Spooky Synopsis: The mysterious land of Ulthar did not always absolutely prohibit the killing of cats. Once upon a time, feline blood flowed freely, mostly due to the barbarousness of a certain cotter and his wife. This cruel pair gained a reputation for trapping neighboring cats and tormenting them during the night in terrible ways. But all that changed when the jet-black kitten of an itinerant orphan disappeared one day.
Lovecraftian Language: "It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat; and this I can verily believe as I gaze upon him who sitteth purring before the fire. For the cat is cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see. He is the soul of antique Aegyptus, and bearer of tales from forgotten cities in Meroë and Ophir. He is the kin of the jungle's lords, and heir to the secrets of hoary and sinister Africa. The Sphinx is his cousin, and he speaks her language; but he is more ancient than the Sphinx, and remembers that which she hath forgotten."
Eerie Evaluation: While Lovecraft's shorter works haven't garnered the acclaim of his star-spanning, horror/SF hybrids, they deserve attention. For one thing, a slimmer word count means fewer swollen sentences straining under the weight of multiple adjectival phrases. "The Cats of Ulthar" sneaks in a howler here and there, but Lovecraft seemed more interested in crafting the plot than wringing out overwrought diction. That leads to another virtue: The story follows the simple contours of folk tale. Instead of losing itself in scientific details or lengthy depictions of local dialects or tiresome travelogues, it keeps the main thing the main thing. Also, Lovecraft's felinophilia strides onto center stage, and even if you prefer your cats running in bushy-tailed terror from salivating canines, it's hard to not appreciate the obvious love for the little beasts on display here. "The Cats of Ulthar" is focused, furry, and fun.
Number of Sanity-Shredding Shoggoths (out of five):
To visit the story index for "An Eldritch Education" (my year spent reading H.P. Lovecraft's work), please click here.