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Frequent Contributor
carusmm
Posts: 361
Registered: ‎03-28-2011
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Lovecraft: The Rats in the Walls (short story)

It is a tale well told of a doubt in one's own person, family forebodings and the descent into madness in the presence of a dark evil which Lovecraft greatly feared, I suspect more because he was frail as a child than anything else.  Did his own racism disgust him?  I would think that he had a horror of it.  I assume that he did.

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KristyR
Posts: 379
Registered: ‎11-01-2006
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Re: Lovecraft: The Rats in the Walls (short story)

This is the first story I have ever read by Lovecraft.  I don't remember ever hearing about him before.  This was a truly creepy story that drew me in within the first few lines and wouldn't let go until it had been resolved.  My only disappointment was that the dictionary wasn't working on my nook.  Although the footnotes were helpful, it would have been nice to be able to look up words as I read.

Distinguished Bibliophile
dulcinea3
Posts: 4,389
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Lovecraft: The Rats in the Walls (short story)

I finally managed to read this story last night.  I thought it was very good; kind of a Poe-like traditional horror story, although certainly with his own twist.

 

The narrator is several generations removed from his forebears who were involved in the horrific events in England, and is also descended from the one ancestor who apparently was good and morally horrified at discovering what his family was up to (and had been up to for centuries or more).  I guess his family had not included him because they knew he was of a different character.  Good thing he was not the first-born, since it seems that any first-borns who were of good moral character were assassinated so that they could not inherit.  The narrator does not know about the evil reputation of his family in that area, and once he does, he thinks that he will be able to erase it by showing the area inhabitants that he is a good man.  However, he still has the de la Poer blood in him, and apparently the evil is inherent and only needs the right stimulus to bring it to the surface.  Another of his American cousins had previously reverted and become a voodo priest.

 

Once the narrator restores and moves back into his ancestral seat, he and the cats can occasionally hear rats running in the walls.  There is a past history of hordes of rats, in fact a vast army of rats, that came from the building, but there should not be any now.  Unless the walls are hollow and they are coming from subterranean depths beneath the foundations.  However, nobody else seems to be able to hear them.  Again, something to do with the de la Poer blood running in the narrator's veins?  Perhaps it allows him to hear what others cannot, or maybe even his presence has been the catalyst to bring them back.

 

The narrator, his friend Porrys, and a group of specialists (archeologists, psychics, etc.) trace the disturbance to come from beneath an altar-like stone in the Roman basements of the building.  Once they remove it, and descend the bone-littered staircase, they find themselves in an immense space that has obviously been in use for many, many centuries.  There are buildings from all sorts of past eras.  Apparently the de la Poer forebears were involved in herding a very specialized type of livestock!  Once the narrator gets far enough into this place, he reverts, and we can see his speech going back in time, sentence by sentence, from the language he uses, until it seems like gibberish.  But it is in fact an ancient tongue, used by the worshippers of the Great Old Ones, I take it.  There is mention of Nyarlathotep, one of the Outer Gods.

 

In the end, the narrator has been locked up in a mental institution, although he seems to have recovered his wits and returned to sanity.  But it is likely that he committed a horrible act while in his madness, although there was no eyewitness except for his cat; only what the others discovered when they found him.

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Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia