This is a pretty significant Cthulhu-Mythos story as well as the first Hyperborea story. It introduces the Toad-God Tsathoggua and his 'formless spawnThis is a pretty significant Cthulhu-Mythos story as well as the first Hyperborea story. It introduces the Toad-God Tsathoggua and his 'formless spawn' which became quite popular and were used in many other Clark Ashton Smith stories e.g. "The Holiness of Azedarac" & "The Door to Saturn" and in many Lovecraft stories as well such as "The Mound" and "The Whisperer in Darkness". Tsathoggua is easily Smith's most famous deity, the brother of Cthulhu worshiped in Saturn before the Earth was born, in Hyperborea in pre-history, in Averoigne in the middle-ages, and slumbering dormant in the subterranean vaults of K'yan waiting his return...
As I said this story also introduces the northern land of Hyperborea inspired by the Greek legend. Hyperborea ended up featuring in 11 CAS stories (known as the Hyperborean Cycle) and is my favorite out of all CAS settings. It has a lot in common with Robert E. Howard's Conan stories which take place during 'the Hyborian Age' and they actually share a lot of the place names. In fact, there is a Hyperborea in the Hyborian age although its not the same thing. Cthulhu-Mythos fanatics have determined that the Hyperborea of Smith exists near the arctic at the dawn of an ice-age around 800.000 years ago while the Hyborian Age is 15.000 B. C. The approach of the ice has a significance for the plot of some of the stories as well. Lovecraft suggested to Smith in a letter that Commorium probably exists in the North near Lomar which itself was overtaken by ice in the HPL story "Polaris".
Anyway this particular story is about two thieves who are in dire need of quick cash. They decide to travel to the ruined old capital of Hyperborea named Commoriom to look for valuables. As one would expect it doesn't end too well for them...
Interestingly this takes place pretty late in Hyperboria's timeline as the capital Commoriom is already ruined and Uzuldaroum is the new capital. Many later Hyperboria stories take place when Commoriom is still the capital though. Commorium's fate is hinted at and finally explained in "The Testament of Athammaus".
"The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" was praised by Lovecraft and indeed is atmospheric and hints of terrible ancient secrets, some of which shall be revealed in further stories....more
This is probably my favorite Clark Ashton Smith story. Its one of the few CAS stories that take place in the modern time which of course means the 193This is probably my favorite Clark Ashton Smith story. Its one of the few CAS stories that take place in the modern time which of course means the 1930s, although its still considered a Hyperborea story for reasons that will become evident.
The plot follows a man named Paul Tregardis who acquires a crystal and peering into it allows him to travel backwards in time. Through the chrystal he lives and dies past existences. He dreams of an ancient Hyperborean wizard named Zon Mezzamalech who he had read about in the Book of Eibon. Mezzamalech was after a set of stone tablets left by "the gods who died before the Earth was born". The Book of Eibon also mentions something called "Ubbo-Sathla" the idiotic demiurge or the unbegotten source. Ubbo-Sathla is a Great Old One who spawns micro-organisms and created life on Earth or so it seems. I'm not gonna spoil the ending but its pretty amazing. Tregardis travels all the way back in time to Ubbo-Sathla and the stone tablets it guards. . .
The occult practice of looking into or through chrystals (known as 'scrying') has of course been used as a plot device in many mythos stories to great effect e.g. "The Sorcerer's Jewel" by Robert Bloch and famously in "The Haunter of the Dark" by Lovecraft where the worshipers of Nyarlat(hotep) were said to peer into the mystic Shining Trapezohedron brought from icy Yuggoth, held by the hierophants of Atlantis and treasured by the priests of ancient Egypt.
Its a little bit unclear to me how the story ties together with the mythos. The beginning outright quotes the following passage from the Book of Eibon (a mythos tome invented by Smith) "For Ubbo-Sathla is the source and the end. Before the coming of Zhothaqquah or Yok-Zothoth or Kthulhut from the stars" so its very obviously conscious of the Cthulhu-Mythos. That said its a bit weird to me because people have tried to connect this to the Elder things and to their "proto-shoggoths" who became Ubbo-Sathla or something like that. Ubbo-Sathla could well be the original proto-shoggoth who was then deified by the primitive hyperboreans but its doubtful that Smith had that in mind when writing this.
Also, who are the gods that died before the earth was born? Nobody knows and I assume we're not supposed to know. It could refer to the Great Old Ones that were trapped or killed but now await to be resurrected or re-awakened. Its just kinda weird because it says they "died" and the Great Old Ones never really died... or did they?
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" ("In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.")
"That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange eons even death may die" -The Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred...more
An enjoyable early cthulhu-mythos tale by Smith. Apparently the first ever mythos story by an author other then Lovecraft. The story follows a man whoAn enjoyable early cthulhu-mythos tale by Smith. Apparently the first ever mythos story by an author other then Lovecraft. The story follows a man who is hired by a wealthy old antiquary to translate some Arabic for him... the Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred to be exact! I won't spoil the story and its very short but I will say that the passages he is especially interested relate to exorcisms and resurrection of corpses.
Some things worth noting in this story. Lovecraft had written his "History of the Necronomicon" (a mock history of the fictional tome) in 1927 and Smith was inspired by it. The History mentions that the original Arabic Necronomicon (or Al Azif) surfacing in San Francisco before being destroyed in a fire. Smith's story takes place in San Francisco but doesn't describe a fire thus leaving room for following stories. The story also notes that the Arabic text is more complete then the Latin translation of Olaus Wormius. Anyone who has read the "Dunnwich Horror" knows that the English translation is the most incomplete of all....more
It starts with the rather overused trope of a man returning to his ancestral home. There he learns of a tragedyOne of Smith's Cthulhu-Mythos stories.
It starts with the rather overused trope of a man returning to his ancestral home. There he learns of a tragedy that happened years before. A friend of his father's had a wife who suffered from catalepsy. She was thought dead and placed in the family tomb but one night she was found sitting alive in her coffin with the lid open. It remains mysterious how she managed to open the lid and she was too shocked to able to shed light on it. Almost a year later she died after giving birth to a child who was apparently very deformed and has been kept hidden in a barred room ever since.
Its an interesting and horrifying mix of elements that on their own would be cliche. The gothic setting has been used in countless horror stories and even in dozens of mythos stories. "The Secret Of Kralitz" by Henry Kuttner, "The Secret in the Tomb" by Robert Bloch, "The Return of Hastur" by August Derleth just to name a few. Derleth and Bloch in particular wrote like a million stories with this same exact premise. Its not that unlike another Smith story "The Return of the Sorcerer".
That said there is an interesting and exceptionally ghastly twist on the 'mythos-old-dark-house' story mixing in elements from Lovecraft (the Necronomicon is there), from E. A. Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" and Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan". The result is a rather enjoyable mythos story and surprisingly mean spirited and horrible in it's implications of supernatural rape....more