Friday, February 10, 2006

The Trail of Cthulhu

Treasure found!

Browsing a seedy little strip mall used book store tonight, I discovered a copy of August Derleth's The Trail of Cthulhu, 1996. I'd never read it, and the cover was a little cluttered but interesting.

After the author's name in bold, folllowed “a novel of supernatural horror in the Cthulhu Mythos”. Two snakish eyes colored in green and some stellar photograph hovered over the surface of a planet. Whether the thing in the center, quite camouflaged by the even bolder title, is a volcano, emerging birth-thing, or what is anyone's guess.

The book is not a novel, though it does appear heavily edited to resemble one. In fact it is a collection of short stories*. It also tells a few “truthisms”. It states on the back cover that Derleth was a collaborater of Lovecraft, when he actually took notes and wrote most of the stories himself after HPL's death. It also proclaims that Deleth had published the best American Horror of the 20th century.

I wanted to extract a bit of the afterward**. “Lovecraft saw it as 'based on the fundamental lore or legend that this world was inhabited at one time by another race who, in practising black magic, lost their foorhold and were expelled, yet live on outside ever ready to take posession of this earth again.”

“Its similarity to the Christian mythos ... will be immediately apparent to the literate reader.”

Apparently the 1962 Derleth was already smarting over the charge of his Cthulhu Catholicism!

“The deities of Lovecraft's ...Mythos consisted of Elder Gods, which though beyond ... good and evil ... were nevertheless ,,, forces of enlightenment against the forces of eveil ... the Ancient Ones or the Great Old Ones ... and were thrust – like Satan – into outer darkness. ... The Elder Gods ... existed ... near Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion.”

Fascinating theology – or should I say Cthulology?

If you've read these stories or have any other notes you can share on this or previous editions, please post a comment for the community.

* The stories are: The House on Curwen Street (c. 1943); The Watcher From the Sky (c. 1945); The Gorge Beyond Salupunco (c. 1948); The Keeper of the Key (c. 1951); and The Black Island (c. 1951).


I traced this book's existence through some used book store offerings on Amazon. My copy was issued by Carol & Graf, 1996. However, there was a previous edition isbn 0586041389 issued 1989. Prior to that, I saw Ballantine issued it as isbn 0345250176, (2nd printing) 1976. Prior to that edition, a company named Beagle printed in July 1971 as edition number 95108. It appears that the first edition was by Arkham House in 1962 and that edition had the afterward ** A Note of the Cthulhu Mythos.

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