Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An Eldritch Education: "The Moon-Bog"

Spooky Synopsis: Denys Barry has vanished. After making a fortune in America, he had returned to Ireland, the land of his fathers, and bought a castle by a bog in Kilderry. The local peasants liked the steps he took to restore the hoary mound to its ancient glory, at least until they heard his plans to drain the bog. That stagnant mire, they said, housed secrets older than memory, and only a fool would disturb it. But when it became evident that Barry couldn't be dissuaded, they left the area. Now Barry himself has disappeared, and no one can say where he might've got to.

Lovecraftian Language: "In the evening Barry dined with me and announced that he would begin the drainage in two days. I was glad, for although I disliked to see the moss and the heather and the little streams and lakes depart, I had a growing wish to discern the ancient secrets the deep-matted peat might hide. And that night my dreams of piping flutes and marble peristyles came to a sudden and disquieting end; for upon the city in the valley I saw a pestilence descend, and then a frightful avalanche of wooded slopes that covered the dead bodies in the streets and left unburied only the temple of Artemis on the high peak, where the aged moon-priestess Cleis lay cold and silent with a crown of ivory on her silver head."

Eerie Evaluation: "The Moon-Bog" almost demands to be damned with faint praise. For the first time thus far in his canon, Lovecraft seems to have struck an acceptable balance between his own otherworldly horror and Lord Dunsany-influenced fantasy. A little horror here, a little wild imagining there. (Scholar S.T. Joshi notes that the plot of "The Moon-Bog" parallels that of Dunsany's The Curse of the Wise Woman.) The story also brings to mind the work of M.R. James, which usually features innocent meddlers encountering Very Bad Things upon meddling with secrets lost to history. But "The Moon Bog" lacks the mystery of James' tales, indeed even of many of Lovecraft's better-known pieces. You don't need to have extensively studied spooky literature to deduce what sort of doom must inevitably fall on Barry and his household. That's not to say it's a bad story. It's perfectly serviceable -- and that's all.

Number of Sanity-Shredding Shoggoths (out of five):

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To visit the story index for "An Eldritch Education" (my year spent reading H.P. Lovecraft's work), please click here.

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