In Can You Fight the Mythos? Part I, I looked at Lovecraft’s Lurking Fear and Other Tales. Now, we continue, shotgun and dynamite in hand, plumbing the depths of the Mythos, seeing how reliable the techniques of, shall we say, “action oriented” investigators might fare, looking at The Tomb, and Other Tales.
My rating is based on the actual presence of weaponry and brute force overcoming the supernatural or otherwise unusual elements of Lovecraft’s tales. If weapons are specifically mentioned as effective against the Mythos Threat (such as in Lurking Fear), the tale gets a Yes rating. If the weapons are specifically mentioned as ineffective against the Mythos Threat, the tale gets a No rating. Some tales don’t really have a threat, per se, these get an Irrelevant. Anything else gets an Inconclusive rating, with a leaning yes or no based on my own perception and judgement.
Short Spoilery Synopsis: A young man astrally projects into his family tomb, thinking he’s exploring it nightly, and has weird visions within.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: None is used. There’s not really anything to fight. The strangeness of the tale comes from the reveals that he was dreaming the whole time, but knew things he couldn’t otherwise.
Can You Fight the Tomb? Irrelevant.
Short Spoilery Synopsis: A man joins his family to take part in a strange festival, involving a deep cavern under the city, cultists, and strange flying beasts. However, he was perhaps looking into the past, seeing the city as it was.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: None is used. This one is hard to judge- there’s certainly a menace here, but so little information is given, that it’s hard to come up with any conclusion.
Can You Fight the Festival? Inconclusive
Imprisoned with the Pharaohs
Short Spoilery Synopsis: Harry Houdini (ghostwritten by Lovecraft) is kidnapped on an Egyptian vacation, and thrown into the depths of ruins, where lurk hybrid animal-human mummies, (maybe) an ancient sorcerer, and some truly giant monstrosity.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: There’s a fight scene with some (presumably) human cultists, but that doesn’t seem to terribly count. Houdini spends the rest of his time running away from things, with his imagination to fill in the blanks.
Can You Fight the Stuff that’s Imprisoned With the Pharaohs? Tough to say, since there’s multiple possible antagonists- the hybrid mummies (which I would strongly lean yes), the guide, who might be an Immortal Pharaoh, or could just be a normal guy, and the gigantic monstrosity, which could be just about anything. Inconclusive, leaning no.
Short Spoilery Synopsis: A strange man can travel through time, and after he shows off his power, a very strange entity kills him.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: None is used against the entity, which simply causes Him to decay, and then envelops him in a cloud of darkness, but also wields a metal implement to get through the door.
Can You Fight the Dark Thing that Comes for Him? There doesn’t seem to be any effective way to fight back against a cloud of darkness that emanates a selective aura of decay, so No.
The Horror At Red Hook
Short Spoilery Synopsis: A massive cult operates out of Red Hook, a police officer investigates, and stumbles into a strange sight of lots of unusual creatures.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: None is used.
Can You Fight the Horror at Red Hook? There’s lots of horrors here- a reanimated cultist, and a “nightmare horde” containing such gems as a “dog-faced howler” and a “silent strutter in darkness.” There’s a horde of baleful creatures, but we don’t know much about them. Inconclusive, leaning no, given the apocalyptic degree of Lovecraft’s description.
The Strange High House in the Mist
Short Spoilery Synopsis: A traveller makes his way to an isolated house, and returns somewhat lessened, but the house suggests a jovial air. The threat here is that the house will lure more as a siren song, and consume parts of their essence.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: None is used- how do you fight something like that.
Can You Fight the Strange High House in the Mist: This is a solid No- the house is something you can’t fight with physical means. (Okay, maybe with dynamite), but the threat is spiritual, not physical.
In the Walls of Eryx:
Short Spoilery Synopsis: It’s scifi! A venusian explorer, looking for strange crystals, stumbles into an invisible labyrinth he cannot escape from.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: The character’s flame pistol itself is presented as a credible threat to the native venusians, that even outnumbered such weaponry makes the character a formidable threat. At the end, technology prevails, and diamond-drills are able to destroy the otherwise impervious (and possibly shifting, or otherwise impossibly complex) labyrinth.
Can You Fight the Walls of Eryx? Yes.
The Evil Clergyman:
Short Spoilery Synopsis: In Lovecraft’s last published tale, a curious investigator encounters a strange projection, and finds his body changed to that of a sinister looking clergyman.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: None- this is more of weird tale than any sort of conflict.
Can You Fight the Evil Clergyman? Irrelevant.
These are some of Lovecraft’s earlier work, and not part of his official chronology of works.
The Beast in the Cave:
Short Spoilery Synopsis: An overdaring spelunker, driven by fear, bludgeons a strange beast to death. But it was a degenerate ape-man, once of human stock!
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: A thrown rock is enough to kill the beast.
Can You Fight the Beast in the Cave? Yes.
Short Spoilery Synopsis: A noble family is cursed- each male heir is killed shortly after turning 32 years old. The culprit, an ancient alchemist wronged by the family centuries ago, exacting his revenge personally and stealthily upon each heir.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: The narrator defeats the Alchemist by throwing a torch at him.
Can You Fight the Alchemist? Yes.
(Also, I really liked this story. The pacing is extremely good, although the ending is absurdly anticlimactic.)
Poetry and the Gods:
Short Spoilery Synopsis: This one, it’s hard to count as a Mythos tale. It’s about poetry, and homages to poets of ages past, and the Greek Gods coming back into the world and stuff. It’s also boring.
Can You Fight Poetry and the Gods? N/A
Short Spoilery Synopsis: A street, empowered with the spirits of the past, self-destructs, possibly to stop a revolutionary plot by people of races that Lovecraft doesn’t like.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: None is used.
Can You Fight the Street? No.
The Transition of Juan Romero:
Short Spoilery Synopsis: A giant abyss opens up in a mine, a Mexican disappears into it, and then the abyss mysteriously closes up.
Textual Effectiveness of Weaponry: None. Juan Romero disappears off-screen; it’s never made clear what happens to him or why the narrator refers to it as a ‘transition.’
Can You Fight the Transition of Juan Romero? Inconclusive, of the most inconclusive kind.
This batch of tales was much more of a mix- more truly strange happenings that cannot be effectively strove against, but still a mix of straightforward, but terrible, antagonists. With the exception of the Walls of Eryx and the early works, the tales in this volume are entirely on the No side of the spectrum.
The total thus far:
Inconclusive, Leaning Yes: 4
Inconclusive, Leaning No: 5