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Howard Phillips Lovecraft - The Cats of Ulthar (69.0 Kb)

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"The Cats of Ulthar" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. It belongs in the Dream Cycle series of tales and reads much like a fairy tale, explaining Ulthar's unusual law that "no man may kill a cat".It was written June 15, 1920, and first published in the November 1920 issue of the amateur press journal Tryout. It was later reprinted in Weird Tales magazine in February 1926 and again in February 1933, then privately re-printed as a pamphlet for his friends in an edition of 42 copies, at Christmas 1935 - two years before Love... More >>>
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Category 1:  Horror Tales
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Author:      Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Format:      eBook
"The Cats of Ulthar" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. It belongs in the Dream Cycle series of tales and reads much like a fairy tale, explaining Ulthar's unusual law that "no man may kill a cat".

It was written June 15, 1920, and first published in the November 1920 issue of the amateur press journal Tryout. It was later reprinted in Weird Tales magazine in February 1926 and again in February 1933, then privately re-printed as a pamphlet for his friends in an edition of 42 copies, at Christmas 1935 - two years before Lovecraft's death.

The primary inspiration for the story is no doubt Lovecraft's well-known love of cats (as spelled out in his 1926 essay "Cats and Dogs", reprinted as the title essay in the 1949 Arkham House collection Something About Cats). Lovecraft seems to be speaking in his own voice in the story's introductory paragraph:

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 Meroe 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.

The story is considered one of Lovecraft's Dunsanian pieces the plot resembles the many revenge tales in Dunsany's The Book of Wonder (1912). The "dark wanderers" of Lovecraft's story recall the "Wanderers...a weird, dark tribe" in Dunsany's "Idle Days on the Yann" (1910).

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.