I am a weird fiction enthusiast and the reading of it has made my English learning experience a richer one. It is practically impossible not to feel the influence of whatever you read in your discourse, whether it is your mother tongue or a second language. Today’s post has to do with probably the most colorful and, ironically, darkest of all the weird fiction authors: HOWARD PHILLIPS LOVECRAFT.
First of all, there is one person we must thank. Let us now mention August Derleth, one of Lovecraft’s correspondents who took it upon himself to publish a volume of the man’s stories soon after his death and, from this initiative, Arkham House was born, one of the most important publishing houses in the world of weird fiction. If Derleth hadn’t decided to share Lovecraft’s work, perhaps this would be an empty post.
If one spends enough time on the internet (and I am sure we all do), one is bound to find some reference to Cthulhu: an anthropomorphic monster with a head like an octopus, tentacles where a mouth should be and very small demon wings. It is the ultimate incarnation of evil in popular culture and it was invented by H.P. Lovecraft (based on Lord Dunsany’s stories). He was born in Providence, Rhode Island (USA) on August 20, 1890 and he died in the same town –he loved the place- on March 15, 1937 from intestinal cancer.
There are countless biographies of HPL on the Internet where you can read all about his relationship with his disturbed mother, his father’s alleged death from syphilis (this was never proved), his failed marriage to Sonia Green, his xenophobia, his anglophile ways, or his very poor diet. English Matsuri, however, focuses on the learning of English, so, it would be grand to share with you some appreciations about Lovecraft’s language. There are some words we can look at.
Gibbous: This is an adjective –that means it’s the characteristic of an object or a person- used to describe the moon when it’s nearly full. Let’s remember that when the moon is becoming full, we use the verb “to wax”, its opposite is “to wane”. In Lovecraft stories terrible things always seem to happen under a gibbous moon.
Cyclopean: Another adjective. It clearly comes from “Cyclops”, so it is used to talk about something vast and enormous. More often than not, it is found in the description of a building, one in which large stones have been piled up and against each other without the use of cement or anything of the sort. In Lovecraft stories, the older-than-earth gods that threaten our peace and sanity are said to live in such building in sunken cities.
Unspeakable: Yes, this is an adjective too. Imagine something so horrible that you just have no words to describe it. Did you imagine it? Now imagine it is even worse. It’s unspeakable. An interesting synonym for it is “unnamable”. There is a Lovecraft story called “The Unnamable”.
Eldritch: What a great word! This adjective can be used to mean “Weird, eerie or spooky”. It comes from a combination of Old English meaning “From outside the kingdom, from the Otherworld”. Many beings described by Lovecraft in his stories are rather eldritch.
Why four adjectives? H.P. Lovecraft’s has become infamous for his tendency to overuse descriptive devices. It could be called a “Purple style”, an excess of decoration that could make reading him a little difficult, but once his books are broken into, they become quite pleasurable. You are completely invited to join the “Lovecraft game” as it is called: you take the topics and mythology created by HPL, write some story and/or variation about them and pass them along. Do you want to do it? Well, here are some of his original stories for you to enjoy them and become inspired!
Many people have participated in this. Here are a couple of examples from British writer Neil Gaiman (follow him on Twitter as @neilhimself). In the story “I, Cthulhu” the tentacle deity from outer space who awaits dead and dreaming in his house at R’lyeh tells in its very amusing memoirs how he came to Earth. Gaiman also writes and read himself “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar”, in which two seemingly Lovecraftian creations complain about the author. This is a great tool to practice your listening skills in English.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this post, but I can’t let you go without sharing with you my very own try at a story with a Lovecraftian content, I have tried it several times because I really like this man’s creations. And remember, phnglui mglw nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.