“Doom That Came to Sarnath, The“
- Short story (2,740 words); written on December 3, 1919. First published in the Scot (June 1920), a Scottish amateur journal edited by Gavin T.McColl; rpt. Marvel Tales(March–April 1935) and WT (June 1938); first collected in BWS;corrected text in D.Ten thousand years ago, in the land of Mnar, stood the stone city of Ib near a vast still lake. Ib was inhabited by “beings not pleasing to behold”: they were “in hue as green as the lake and the mists that rise above it…they had bulging eyes, pouting, flabby lips, and curious ears, and were without voice.” Many eons later new folk came to Mnar and founded the city of Sarnath; these were the first human beings of the region, “dark shepherd folk with their fleecy flocks.” They loathed the creatures of Ib and destroyed both the town and its inhabitants, preserving only the “sea-green stone idol chiselled in the likeness of Bokrug, the water-lizard.” After this Sarnath flourished greatly. Every year a festival is held commemorating the destruction of Ib, and the thousandth year of this festival was to be of exceptional lavishness. But during the feasting and celebrating Sarnath is overrun by “a horde of indescribable green voiceless things with bulging eyes, pouting, flabby lips, and curious ears.” Sarnath is destroyed.Many features in the story betray borrowings from Dunsany, but all in externals. HPL thought he had come by the name Sarnath independently, but maintained that he later found it in a story by Dunsany; this is not, however, the case. Sarnath is also a real city in India (purportedly the place where Buddha first taught), but HPL may not have known this. The green idol Bokrug is reminis cent of the green jade gods of Dunsany’s play The Gods of the Mountain(in Five Plays,1914). Mention of a throne “wrought of one piece of ivory, though no man lives who knows whence so vast a piece could have come” echoes a celebrated passage (noted by HPL in “Supernatural Horror in Literature”) in “Idle Days on the Yann” (in A Dreamer’s Tales,1910) of an ivory gate “carved out of one solid piece!” The style of the tale is also superficially Dunsanian.
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.
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