Tuesday Terror! The Cats of Ulthar by HP Lovecraft

You have been warned…

 

Tommy says: Why would anyone want to change us? We're perfect...
Go on…make our day!

As the world continues to fill up with ever more horrifying technological devices designed to keep cats from… er… generously fertilising other people’s flower beds, Tommy & Tuppence have asked me to share their favourite horror story with you all – as a friendly warning – for this week’s…

TUESDAY TERROR!

The Cats of Ulthar by HP Lovecraft

 

In Ulthar, before ever the burgesses forbade the killing of cats, there dwelt an old cottar and his wife who delighted to trap and slay the cats of their neighbours. Why they did this I know not; save that many hate the voice of the cat in the night, and take it ill that cats should run stealthily about yards and gardens at twilight…

A tale of horror and revenge to chill the blood of all who have harboured unkind thoughts about their furry feline visitors, the story begins with the (wimpy) people of Ulthar living in fear that their precious moggies will wander onto the grounds of the cottar and his wife after dark – for it is unlikely that such an unfortunate beast will ever be seen again. But the villagers don’t confront the cottar because…

In truth, much as the owners of the cats hated these odd folk, they feared them more; and instead of berating them as brutal assassins, merely took care that no cherished pet or mouser should stray toward the remote hovel under the dark trees.

And so things stood, until one day some mysterious travellers arrived in the village, amongst them a young boy, orphaned by the plague, and with only his beloved kitten for pleasure and company. But one morning, the kitten couldn’t be found… and the (kindly but wimpy) villagers told the boy that his precious pet had no doubt been trapped and slain by the old man and his wife. (Ah, they didn’t believe in mollycoddling children back in the good old days…)

And when he heard these things his sobbing gave place to meditation, and finally to prayer. He stretched out his arms towards the sun and prayed in a tongue no villager could understand…

the cats of ulthar

And the clouds began to take the shape of strange beasts – ‘the shadowy, nebulous figures of exotic things’. And the mysterious strangers packed up their belongings and left the village, never to return. But that night the people of the village noticed that all the cats in the village had disappeared – every one. Some thought it was the strangers who had taken them, in revenge; but others thought the cottar and his wife were to blame.

However, when daybreak came the following day, all the cats had returned, looking sleek, contented and suspiciously well-fed…

…the refusal of all the cats to eat their portions of meat or drink their saucers of milk was exceedingly curious. And for two whole days the sleek, lazy cats of Ulthar would touch no food, but only doze by the fire or in the sun.

And gradually the villagers noticed that it had been some time since they saw the cottar or his wife – in fact not since that same night. And so the bravest of the wimps made their way to the cottage and…

Well, suffice it to say, nobody in Ulthar kills cats any more.

* * * * * * *

This is a nice little horror story with a tongue-in-cheek moral. Not terrifying but creepily fun. Written in 1920, it’s one of his earlier stories which may account for why the style is not at all what I think of as Lovecraftian, except for some of the overblown language. No tunnels, no ancient buildings, and no fish-like aliens – and beautifully short. It didn’t scare me exactly…but then I’m always nice to cats! But I thought it was well-written and it’s made me realise that Lovecraft isn’t totally limited to the style for which he’s best known.

HP Lovecraft
HP Lovecraft

Want to read it? http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Cats_of_Ulthar

Now, you must excuse me while I put out some cream for Tommy & Tuppence and then go check on the neighbours…

Fretful Porpentine Rating:      😯 😯

Overall story rating:                😀 😀 😀 😀

Tommy & Tuppence’s rating:  👿 👿 👿 👿 👿

38 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Cats of Ulthar by HP Lovecraft

  1. Dear Tommy and Tuppence,
    Thank you for recommending this story. If it’s got your endorsement it must be excellent. After all, you wouldn’t give your servant FF permission to post about it otherwise, would you? Oh, and you’re looking particularly appealing in that ‘photo.

  2. Ginge says I’ve to copy this story to everyone I know, especially Bonnie.. Not that he wanders much nowadays, but there was a time …….. Salutations to Tommy and Tuppence.

  3. Dear Tommy and Tuppence

    I’m afraid we are all a little wimpy here, and when I started reading the story I was crying so much that I frightened my furry lords and lady and they ran out, shrieking in case the cottar of Ulthar had moved into the neighbourhood without us noticing (which, if he has, would not be that sensible a move, as the one place he ain’t, is in our abode.)

    I just hope that when they come back in they will be satisfied with cat food and not expect me to donate each of them a finger or toe to snack on

    • Dear Servantgirl Fancifull

      We are disturbed to know that you have upset our beloved cousins, however inadvertently. You should know to hide all emotions at all times, except for the adoration that you should dispaly constantly, even while you sleep. However, we accept that there were extenuating circumsatnces on this occasion and feel that you should be forgiven – so long as you provide an extra portion of cat treats to all…and we DO NOT mean gloopy Lick-E-Lix! And fear no longer about the cottar – he was delicious! Mmmm…

      Best wishes
      Tommy & Tuppence

  4. Brilliant, Tommy and Tuppence! I wish I’d thought to use a Lovecraft story this week. To make up for it, I’ll present you with a little ditty that Howard wrote commemorating the death of a favorite neighborhood cat.

    Little Sam Perkins

    The antient garden seems tonight
    A deeper gloom to bear,
    As if some silent shadow’s blight
    Were hov’ring in the air.

    With hidden griefs the grasses sway,
    Unable quite to word them–
    Remembering from yesterday
    The little paws that stirr’d them.

    • Oh, that’s lovely – but so sad! I hadn’t realised he was a cat-lover till I started looking into the background of this story. I’ve picked up on the fact that you’re an HPL fan from your blog – I’d never really come across him till a year or so ago with a book of his Cthulhu stories, so it was nice to discover another side of him with this one… must investigate further! 🙂

      • I also discovered Lovecraft in a book of short stories, but back in the 70s. Later I became interested in the man himself. He was quite a correspondent! If you’re interested in seeing more of his personal side, there’s a post of the day at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Historical_Lovecraft which is sometimes about him and his friends.

        Once when he was visiting a friend in NYC, a kitten fell asleep on his lap. When it came time for him to leave, he stayed on because he didn’t want to disturb the kitten. Tommy and Tuppence would be pleased.

        • Yes, I saw yesterday when I was doing this that it was really through his correspondence that he got into writing in the first place. I suppose that was the then equivalent of blogging! Thanks for the link – I’ll pop over and take a look, though I’m not sure if I’ve got a Yahoo account.

          Aw, that’s a lovely story! He’s gone way up in my estimation. Of course, T&T think that’s perfectly normal behaviour from a human servant… 😉

  5. Moggie! *laughing lots* I was going to ask you what you called cats again, too. I think Tuppence looks sweet. You give her a bad rap, see. Has anyone ever thought about shock collars for cats, do you suppose?

    He has an interesting last name.

  6. That was brilliant – no wonder Tommy and Tuppence’s eyes are so sparkly! I’m not entirely sure it’s worth two fretful porcupines, unless you are a cat, but it is a brilliant tale! Thanks for sharing the story and the picture of your beautiful cats.

    • Oh, how lovely! A kitty or a grown-up cat? Yes, it’s important to be at their beck and call at all hours of the day and night – at least, so Tommy & Tuppence tell me… 😉

      I haven’t read much of his stuff but he seems to have been incredibly influential on later generations of horror and fantasy writers, so I feel I should get to know him better.

        • I’d end up wanting to take them all! But after these two, I decided next time (if there is one!) I’d probably go for an adult too. Kittens are great fun so long as you’ve got the time, but they can be a real handful to fit around other committments. Hope you get one that’s good to you… 😉

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