The Festival by H.P. Lovecraft (1925)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror December 2, 2014
No one but Lovecraft could bring you to the dark and dreary yuletide of the season. Come to Kingsport, an old fishing town in Massachusetts. Willow trees. Graveyards. Crooked streets … “antiquity hovering on grey wings over winter-whitened gables and gambrel roofs; fanlights and small-paned windows one by one gleaming out in the cold dusk to join Orion and the archaic stars.” There are black gravestones in Kingsport that stick up “through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse.”
Not exactly glistening angels and the merry sparkles of Christmas trees. Charles Dickens’ gave us cranky old Scrooge on Christmas Eve, but Lovecraft brings us into subterranean rituals. Are you ready for the opposite of merry, merry? Gloomy, gloomy. Our narrator tells us that four witches were hung in Kingsport in 1692. Lonely and far from home, he is looking for his relatives for the merry season. He finds his relative’s home on Green Street. A man answers the door, a man with a face like wax and eyes that do not move. Invited in, our narrator enters the house. No one speaks. All he can hear is the “whir of the wheel as the bonneted old woman continued her silent spinning, spinning” before the fireplace.
He participates in a procession through the streets to the Festival, led by voiceless guides to a church and yard. When he looks back, he finds there are no footprints in the snow of these night marchers … nor his own. What does this festival bring? And how does he survive it?
The power of Lovecraft’s language here touches deeply into fear, not an emotion we associate with holiday time. Fear, loneliness, displaced from home can harbor its own madness. As Lovecraft tells us in Latin at the beginning of his story: Demons have the ability to cause people to see things that do not exist as if they did exist.
Creature Sketch Art by Jason Thompson: MockMan.com
Read the full text at H.P. Lovecraft.com
Listen to the audio version on YouTube with visuals. Turn out the lights and listen to this one!
Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjcM_sIDfUs Part 1