“Cats of Ulthar, The“

“Cats of Ulthar, The“
   Short story (1,350 words); written on June 15, 1920. First published in Tryout(November 1920); rpt. WT(February 1926) and WT(February 1933); published as separate booklet (Cassia, FL: Dragon-Fly Press, 1935); first collected in O; corrected text in D.
   The narrator proposes to explain how the town of Ulthar passed its “remarkable law” that no man may kill a cat. There was once a very evil couple who hated cats and who brutally murdered any that strayed on their property. One day a caravan of “dark wanderers” comes to Ulthar, among which is the little boy Menes, owner of a tiny black kitten. When the kitten disappears, the heart-broken boy, learning of the propensities of the cat-hating couple, “prayed in a tongue no villager could understand.” That night all the cats in the town vanish, and when they return in the morning they refuse for two entire days to touch any food or drink. Later it is noticed that the couple has not been seen for days; when at last the villagers enter their house, they find two clean-picked skeletons. There are several superficial borrowings from Dunsany: the name of the boy Menes (possibly derived from King Argimenes of the play King Argimenes and the Unknown Warrior,in Five Plays [1914]); the “dark wanderers” (perhaps an echo of the “Wanderers…a weird, dark tribe” mentioned toward the end of “Idle Days on the Yann,” in A Dreamer’s Tales [1910]). The entire scenario is probably inspired by the many similar tales of elementary revenge in The Book of Wonder (1912).
   See Jason C.Eckhardt, “Something about the Cats of Ulthar,” Crypt No. 15 (Lammas 1983): 28–29.

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