- Many of HPL’s tales are narrated by individuals who, although not identified by name, either play an integral part in the story or serve merely as the conduit through which the events of the story are conveyed. They are described briefly below:♦ “The Beast in the Cave”: The narrator becomes lost exploring the Mammoth Cave. In trying to escape, he encounters and kills a denizen of the cave, who turns out to be not a beast but a man.♦ “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”: The narrator is an intern at the state (New York) psychopathic institution. It is he who cares for Joe Slater and who devises a “cosmic radio” to communicate with the “dream-soul” (actually an extraterrestrial entity) who temporarily inhabits Slater’s body.♦ “The Book”: The narrator of the fragment obtains an ancient handwritten volume—presumably from a book dealer. He perceives that he is followed home, “for he who passes the gateways [to which the book is a “key”] always wins a shadow, and never again can he be alone.” Upon reading the book, he finds he can no longer “see the world as I had known it.”♦ “The Colour out of Space”: The narrator is a surveyor, working on the outskirts of Arkham where a new reservoir is to be built. He finds that those living there consider the area of the former Nahum Gardner farm to be “evil,” but no one will divulge any information as to why, except the aged Ammi Pierce. The narrator serves as a mouthpiece for Pierce’s story.♦ “The Crawling Chaos”: The narrator, who is accidentally administered an overdose of opium, tells the ensuing drug-induced vision, ending in his witnessing the destruction of the world.♦ “The Curse of Yig”: The narrator is researching snake lore in Oklahoma, investigating the legend of Yig. The curator of an insane asylum reveals to him the only surviving half-human, half-snake offspring of Yig and a human female.♦ “Dagon”: The narrator, a supercargo on an unspecified sailing vessel, is captured in the Pacific Ocean by a German man-of-war. He escapes in a small boat and, after several days of drifting, finds himself run aground. He encounters first a Cyclopean monolith bearing strange marine carvings, then a hideous monster of the kind depicted on the monolith. He escapes and ultimately finds himself confined in a hospital in San Francisco. He later comes to believe that he is still pursued by the creature.♦ “The Disinterment”: The narrator awakens in a hospital bed to find that he was stricken with leprosy and treated for it by his friend Marshall Andrews. He learns that Andrews has unorthodoxly “cured” him of the disease by transplanting his head to the body of an African American.♦ “The Electric Executioner”: The narrator is an auditor with the Tlaxcala Mining Company of San Francisco. He is tasked with finding one Arthur Feldon, who disappeared in Mexico with important company papers. He finds himself on a train in the company of a dangerous maniac, who claims to have devised a hoodlike instrument for performing executions. The narrator tricks the madman into donning the device, and the man is accidentally killed by it. The narrator faints, but is later informed that he was alone in the train car.♦ “The Evil Clergyman”: The narrator investigates the attic chamber of an absent clergyman, whose library contains not only theological and classical books, but also treatises on magic. Somehow, the narrator invokes the clergyman, who alters the appearance of the narrator to resemble his own. Since this is not a story, but an account of an actual dream from a letter to Bernard Austin Dwyer, the “narrator” is HPL himself.♦ “Ex Oblivione”: The narrator, weary with the “ugly trifles of existence,” begins dreaming of a gate in a “golden valley,” later discovering that the gate leads to oblivion.♦ “The Festival”: The narrator visits his ancestral (seventeenth century) home in Kingsport because his ancestors are bidden to “keep festival…once every century, that the memory of primal secrets not be forgotten.” When the identity of the old man he encounters there—“the true deputy of my fathers”— is accidentally revealed to him, he leaps into the underground river beneath the house and is found the next day half frozen in the harbor. Those who tend to him at the hospital dismiss his account of his experiences as a “psychosis,” although he is convinced his experience was real.♦ “From Beyond”: The narrator is the “best friend” of the crazed inventor and philosopher Crawford Tillinghast. Tillinghast demonstrates for him a weird device that reveals the existence of creatures that cannot be perceived by the five senses. In terror, the narrator fires his revolver at Tillinghast’s machine and destroys it, and thus is unable to prove what Tillinghast has shown him.♦ “The Ghost-Eater”: Traveling on foot, the narrator encounters a house in a deserted wood, where he stays for the evening, to encounter what he later learns may have been a werewolf.♦ “The Green Meadow”: The narrator (writing in classical Greek) tells of how he finds himself near a stream on a peninsula that breaks off and floats away. He approaches an island and experiences a revelation, which is not revealed, as the concluding text of his narrative is illegible.♦ “The Haunter of the Dark”: The narrator, perhaps a detective, is probably the most distant observer of any story by HPL—his presence hinted at only by the invitation, “let us summarise the dark chain of events from the expressed point of view of [Robert Blake,] their chief actor.”♦ “He”: Increasingly disillusioned by his residence in New York City, the narrator seeks out the few remaining havens of antiquity in the city. He encounters an elderly man—a kindred spirit—who leads him to an out-of-the-way place where he is shown pandemoniac visions of a New York of both the past and the future. The narrator is found on the street, badly battered and unable to retrace his way back to the old man’s place. He ultimately returns “home to the pure New England lanes.” Though developed only rudimentarily, the narrator is perhaps the most autobiographical of HPL’s characters in spirit.♦ “Herbert West—Reanimator”: The narrator is a friend and colleague of Herbert West, first as fellow medical student, then later a partner in practice. He observes the outcome of all West’s experiments and witnesses West’s demise at the hands of West’s partially successful experiments in reanimation— a fate he himself escapes because he was merely West’s assistant.♦ “The Hound”: The narrator and his colleague, St. John, are graverobbers and “neurotic virtuosi,” who amass a museum of charnel trophies. After St. John is destroyed by the creature from whom they steal an ancient amulet, the narrator vows to take his own life to escape the fate that befell his friend.♦ “Hypnos”: The narrator, a sculptor, claims to have had a friend who led him on various dream voyages, and who perished after offending Hypnos, “lord of sleep,” leaving him a perfectly sculptured bust of marble. Quite naturally, the narrator is considered mad, the bust being thought to be his own handiwork.♦ “In the Vault”: The narrator is the personal physician and confidant of George Birch, the careless undertaker to whom the events of the story are told.♦ “The Loved Dead”: The reclusive narrator tells of the onset and progression of his necrophilia, before taking his own life as he is about to be apprehended by the police.♦ “The Lurking Fear”: Accompanied by two friends, the narrator seeks “the lurking fear” in the deserted Martense mansion on Tempest Mountain. His investigation reveals the presence of a race of apelike entities—the degenerate offspring of the Martense family—living in a network of tunnels beneath the house.♦ “Medusa’s Coil”: The narrator is a traveler in Missouri who seeks lodging as night approaches. He comes to the dilapidated home of Antoine de Russy, who reluctantly allows him to spend the night. The narrator hears from de Russy the tale of his son, Denis, and his strange wife, Marceline, both dead now and both buried in the cellar by de Russy. Later, as the two observe the painting of the wife, the narrator senses that the painting is animated, and in terror he shoots it with his pistol, thereby revivifying her corpse in the cellar. As de Russy and the narrator flee, the house is accidentally set afire. In town, the narrator is informed that the house had burned down some years ago.♦ “The Moon-Bog”: Denys Barry invites his friend, the narrator, to visit him at his new home—his ancestral estate—in Kilderry, Ireland. The narrator witnesses Barry’s demise at the hands of the vengeful spirits that inhabit the bog that Barry drains.♦ “The Mound”: The narrator goes to Oklahoma to investigate and corroborate a ghost-tale he had heard among the white settlers and Indians. He discovers the magnetic cylinder containing the narrative of Panfilo de Zamacona y Nunez, concerning the subterranean realm of K’n-yan.♦ “The Music of Erich Zann”: The narrator, a student of metaphysics, takes up residence in an ancient building on the Rue d’Auseil. There he hears the unearthly music of Erich Zann, whom he tries to meet so that he may hear more of Zann’s music. One night he visits Zann, when he hears Zann call out as if in terror. Zann begins playing maniacally, and when they hear strange rattlings at Zann’s garret window, the narrator looks through it, but sees only “the blackness of space illimitable.” He flees the house, and when he tries to find it again he cannot.♦ “The Nameless City”: In the desert of Araby, the narrator discovers an ancient “nameless city,” which he explores only to find that it was not fashioned by men but by strange, reptilian creatures.♦ “The Night Ocean”: The narrator, an artist, tells of the nebulous, unseen presences he senses on the beach or in the ocean during his vacation to a tourist area during the off season.♦ “Nyarlathotep”: The narrator confusedly recalls the coming of a mysterious Pharaoh-like individual named Nyarlathotep, who appears to be the harbinger of the collapse of the universe.♦ “The Outsider”: The narrator knows nothing of his ancestry or origins—indeed, little at all about himself. He thinks that he lives in a castle, but when he ascends to its tower to look at the surrounding landscape, he emerges at ground level—suggesting that his dwelling had been far underground. He goes exploring and finds a home in which much revelry is taking place. Just as he attempts to meet the inhabitants, they flee in terror from a hideous creature that has entered the home simultaneously with the narrator. The narrator is shocked to learn that the creature is merely his reflection in a mirror.♦ “The Picture in the House”: The narrator, who is bicycling through the Miskatonic Valley seeking genealogical data, is caught in a rainstorm and seeks shelter in a ramshackle house, where he encounters a preternaturally old man who turns out to be a cannibal.♦ “Polaris”: In dream, the narrator is tasked with manning the watch-tower of Thapnen, to warn against a siege by the city’s foes, the Inutos. Unfortunately, the Pole Star casts a spell on him, and he falls asleep at his post. He awakens to real life, but believes he still dreams and vainly tries to “awaken” so that he can warn his fellow Lomarians of imminent attack by the Inutos.♦ “The Shadow over Innsmouth”: See Olmstead, Robert (whose name is provided only in HPL’s notes for that story).♦ “The Shunned House”: The narrator is the nephew of Dr. Elihu Whipple; his own profession is not specified. As a youth, the narrator heard much about the mysterious “shunned house,” about which Whipple had conducted considerable research. His interest piqued by his uncle’s findings, he visits the house with increasing frequency, until he stays there overnight and observes “the thin, yellowish, shimmering exhalation” that he had seen there in his youth. He and Whipple attempt to eradicate the entity, but during their vigil the entity overtakes Whipple and the narrator is compelled to kill his uncle to release the old man from the grip of the entity. Finally, he pours carboys of acid into the earth to destroy the thing.♦ “The Silver Key”: See Phillips, Ward (who is identified as the narrator only in “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”).♦ “The Transition of Juan Romero”: The narrator is a laborer in the Norton Mine, in the American Southwest. He and Romero investigate a strange throbbing sound emanating from the mine. Romero becomes separated from the narrator and disappears into the cave. The narrator sees something he cannot describe, nor can he be certain whether he has seen anything or merely dreamt it, but somehow he escapes the mysterious fate that befalls Romero.♦ “What the Moon Brings”: The narrator admits to being terrified of the moon and moonlight, because they seem to transform the known landscape into something unfamiliar and hideous.
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.
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