“Festival, The“


“Festival, The“
   Short story (3,700 words); probably written in October 1923. First published in WT(January 1925); rpt. WT(October 1933): first collected in O;corrected text in D;annotated version in CC. The first-person narrator finds himself in Kingsport, Mass., on the Yuletide “that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind.” He follows a course along the old town that can be traversed to this day. He passes by the old cemetery on the hill, where “black gravestones stuck ghoulishly through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse,” and makes his way to a house with an overhanging second story and full of antique furnishings. Eventually he is led from the house by its occupants, including a man whose face seems to be a cunningly made waxen mask. He and the other townspeople make their way to a church in the center of town; entering it, they all descend robotically down a “trapdoor of the vaults which yawned loathsomely open just before the pulpit,” where the celebrants worship a sickly green flame next to an oily river and then ride off on the backs of hybrid winged creatures. The narrator resists ascending the creature reserved for him, and in doing so he jostles his companion’s waxen mask; horrified at some nameless sight, he plunges into the river and eventually finds himself in St. Mary’s hospital in Arkham. He asks for a copy of the Necronomiconof Abdul Alhazred, and therein reads a passage that appears to confirm the events he has experienced, specifically in relation to entities that “have learned to walk that ought to crawl.”
   The story is based upon HPL’s several trips to Marblehead, Mass., beginning in December 1922. Of his first trip there HPL later wrote that it was “the most powerful single emotional climax experienced during my nearly forty years of existence. In a flash all the past of New England—all the past of Old England—all the past of Anglo-Saxondom and the Western World—swept over me and identified me with the stupendous totality of all things in such a way as it never did before and never will again. That was the high tide of my life” ( SL3.126–27). The course of the narrator’s journey through the town corresponds to an actual route that leads to the center of Marblehead; the house with the overhanging second story is probably to be identified with an actual house at 1 Mugford Street. The church where the climactic incidents occur has long been thought to be St.
   Michael’s Episcopal Church in Frog Lane, but this identification appears to be incorrect: St. Michael’s has no steeple, and allusions to it in this story and later tales make it clear that it is on a hill and that it is a Congregational church. In all likelihood, HPL was probably referring to one of two nowdestroyed Congregational churches in the city. The old cemetery on the hill is clearly Old Burial Hill, where many ancient graves are to be found.
   In 1933 HPL stated in reference to the tale: “In intimating an alien race I had in mind the survival of some clan of pre-Aryan sorcerers who preserved primitive rites like those of the witch-cult—I had just been reading Miss Murray’s The Witch-Cult in Western Europe” ( SL4.297). This controversial work of anthropology by Margaret A.Murray, published in 1921, made the claim (regarded by modern scholars as highly unlikely) that the witch-cult in both Europe and America had its origin in a preAryan race that was driven underground but continued to lurk in the hidden corners of the earth. HPL had just read a similar fictional exposition of the idea in Arthur Machen’s stories of the “Little People” and was accordingly much taken with this conception; he would allude to it in many subsequent references to the Salem witches in his tales, and as late as 1930 he was presenting the theory seriously (see SL3.182–83). The epigraph, from Lactantius, appears to derive from HPL’s ancestral copy of Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana
   See Donovan K.Loucks, “Antique Dreams: Marblehead and Lovecraft’s Kingsport.” LS No. 42 (Summer 2001): 48–55.

An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. .

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hellflame Festival - The South Side of Hell — infobox music festival music festival name = Hellflame Festival The South Side of Hell location = Lichtenfels, Germany years active= 2007 – present dates = September genre = Heavy metal website= [http://www.burningstage.net/ www.burningstage.net] …   Wikipedia

  • Festival Internacional Cervantino — The Festival Internacional Cervantino (popularly known as El Cervantino) takes place each fall in the city of Guanajuato, located in central Mexico. This is a small colonial era city with history of having a large cultural scene. The origins of… …   Wikipedia

  • Festival of Britain — The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition which opened in London and around Britain in May 1951. The official opening was on May 3. [ [http://www.packer34.freeserve.co.uk/barry.htm Contemporary account of start of festival.] ] The… …   Wikipedia

  • The Lichfield Festival — is an annual multi art form festival held in Lichfield, Staffordshire, which aims to combine high quality, challenging and diverse events of an international calibre, alongside community based, locally sourced activities. Performances include… …   Wikipedia

  • The Man from London — The Man from London …   Wikipedia

  • Festival du Voyageur — The Festival du Voyageur (literally translated as Festival of the Traveller) is an annual 10 day winter festival which takes place in St. Boniface, Manitoba, Canada during February. Voyageur refers to those who worked for a fur trading company… …   Wikipedia

  • The Rose of Tralee — festival is an international competition which is celebrated among Irish communities all over the world. The festival takes its inspiration from a nineteenth century Irish ballad of the same name about a woman called Mary, who because of her… …   Wikipedia

  • The Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival — The Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival, or Cheesefest, is a festival held in the village of Little Chute, Wisconsin at Little Chute s Doyle Park on the first weekend of every June. This annual event kicks off Dairy Month. History Each year the… …   Wikipedia

  • Festival Puccini — The Festival Puccini (Puccini Festival) is an annual summer opera festival held in July and August to present the operas of the famous Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini.The Festival is located in Torre del Lago, Italy, a town located between the… …   Wikipedia

  • The Works Art & Design Festival — is a thirteen day celebration held at the end of June and the beginning of July in downtown, Edmonton, Canada. The festival displays the work of artists and designers from across Canada as well as featured exhibits from international presenters.… …   Wikipedia

  • The Necessary Stage — is a non profit theatre company with charity status in Singapore. Formed in 1987 by current Artistic Director Alvin Tan, The Necessary Stage has been identified as one of six Major Arts Companies by the National Arts Council. The company is also… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.