WHH Short Fiction: “A Tropical Horror”

Essay: “A Tropical Horror”, William Hope Hodgson, 1905.

This was the second story Hodgson had published, and there’s no rationalized mystery like in his first, “The Goddess of Death”. That story was set in a small English town. Hodgson realized pretty quickly that his nautical experience was his strength.

Hodgson introduces his characteristic tentacle horrors here right in the third paragraph when a sailor is grabbed off the deck.

It’s interesting that Hodgson hasn’t yet learned the value of building suspense with sounds and smells and glimpses caught through the mist before bringing one of his weird menaces into full light. He does bring sound and smell into the experience of the giant octopus after it is seen. Still, there is a lot more description than in “The Goddess of Death”.

And we see, besides the maritime setting, the first example of something else so prevalent in Hodgson’s stories: the siege plot. The whole crew of the ship is in hiding to avoid the beast on the decks.

Though the narrator calls it a “huge serpent” and not any kind of cephalopod though a tentacle is mentioned. Maybe he’s just an ignorant sailor.

The ship, incidentally, is called the Glen Doon, a name Hodgson uses in another story.

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