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Howard Phillips Lovecraft - The Tree (73.0 Kb)

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"The Tree" is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in 1920 and first published in the October 1921. This story came early in Lovecraft's writing career, and is generally considered to be within his "Macabre" phase. Lovecraft's inspiration for the story likely came in part from the book The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, published in 1890. Of particular note is Machen's depiction of Pan as a power of nature."The Tree" is told in past tense, in third person objective. The location of the st... More >>>
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Category 1:  Horror Tales
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Author:      Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Format:      eBook
"The Tree" is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in 1920 and first published in the October 1921. This story came early in Lovecraft's writing career, and is generally considered to be within his "Macabre" phase. Lovecraft's inspiration for the story likely came in part from the book The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, published in 1890. Of particular note is Machen's depiction of Pan as a power of nature.

"The Tree" is told in past tense, in third person objective. The location of the story is Mount Maenalus, in Arcadia, Greece, a mountain which was a "chosen haunt" for the Greek God Pan. The story opens with a vivid description of the olive grove, and a fearful, human-like olive tree within it.

The story then introspectively turns several years back, recalling the famous sculptors Kalos and Musides, whose works were praised throughout the known world. One day, the Tyrant of Syracuse invited Kalos and Musides to compete in the creation of "a wonder of nations and a goal of travelers". While working on their sculptures, Kalos fell ill, much to the dismay of Musides.

The visible conflict within the plot begins with a dying Kalos and an attendant Musides. Kalos preferred meditation in the olive grove, while Musides felt shunned by his dear friend. On his death bed, Musides insisted on erecting an elaborate marble tomb, while Kalos asked only for the planting of olive twigs near his head. After the death of Kalos, Musides buried the olive twigs, in addition to constructing a tomb.

Over time, Musides felt haunted by the gnarled olive tree that grew over Kalos' grave. The tree's roots grew as if nourished by the unfinished sculpture of Kalos, while above Musides' labors a large branch had grown overhead. The night before the statue was to be taken to the Tyrant of Syracuse, a tremendous storm came. With the singular fall of that one overhanging branch, both Musides and his statue were gone forever.

About Author:

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 - March 15, 1937) was an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, known then simply as weird fiction.

HP Lovecraft was one of the early exponents of horror fantasy, best known for the series of works known collectively as the Cthulhu Mythos. He peppered his books with references to an occult work called The Necronomicon, and, as his fame grew, he was besieged by readers asking where they could find a copy of it. But the truth was that Lovecraft had invented the book and its title. He wrote in a letter of 1937: 'The name Necronomicon (necros, corpse; nomos, law; eikon, image = An Image of the Law of the Dead) occurred to me in the course of a dream, although the etymology is perfectly sound.' So the title came before everything else, and substituted, perfectly reasonably, for the work itself.

This is a game that many writers have played, and the history of literature is full of references to books that don't, in fact, exist. Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt, Dorothy L Sayers, Frank Herbert, Martin Amis, Arthur Conan Doyle and many, many others have all joined in. Some of my favourite fictional titles are from Kurt Vonnegut, who, as Kilgore Trout, writes non-existent works such as The Barring-Gaffner of Bagnialto, or This Year's Masterpiece, which are usually accompanied by helpful plot summaries. Perhaps the most notorious fictional-book-inventors have been writers such as Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges; naturally enough, since their writing often draws attention to literature as itself an artefact.

With the Necronomicon there was a difference, however. Other writers began to treat it as if it really did exist, quoting from the nonexistent work and even composing large sections of it; several Necronomicons were in fact later published, by hoaxers including L. Sprague De Camp and Colin Wilson.

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror, the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fiction featuring a pantheon of human-nullifying entities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christian humanism. Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the mirror-opposite of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality.

Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now commonly regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century, who together with Edgar Allan Poe has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Stephen King has called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.