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irbaboon

Question about the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

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irbaboon

I was just looking over the Field Guide to Creatures of the Dreamlands. In the section on the Men from Leng it mentions that they "keep herds of loathsome cattle and fields of unhealthy crops". Is that a line Lovecraft wrote  from the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath or is it something that was created for the field guide?

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TMS

Possibly unrelated, but in a letter to Willis Conover Lovecraft mentions "forbidden spices grown by non-human gardeners in the walled lamaseries of Leng."

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yronimoswhateley

I always got the impression from Lovecraft's descriptions that the Men of Leng were the satyrs of classical mythology.

 

If you roll with that comparison to satyrs, then perhaps Sandy's descriptions of "loathsome cattle and unhealthy crops" isn't too far off:  in the classical mythology, Satyrs were goatherds and drank wine heavily, and the cold, windswept plateau of Leng might support herds of shaggy goat-like beasts that the Men of Leng raise for meat and for sacrifice, and unhealthy and ragged crops of vines whose berries are fermented into potent and nasty wine for the unspeakable night-time bacchanalia of Leng.

 

The King James Bible refers to Satyrs twice, incidentally, in what seems to be a deliberate 'close-enough" mis-translation of a similar Middle-Eastern word, sa-iyr, which is taken to refer to "goat demons":  hairy, Sasquatch-like monsters or demons who haunt the wastelands, and bear some superficial similarities to Ghouls and Djinn in their role in Semitic mythology.  Isaiah 13:21, “wild beasts of the desert shall lie there [in fallen Babylon]….and satyrs shall dance there.†Isaiah 34:14, “The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl [a euphemism for a foul demon of the night, Lillitu: the old nightmare, mother of horrors] also shall rest there [in doomed Edom], and find for herself a place of rest.†

 

You might take the Biblical references to suggest that the savage and demonic Men of Leng did not build Leng themselves, but, like they did to Babylon and Edom, these bestial Men of Leng came to the abandoned plateau after the original civilization of Leng had long ago fallen into waste and ruin, and made the haunted ruins their home.

 

The usage of the word sa-iyr in Semitic mythology and in the Bible seems to refer both to the Satyr- or Ghoul-like desert "goat demons", and also to the goat idols worshiped by local cults, and to actual goats as animals sacrificed to those cults (and in more highly-regarded local religions) - there's much one might make of the connection to sinister cults, of course, and the tradition of the scapegoat - a sacrificial goat upon whom a tribe or town's ill luck and curses are burdened, before being driven out into the wastelands do die, with the demonic "goat demons" following the scapegoat away from civilization to hopefully trouble the tribe no more.

 

The Greek conception of the satyr was of a hairy, wild, grotesque, humanoid nature spirit with pointed ears, hooves, and the tail of a horse, acting as goatherds and servants of the god Dionysus, associated with madness, fertility, wine, song, dance, and the harvest; it seems to have been the Romans that confused the Greek satyrs with the goat-like Pan, giving the Satyr the goat-like qualities and ribald, playful youth it is known for today.  In both guises, the satyr had a bad reputation and a sinister naughty streak, seducing, kidnapping, and having their way with human maidens, whose virginity and sometimes lives in at least some cases seem to have been ritually sacrificed to the cults of the satyrs in outrageous and unspeakable ritual orgies by night, in the name of ensuring a good yearly harvest.

 

Note that Lovecraft's Men of Leng are described in "Dream Quest..." as dancing naked to weird droning pipes and flutes and nauseating rattling upon the desolate Plateau of Leng among their fires and crude stone huts, and Lovecraft gives them quite a satyric description in that scene:

 

As they descended there appeared at intervals lone huts of granite and bleak stone villages whose tiny windows glowed with pallid light. And there came from those huts and villages a shrill droning of pipes and a nauseous rattle of crotala which proved at once that Inganok’s people are right in their geographick rumours. For travellers have heard such sounds before, and know that they float only from the cold desert plateau which healthy folk never visit; that haunted place of evil and mystery which is Leng.

Around the feeble fires dark forms were dancing, and Carter was curious as to what manner of beings they might be; for no healthy folk have ever been to Leng, and the place is known only by its fires and stone huts as seen from afar. Very slowly and awkwardly did those forms leap, and with an insane twisting and bending not good to behold; so that Carter did not wonder at the monstrous evil imputed to them by vague legend, or the fear in which all dreamland holds their abhorrent frozen plateau. As the shantak flew lower, the repulsiveness of the dancers became tinged with a certain hellish familiarity; and the prisoner kept straining his eyes and racking his memory for clues to where he had seen such creatures before.

They leaped as though they had hooves instead of feet, and seemed to wear a sort of wig or headpiece with small horns. Of other clothing they had none, but most of them were quite furry. Behind they had dwarfish tails, and when they glanced upward he saw the excessive width of their mouths....

- HPL, "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath"

 

 

(Spoiler:  Carter's impressions about the "head dress" and such, which might suggest that the Men of Leng are only hideous people in  costume, are quite wrong:  the Men of Leng are not at all human, and they are not wearing headdresses or costumes!)

 

It seems like there is plenty of material to work with in Semitic, Greek, and Roman mythology to construct one or more sinister cults for the Men of Leng, if you want to, ranging from cults of these satyr-like creatures and whatever monsters they worship, to human cults trying to survive living near Leng and making what sacrifices they can to these "goat demons" and their wild, drunken celebrations to ensure another year of survival under their shadow.

 

 

Anyway, your short answer is that I don't think Lovecraft supplied the line about the Men of Leng herding cattle and raising unhealthy crops, but I see no reason you couldn't accept those details, or supply something similar (like the old satyric herds of goat-like beasts and foul bushes of wine grapes), if you wanted to, or needed to....

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irbaboon

Wow, that was awesome. I know that in Dennis Detwiller's excellent Sense of Slight of Hand Man scenario, the Leng Men were referred to as satyrs. He also added a few more interesting details about them.

 

1)They sleep standing up.
I know that is something ruminants do (at least some do, some of the time) Could the men from Leng be ruminants? Given their goat-like physiology it would seem like a good fit
2) Their food smelled disgusting (the PC encounter samples of said on a ship from Leng)
Now I know ruminants chew their cud, and from what I have read it smells pretty nasty. Could that be what was being served in the galley of the Leng ship?
I saw a video one of a hippo chasing off 3 lions from a buffalo they had killed. The hippo bit into the belly of the carcass, but was more interested in the semi-digested grass in it's stomach than in it's meat. Might a species of intelligent ruminant consider that some sort of delicacy? Perhaps that is what the denizens of leng keep their "Loathsome Cattle" for, to eat coarse plants and later regurgitate them for their masters. 
 
You don't need to quote the entire previous post  - Mod.

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