The Moon-bog: The Complete Lovecraftian #31

If in doubt, the sunken ruins of a lost city are just where you go, at least if you’re the old tentacle hugger. You have probably noticed that and if you haven’t then you’re not really paying attention. Lost cities and ruined temples, the last vestiges of some forgotten place, often built be some forgotten race, right back to the earliest of his stories like ‘The Tomb‘. As a plot device, it turns up everywhere in Lovecraft fiction, even his dreamlands tales are littered with ancient cities and strange ruins, or echoes of them. So it no surprise that this tale features a lost city, submerged beneath an Irish bog.

The Moon-bog is a bit of an oddity all the same. It was written not as a tale to be read in a magazine but one to be spoken at dinner. Specifically, at a Hub Club gathering of amateur journalists in Boston on March 10, 1921. The tale set in Ireland because the gathering had a St. Patricks day theme to it, and Boston, as it still is today, is a city of the Irish. And it has a sunken city in it because if your Lovecraft and your rattling something out in a hurry, the sunken ruins of a lost city is just where you go…  Particularly if you have some nice Irish mythology to lean upon…

Ireland is a land of myths, even more so than England, the wild nature of Ireland took far longer to tame. Added to this the Irish myths have never been as well mined as the Britsh,  Greek, Viking or European counterparts. Ireland has always been a land on the fringes, and its Celtic roots run deep. The ancient history of the emerald isle and the cycle of texts known as ‘Lebor Gabála Érenn’ or ‘The Book of Invasions‘ is a rich source of mythology, interwoven with Christian myth that has been layered on top of older myths. The Ireland of ‘Lebor Gabála Érennt’ is a rich deep vain of pre-history and prehistoric peoples. The Cessair,  the Partholon, the Nemed, the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha De Danann, all reside upon the Isles before the Gaels arrive, and it is the Gaels who eventually form the core of the Celtic peoples. Through-out this mythology the peoples of Ireland fight battles and wars against other non-human invaders,  Fomorians, or as one literal translation would have it ‘the undersea ones‘.  Though Fomorians are also described in other ways and become the great monstrous race of Irish mythology. They are not human and existed before humans came to Ireland. A rich vein that was happily mined by 2000AD writer Pat Mills for his Slaine stories. Retelling suaves of ‘Lebor Gabála Érenn’ with the warped one battling the evils of Fomorians civilisation, and free the enslaved people of Ireland from the grip of that ancient alien race…

So that’s Ireland for you, steeped in a mythology that almost begs Lovecraft to use it. The Fomorians could not be more a myth that harkens to ‘Deep Ones’ if it held up a sign saying ‘scaley prehuman civilisation R’US’. Combining Lovecraft’s mythos to Ancient Ireland mythology is almost a free pass. A gift that would keep on giving. An open goal that just requires a nudge to get the ball over the line…

Somehow with ‘The Moon-bog’ Lovecraft manages to miss…

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about this story. It is well executed if it only follows a simple thread. It’s as Lovecraft as can be, yet somehow stunted. It lacks a spark or perhaps that little grain within it that would make it more than its whole. Perhaps it suffers from its original intent as an orientation. In these days of audiobooks, we are used to stories being read to us, but even now were you to write a tale to be read out to a crowd you would write it differently. The pattern of words and the use of language is different. This is why a script seldom makes for a good book… and yet passages like this one hint at so much more that could have been made of this tale…

The narrator’s tale is simple enough, perhaps too simple. A wealth American returning to the old country and buying the estate of his forefathers. Bringing life and wealth to an impoverished region, but not truly been part of it for all that. He sees an opportunity for more wealth in the draining of the bogs and dismisses the locals objections as superstitious ignorance. Thus laying the ground for his own fate when folklore proves to have more substance than he could ever believe. It’s simple, and it’s predictable, yet passages like this one hint at so much more that could have been made of this tale…

There my eyes dilated again with a wild wonder as great as if I had not just turned from a scene beyond the pale of Nature, for on the ghastly red-litten plain was moving a procession of beings in such a manner as none ever saw before, save in nightmares.

These then are my real problems with ‘The Moon-bog’, it is not the story itself, but the telling. The story was rushed,  hacked together in short order,  without Lovecraft’s usual meticulous craft. It was written for an audience rather than a reader. It does not invite you into an intimate triest, and allow you to explore with trepidation its hidden harbours. Instead, it just lays out the story and tries to elicit the reaction of a crowd rather than you as an individual. And finally, it is such a rich vein squandered. Perhaps because I have a good grounding in Irish

And finally, it is such a rich vein squandered. Perhaps because I have a good grounding in Irish mythologies, as well as Pat Mills explorations of them with Slaine in the pages of 2000AD, but I can not help but feel there is so much that could have been done here. A combination of Lovecraft’s mythos and Irish myth could be so deeply layered. There is a good story, a novella, or even a novel to be made of such a combination. Yet for me at least the moon-bog fails to make the most of that. A wasted opportunity to seed his own mythologies into ‘real’ mythology. Yt it leaves so little to talk about when it could have left so much… So I am going to give this tale a disappointing two tentacles and move on. As much as I love Lovecraft’s work, this tale can, to use the words of Slain McRoth.. ‘Kiss my axe…”

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Further Lovecraftian witterings 

 

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One Response to The Moon-bog: The Complete Lovecraftian #31

  1. Pingback: The Rats In the Walls: The Complete Lovecraft #38 | The Passing Place

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