“The Mound”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

It’s actually one of Lovecraft’s more significant stories not only for its length and its satirical elements on contemporary society, but, according to Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, he wrote basically all the story with Bishop contributing the plot idea:

There is an Indian mound near here, which is haunted by a headless ghost. Sometimes it is a woman.

Raw Feed (2005, 2017): “The Mound”, Zealia Bishop [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1930.hm

This 1930 story is a dry run for the great Lovecraft stories of “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow Out of Time”.

Like those stories, it features the exploration of an alien civilization with detailed descriptions of its science, mores, culture, and history.  t does mention some of the Cthulhu dieties but does not try to fit in an overarching history, linking other Lovecraft stories, like those latter works do.

Another obvious point of difference is that this underground civilization is genetically related to humans, its members originally — at least they believe — brought to Earth by Cthulhu.

Joshi has described it as a satire on “machine civilization”, and it sort of is.

At one point, the narrator, examining the manuscript of a Spanish conquistador who lived in this underground world, says that it might be a hoax as social satire. The satire is interesting because it is a repugnant, decadent civilization whose increasingly jaded entertainments run to torture, ghastly modifications to the condemned bodies, and reanimation of the dead (usually in a mutilated form).

However, this civilization sort of embraces Lovecraft’s personal morality (as shown by his “The Silver Key”) of there being no objective morality or purpose in life. Yet, Lovecraft shows us a world increasingly superstitious and unable to understand their scientific accomplishments of the past, given to sexual excess (the narrator remarks more than once on the conquistador’s unfortunate “pious reticence”). Their jaded tastes, unlike Lovecraft — who shares their ultimate nihilism — don’t run to learning and creating beauty.

They do, however, start to post more guards to the entrances to their underground world once they realize Europeans are moving in to the American Midwest (the story, likes the Bishop-Lovecraft collaboration “The Curse of Yig” is set in Oklahoma, shares some characters, and the narrators of both seem to be the same ethnologist).

I suspect Bishop’s original plot idea included the liasion between the conquistador and a woman from the underground. Again, that’s not a Lovecraft feature.

As with his “At the Mountains of Madness”, there is mention of genetic engineering being done as well as ancient wars and even older ruins.  A interesting and good effort from Lovecraft.

On reading this story a second time a few months ago, I noticed that the style is different than Lovecraft’s usual as well as the plot. There is a dearth of adjectives though still the final crescendo of revelation.

The whole thing seems a bit Edgar Rice Burroughish with the strange, horrible steeds, the underground civilization, and the aborted love plot. It is interesting how much was added to the Mythos in this story and that hasn’t been used much by other writers.


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