants of shamanic practices dating from Stone Age times. The Corsican word for "witches" is stregoi. Here's a link: http://www.terracors...o/mazzeri2.html

Justin Geoffrey:"the mad poet" who wrote the poem, The People of the Monolith.
Temesvar: is a Hungarian city situated in the far western corner of the country.
Stregoicavar: to reach it, the narrator took a "train of obsolete style" from Temesvar to an uncertain point. He then endured a three-day coach-ride to reach Stregoicavar, "which lay in a fertile valley high up in the fir-clad mountains". Those mountains would seem to be the Trans-Danubian Medium Mountains, which lie just east of Temesvar.

Schomvaal: is the site of a battlefield, three days' ride from Stregoicavar. It was at Schomvaal that "the brave Polish-Hungarian knight, Count Boris Vladinoff, made his gallant and futile stand against the victorious hosts of Suleiman the Magnificent, when the Grand Turk swept over eastern Europe in 1526."
Larson's "Turkish Wars": refers to the Battle of Schomvaal. According to Larson, Vladinoff was standing amidst the ruins of an old castle when hidden Turkish artillery batteries bombarded the Count's position. The ruins collapsed upon the Count, killing him. The Hungarian forces, leaderless, were "cut to pieces".

Stregoicavar: its inhabitants were "friendly" and "quaint".
Justin Geoffrey: according to the tavern-keeper of Stregoicavar, visited the village ten years before the narrator (approximately 1920). The inn-keeper said that Geoffrey "mumbled to himself" and that his "actions and conversations were the strangest of any man I (the tavern-keeper) ever knew." According to the narrator, JG "died screaming in a madhouse five years" before.

the Black Stone: The tavern-keeper says that he wishes it "were ground to powder and flung into the Danube", implying that Stregoicavar probably lies in the Trans-Danubian Mountains. He also said that once men tried to destroy it, "but each man that laid hammer or maul against it came to an evil end".
Stregoicavar: In 1526, the Turks (led by the scribe, Selim Bahadur) swept through the area, killing every human they could find. The present inhabitants of the village came from the lower valleys later on. The original inhabitants were "pagans" who had "dwelt in the mountains since time immemorial". Apparently, settlers of "sturdy...Magyar-Slavic stock had mixed and intermarried with a degraded aboriginal race...producing an unsavory amalgamation".

the Black Stone:lies "a few hours' tramp" from Stregoicavar. Once past fir-clad slopes, one comes to a "rugged solid stone cliff" jutting boldly from the mountainside. Atop the cliff is "a sort of thickly-wooded plateau". There, in the center of a wide glade, stands the Black Stone. It is "octagonal in shape, some sixteen feet in height and about a foot and a half thick." Heiroglyphics spiral up the Stone. They are mostly defaced for the first ten feet from the ground, higher up, they are more legible. The narrator claims that the glyphs were like nothing of which he had seen or heard. "The nearest approach to them", in his opinion, "were some crude scratches on a gigantic and strangely symmetrical rock in a lost valley of Yucatan." His theory was "that the rock was really the base of a long-vanished column" was laughed at by his archaeologist friend, who said that "if it were built with any natural rules of architectural symmetry" it would be "a column a thousand feet high". The narrator says of the Stone's glyphs and those of the "column" that "one suggested the other". The original, undinted surface of the Stone was "a dully gleaming black". The narrator says that it "was if the monolith had been reared by alien hands, in an age distant and apart from human ken". This line suggests the REH poem, The Symbol.
the tavern-keeper's nephew: As a child, he had slept near the Stone. Ever since, he had experienced terrible nightmares. He clearly remembered only one dream. In it, "he had seen the Black Stone, not on a mountain slope but set like a spire on a colossal black castle".

Xuthltan: the name given to Stregoicavar by its original inhabitants, according to the local schoolmaster. "He believed that a coven had once existed in the vicinity", part "of that fertility cult which once threatened to undermine European civilization and gave rise to tales of witchcraft." REH is almost for sure referring to the theories expounded by Margaret Murray in her The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, a book which HPL recommended to Howard. To the narrator, the name "Xuthltan" did not suggest "connection with any Scythic, Slavic or Mongolian race to which an aboriginal people of these mountains would, under natural circumstances, have belonged." The schoolmaster "did not believe that the members of the cult erected the monolith", they simply used it for their own purposes.

Midsummer Night: The narrator finds himself in Stregoicavar on the date of this ancient festival. In legend, this was an especially dangerous time to be near the Stone. A "broad silver moon" hangs in the sky. This lunar factoid should allow us to set an exact year for this yarn. Here's a Midsummer link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midsummer

the Black Stone: The narrator, when he comes to the cliffs below the Stone, notes that "in the weird light they appeared less like natural cliffs and more like the ruins of cyclopean and Titan-reared battlements jutting from the mountain slope". At the edge of the glade on the side toward the cliffs "was a stone which formed a sort of natural seat". The narrator speculates that it was here that Justin Geoffrey probably sat. Once again, this agrees with the Welsh legends I noted above. The narrator falls asleep and awakens around midnight. He tries to rise, but feels himself "gripped" and "helpless".

The narrator sees the glade thronged by hundreds of skin-clad worshippers "not fifty yards away". They were short and squat, with low brows and broad, dull faces. "Some had Slavic or Magyar features, but those features were degraded as from a mixture of some baser alien strain". They formed a broad semi-circle in front of the Stone. Some sort of priest stood before the monolith, clad in a goat-skin and wearing a wolf-mask. The priest and worshippers kept shouting "a single word, over and over". What that word was, the narrator could not determine. The priest lashed a dark-haired "votaress" with fir-branches until she was bloody. She crawled to the Stone and kissed it "in frenzied and unholy adoration." "The priest swept up the infant (which lay before the Stone) with a long arm, and shouting again that Name(...)dashed its brains out against the monolith". Suddenly, "a huge monstrous toad-like thing" squatted atop the Stone. It was "bloated, repulsive and unstable". Its "huge blinking eyes" were filled with "lust, abysmal greed, obscene cruelty and monstrous evil". The priest lifted a bound, nubile girl to his god and the "monstrosity sucked in its breath, lustfully and slobberingly". At this point, the narrator loses consciousness. The narrator opens his eyes "on a still white dawn". There is no sign of the obscenities he witnessed.

Count Boris Vladinoff: The narrator calls him a "Polish adventurer".
Schomvaal: "a little village lies a few miles from the old battlefield".
Justin Geoffrey: According to the narrator, the poet "tarried there (at the Black Stone) only in the sunlight, and went his way".

Selim Bahadur: "a soldier as well as a scribe" in the Turkish imperial court. He commanded the forces that cleansed Xuthltan. He discovered the obscene cult that infested the valley. Through torture, Selim learned of "the lost, grim black cavern high in the hills". There the Turks found "a monstrous, bloated, wallowing toad-like being". They hemmed it in "and slew it with flame and ancient steel blessed in old times by Muhammad, and with incantations that were old when Arabia was young." The thing took "a half-score of his slayers" with him. From around the neck of the wolf-mask priest, Selim took a golden idol-pendant, depicting the "god". Selim set down the account of all that transpired in a "neat" hand, in "Turkish characters"(?). He placed the account, along with the silk-wrapped pendant, in a lacquered case. He was slain at Schomvaal and the case given to Vladinoff. When the castle ruins collapsed on the Count, the lacquered case was buried with him.

the narrator: By the end of his account, he now understands what von Junzt meant by "his repeated phrase of keys!" "Keys to Outer Doors -links with an abhorrent past". The Stone is a Key. It is a "symbol of a forgotten horror" (once again recalling "The Symbol" poem). The narrator also realizes "why the cliffs look like battlements in the moonlight". He speaks of the "masking slopes" which hide ancient secrets. He says:"For the cave wherein the Turks trapped the - thing - was not truly a cavern". "May no man seek to uproot the ghastly spire men call the Black Stone!" He notes:"Man was not always master of the earth - and is he now?"

BTW, every single book mentioned in this yarn was created by Robert E. Howard.

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#9 budgie

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 12:02 PM

excellent breakdown there deuce, I commend your work on that..

funny thing is I didnt know my wife wrote books on witchcraft (The Witch-Cult in Western Europe), Ill need to have words with her about that.. ;) :lol:

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#10 godzilladude

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 02:10 PM

excellent breakdown there deuce, I commend your work on that..

funny thing is I didnt know my wife wrote books on witchcraft (The Witch-Cult in Western Europe), Ill need to have words with her about that.. ;) :lol:

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#11 El Borak's Li'l Brother

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Posted 28 October 2007 - 09:57 PM

I just finished The Black Stone, my second reading of a "new" Howard story for me. There is so much to this story, as seen through the well done annotations by duece, yet the pace with which Howard weaves it all together is incredible. I've read somewhere how Lovecraft encouraged his friends, including Howard, to try their hand at his type of story, and I must say in comparison with the few Lovecraft stories I've read, wonderful as they were, Howard's The Black Stone is much better done simply due to its pacing. To me, Lovecraft's style drags a but in the way he stuffed in so many "facts" and "histories" along his narratives. The type of writing style I have to be in the mood to read.

But I shouldn't compare Howard and Lovecraft here, especially considering how few of the latter's stories I've read. A fault I intend to remedy soon, as I have a number of recently acquired Lovercraft collections on my list of books to read.

Be that as it may, The Black Stone reads to me as what nowadays would be considered a "stock" plotline, but being a reader who prefers not to worry about such, to take stories for what they give me, I must say it gave me plenty. Intrigue, mystery, discover, horror and dread in plentiful quantities that in the end sent a quivering to the nape hairs -- as well as being repulsed, yet yearning to delve into the "books" and "manuscripts" mentioned throughout, no matter how grizzly the fate of those who read them before. Then, of course, the deep down wish -- desire to actually lay eyes on the main subject of the narative: The Back Stone.... No matter the horror of it! The possible mind blasting consequences promised in the narrative.

Um... Anyway, I liked it.
Crom!

#12 Nick Morbius

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 12:54 AM

This was one of the first Howard stories i ever read having started at the panther editions of the Skullface Omnibus, and i remember being a little shocked at one of the acts described, not having expected something that horrific to be in a tale from the late twenties, early thirties(?). I'll dig it out and reread so i can post before the thread gets stale.

#13 deuce

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 01:32 AM

This was one of the first Howard stories i ever read having started at the panther editions of the Skullface Omnibus, and i remember being a little shocked at one of the acts described, not having expected something that horrific to be in a tale from the late twenties, early thirties(?). I'll dig it out and reread so i can post before the thread gets stale.


Hey Nick! "Stale"!?! Threads don't get stale on this forum, they become well-seasoned and finely-honed. ;) "Netromancy" ain't no crime in my book. Looking forward to your post. :)

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#14 deuce

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 07:46 AM

Intrigue, mystery, discover, horror and dread in plentiful quantities that in the end sent a quivering to the nape hairs -- as well as being repulsed, yet yearning to delve into the "books" and "manuscripts" mentioned throughout, no matter how grizzly the fate of those who read them before. Then, of course, the deep down wish -- desire to actually lay eyes on the main subject of the narative: The Back Stone.... No matter the horror of it! The possible mind blasting consequences promised in the narrative.


Hey Bro! I had the exact same feeling when I read this yarn for the first time. That need to KNOW and to SEE, no matter the consequences, is very Lovecraftian (and Howardian, IMO). There are some (or many) who just don't get/feel that. Oh well. :rolleyes:

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#15 deuce

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Posted 10 October 2008 - 07:43 AM

Having recently bad-mouthed an REH-related Wikipedia entry, I now recommend a good 'un:
http://en.wikipedia....The_Black_Stone

I scanned it, and see nothing to criticize. :) In fact, I think there are a couple of things pointed out that we didn't mention here.

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#16 Hyborian Frog

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Posted 10 October 2008 - 07:24 PM

Definitely one of my fave REH tales. I first read it in "Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos" from Arkham House about four years ago.

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#17 Rusty Burke

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Posted 10 October 2008 - 07:56 PM

Nameless Cults: also known (in the original Deutsche) as Unaussprechlichen Kulten (according to Derleth and Wright),


Howard simply called it "The Black Book" or "Nameless Cults": HPL thought it needed a German title, and asked Derleth, who lived in a community with a lot of people of German descent, to come up with one. AWD thought Unaussprechlichen Kulten would fit the bill. HPL loved it. Then E. Hoffmann Price, who had a smattering of German from his West Point education, opined that Unaussprechlichen meant "unpronounceable," rather than "unspeakable." He suggested that "Unnennbaren Kulten" would be better. (The online German-English dictionary I just consulted -- http://www.ego4u.com/en/dictionary -- agrees with Price. It says "unaussprechlich" means "unpronounceable," while "unnennbar" means "nameless". It gives "uns?glich" for "unspeakable." Too bad it wasn't around when this debate was raging among the Weird Talers.) HPL liked the "mouth-filling rhythm" of "Unaussprechlichen", and hoped it could be saved, if there was any way to make it fit. Wright was on the point of backing Price, but it happened that C.C. Senf, the notoriously inept cover artist, was visiting the offices one day and Wright asked him about it. Senf, a native German, said "Unaussprechlichen" was okay, and so it won out. REH himself used the title only once, in the untitled fragment "Beneath the glare of the sun...", which some of you know as the opening to "Black Eons."

It was originally published in Dusseldorf in 1839, "with heavy leather covers and...iron hasps". A "pirated" edition was issued in 1845 by Bridewall of London. The translation is generally considered as "cheap and faulty". A "carefully expurgated edition" was published by Golden Goblin Press of New York in 1909. The nameless narrator doubts "if there are half a dozen such volumes in the entire world today" of the original, accurate Dusseldorf edition. Many copies were burned after the details of the the author's demise were known.


I think some of this bibliographical background shows that REH was himself fairly familiar with the rare book trade. Although he could not afford a lot of rarities himself, he did get catalogs from The Argosy Bookstore (perhaps the one in NY, but I have been told there was also one in Chicago that carried a lot of fantasy works) and others. He did manage to come up with some fairly hard-to-get erotica.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Junzt


Again, Howard only come up with the last name. (And Deuce, wasn't it you who was pointing out to me the error of using a lower-case "v"? Howard wrote it as "Von Junzt".) Lovecraft supplied the first and middle names.

The Corsican word for "witches" is stregoi.


PaulMc, in the Dracula thread, quoted a passage from Stoker in which Van Helsing remarked, "In the records are such words as 'stregoica' witch, 'ordog' and 'pokol' Satan and hell, and in one manuscript this very Dracula is spoken of as 'wampyr,' which we all understand too well." Howard might well have gotten the term from there, making the reasonable assumption that it was a Transylvanian word for "witch."

Xuthltan: the name given to Stregoicavar by its original inhabitants, according to the local schoolmaster. "He believed that a coven had once existed in the vicinity", part "of that fertility cult which once threatened to undermine European civilization and gave rise to tales of witchcraft." REH is almost for sure referring to the theories expounded by Margaret Murray in her The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, a book which HPL recommended to Howard. To the narrator, the name "Xuthltan" did not suggest "connection with any Scythic, Slavic or Mongolian race to which an aboriginal people of these mountains would, under natural circumstances, have belonged." The schoolmaster "did not believe that the members of the cult erected the monolith", they simply used it for their own purposes.


Whether Howard had actually read The Witch-Cult in Western Europe or not is strictly conjectural. He could have gotten what he used in "The Black Stone" from HPL's discussion of it in his letter. I'm fascinated by "Xuthltan," and I keep thinking it, or something very nearly like it, is in another story, but all I can find is "Xuthal," "xuthalla" (in "Iron Shadows in the Moon"), "Xapur" ("The Devil in Iron"), and "Xuchotl" and "Xotalanc" ("Red Nails").

Rusty

#18 deuce

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Posted 10 October 2008 - 08:48 PM

Xuthltan: the name given to Stregoicavar by its original inhabitants, according to the local schoolmaster. "He believed that a coven had once existed in the vicinity", part "of that fertility cult which once threatened to undermine European civilization and gave rise to tales of witchcraft." REH is almost for sure referring to the theories expounded by Margaret Murray in her The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, a book which HPL recommended to Howard. To the narrator, the name "Xuthltan" did not suggest "connection with any Scythic, Slavic or Mongolian race to which an aboriginal people of these mountains would, under natural circumstances, have belonged." The schoolmaster "did not believe that the members of the cult erected the monolith", they simply used it for their own purposes.


Whether Howard had actually read The Witch-Cult in Western Europe or not is strictly conjectural. He could have gotten what he used in "The Black Stone" from HPL's discussion of it in his letter. I'm fascinated by "Xuthltan," and I keep thinking it, or something very nearly like it, is in another story, but all I can find is "Xuthal," "xuthalla" (in "Iron Shadows in the Moon"), "Xapur" ("The Devil in Iron"), and "Xuchotl" and "Xotalanc" ("Red Nails").

Rusty


Hey Rusty! No way was I trying to imply that Howard's reading of "Witch-Cult" was a demonstrable fact, just that there seems little doubt that HPL acquainted him with Murray's premise. That's why the printing of the "REH-HPL Letters" volume will be so cool. That volume will provide a much better idea of just exactly what information (of all kinds) Lovecraft passed on to REH.

As for "Xuthltan", as I meant to point out on this very thread, the "other Xuthltan" is mentioned in the "Mythos version" of The Fire of Asshurbanipal...

"To gain honor and power for himself, he dared the horrors of a nameless vast cavern in a dark untraveled land, and from those fiend-haunted depths he brought that blazing gem, which is carved of the frozen flames of Hell! By reason of his fearful power in black magic, he put a spell on the demon which guarded the ancient gem, and so stole away the stone. And the demon slept in the cavern unknown.

"So this magician --Xuthltan by name -- dwelt in the court of Asshurbanipal and did magic and forecast events by scanning the lurid deeps of the stone..."


Sorcerers are notoriously leery of giving out their "true" names. I think it's entirely possible that the Assyrian magician took his "stage name" from the place where he gained power over such a mighty magickal artifact.
I've always wondered if "Xaltotun" was a version of/inspired by "Xuthltan".

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#19 Rusty Burke

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Posted 10 October 2008 - 09:13 PM

Hey Rusty! No way was I trying to imply that Howard's reading of "Witch-Cult" was a demonstrable fact


And I wasn't intending to imply that you were, just adding to the note.

As for "Xuthltan", as I meant to point out on this very thread, the "other Xuthltan" is mentioned in the "Mythos version" of The Fire of Asshurbanipal...


Thanks! I knew I'd run into that in the not-too-distant past, and it was driving me nuts. (Okay, I'm already there, it was driving me deeper....)

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#20 deuce

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Posted 10 October 2008 - 09:27 PM

Hey Rusty! No way was I trying to imply that Howard's reading of "Witch-Cult" was a demonstrable fact


And I wasn't intending to imply that you were, just adding to the note.

As for "Xuthltan", as I meant to point out on this very thread, the "other Xuthltan" is mentioned in the "Mythos version" of The Fire of Asshurbanipal...


Thanks! I knew I'd run into that in the not-too-distant past, and it was driving me nuts. (Okay, I'm already there, it was driving me deeper....)

Rusty


Glad I could help, Rusty. :D Thanks for the extra info!

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