Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Howard's Horrors: The Black Stone!

Hey all, Luke here! Just finished another REH story last night, The Black Stone.
Here's the Roquefort Raider's interpretation of that strange obelisk...

Pretty ominous, huh? This widely-lauded "Cthulhu mythos" story was first published in Weird Tales in November of '31... Right out of the gate I noticed that REH set a very different tone from both Haunter of the Ring and Pigeons from Hell (the other straight horror stories from REH that I've read)... REH "grounds" this story with a backdrop of mythical books and poetry that surround an unnatural, perhaps mystical, obelisk in the rural landscape of Hungary. 

Needless to say, the nameless narrator of the story can't be happy with just reading about such weird landmarks, he is compelled to take a little holiday to investigate this obelisk... And did I mention it happens to be around the time of the summer solstice?

Once darkness falls, the story takes on a dream-like quality. And as the events of that night build to a fever-pitch, the story turns into a blood-curdling nightmare! This tale has by far the most striking and horrific act(s) of violence that I've read by REH, though I would say not gratuitous in the least.

I think this is a tremendous story! While there are arguments to be made about its derivative qualities (see this well-written essay by Price), I am of the mind that this is as much a tale that exhibits "Howardian" themes as those typically associated with Lovecraft.... Without spoiling too much, there is a heavy reliance on civilization and race, which I think is a nice contrast with the theme of doomed familial relations and heritage that are more commonly acknowledged Lovecraftian tropes. 

If you've read this story, what do you think? Sound off in the comments section below!

I give this story a hearty recommendation. It's free on Project Gutenburg or, if you're on the hunt for an audio retelling of the story, check out an older post by SFF Audio. They give some great shout-outs to podcasts that narrated the The Black Stone. Their post also presents some additional art inspired by the story! 

And on that note, I'll leave you with the cover art for Bantam's 1979 edition of the "Wolfshead" collection... Who knows what that being that lurks on the top of the dread black stone?

And from when?!?!?!