Dark DreamsExploring The Dark Horrifying Corners of The NecronomiconDark Dreams - RSS 2.0
Welcome back, horror lovers! Continuing my series on the life and works of the man Stephen King once called the "father of modern horror," we dive back into H.P. Lovecraft by studying one of his most endearing legacies - the Necronomicon. Although the idea of the Necronomicon is less than a hundred years old it has quickly become one of the most important symbols in horror and supernatural fiction around the world. There are so many misconceptions, myths, and superstitions about this fabled book that have endured, thriving in the darkest corners of our collective cultural imagination, that it would be all too easy to lose sight of where the book actually started, especially if you've never been properly introduced to Lovecraft's writing. It's hard to believe that even today, in the age of the internet and search engines, that there are people who still believe that the Necronomicon is an actual spell book written thousands of years ago. We'll start with the origins of the elusive tome.
In the first part of this series, I talked about Lovecraft's reclusive childhood, as well as his love for old books passed down to him by his grandfather Whipple. One of the books from the American businessman's extensive collection that captured the imagination of the young child was 1001 Arabian Nights. Lovecraft became obsessed with Arab culture after reading it. It's been said that he would run around the house as a child with a sheet belted onto his head claiming to be Abdul Alhazred - the character he'd later attribute as the author of the Necronomicon. Which means from an early age the idea of the Necronomicon was brewing in young Lovecraft's brilliant mind waiting to be born into our world.
So, let's get this out of the way first. For the record the Necronomicon is a wholly fictional grimoire created H.P. Lovecraft and propagated by his followers as part of the Cthulhu Mythos. It got it's first mention in the Lovecraft story "the Hound" which was written in 1922, though its alleged creator, Abdul Alhazred, had been quoted a year earlier in a story entitled "The Nameless City". The original version contained an account of the Old Ones, their history, and the means for summoning them. It also had illustrations of Cthulhu and Yog-Soggoth. Lovecraft was asked many times in his own lifetime about the veracity of the existence of a real Necronomicon and always swore that it was nothing more than a fictional creation. In a letter to Willis Conover, Lovecraft further elaborated:
Now about the "terrible and forbidden books" - I am forced to say that most of them are purely imaginary. There never was any Abdul Alhazred or Necronomicon, for I invented these names myself. Robert Bloch devised the idea of Ludvig Prinn and his De Vermis Mysteriis, while the Book of Eibon is an invention of Clark Ashton Smith's. Robert E. Howard is responsible for Friedrich von Junzt and his Unaussprechlichen Kulten.... As for seriously-written books on dark, occult, and supernatural themes - in all truth they don't amount to much. That is why it's more fun to invent mythical works like the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon.
Lovecraft went on to note that the name for the book came from an idea in a dream. Furthermore the author's name, Abdul Alhazred, is not grammatically correct in Arabic since "Abdul" means "the worshiper/slave of" and "Alhazred" refers to his place of birth instead of a traditional surname.
During his lifetime Lovecraft penned an essay entitled "The History of the Necronomicon" as a joke between him and his friends. It wasn't published until 1938, several years after his death. In this account, the book was originally called Al Azif, an Arabic word that Lovecraft defined as "that nocturnal sound made by insects supposed to be the howling of demons." Alhazred was portrayed as a "half-crazed Arab" (playing again into Lovecraft's xenophobic background, which has been the subject of great interest in this series comments) who worshipped Lovecraft's monsters Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu. Lovecraft claimed he was from Sanaa in Yemen. He imagined that Alhazred was visiting the ruins of Babylon, where he accidentally discovered the "nameless city" below Irem. In his final years on Earth, Alzared supposedly lived in Damascus, where he wrote the dreaded Necronomicon before his sudden and mysterious death in 738.
In subsequent years, Lovecraft continued, the dark book "gained considerable, though surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age." According to his joke essay in 950 the Necronomicon was translated into Greek and given the title by Theodorus Philetas, a fictional scholar from Constantinople. This version "impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts" before being "suppressed and burnt" in 1050 by Patriarch Michael, an actual historical figure who died in 1059.