Lovecraft Sketch MWF: The Dunwich Horror #2

Lovecraft Sketch MWF: The Dunwich Horror #2

Here’s my attempt at drawing Wilbur Whateley, the more anthropomorphic of the two title character(s) in HP Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.” I love, love this story, and I’d like to try drawing him some more. In this version I gave him “goatish” eyes.

One of the interesting things about “The Dunwich Horror” is it shows a new direction in Lovecraft’s monster-descriptions, towards scientific precision. Wilbur Whateley’s inhuman appearance (“Below the waist, though, it was the worst; for here all human resemblance left off and sheer phantasy began…”) is described in clinical detail, almost as if he’s one of the creatures on the dissection table in “At the Mountains of Madness,” another story from the same period. When he was younger, Lovecraft had tended to describe monsters in vague terms or with a few well-chosen metaphors and images (“They were not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor vampire bats, nor decomposed human beings…”); even Cthulhu is basically an octopus-dragon-man, like Trogdor + an octopus. But now, with “The Dunwich Horror”, rather than describing Wilbut Whateley as “neither a satyr, nor a vampire, nor a leech, nor a dinosaur”, Lovecraft goes obsessive-compulsive with details of in EXACTLY what way he’s an alien entity. It’s like he’s saying “You mock me for using the term ‘indescribable’, eh? Well, TAKE THIS!” I think it works really well, and it’s the beginning of the science-fiction phase that marks the second half of his writing career. Plus, in “The Dunwich Horror”, there’s still a welcome feeling of wrongness and creepiness to it all, unlike the more level-headed “it had x tentacles that were x feet long” descriptions in “The Shadow out of Time” or “At the Mountains of Madness.”

Is there a Lovecraftian creature you’d like me to draw? Feel free to commission one! Also, check out Wednesday’s strip over at King of RPGs!

Discussion (4)¬

  1. Ken Kobori says:

    Jason, that portrait of Wilbur is absolutely disgusting, and I mean that in a good way! Ugh!

    I always found it interesting that Lovecraft’s monsters become less frightening and more fascinating as his stories turn towards science fiction. The vastness and unknowability of the universe, the immense gulf of time’s abyss, and the insignificance of the human race’s position in the cosmos–these things are enough to freeze anyone’s mind. Compared to all that, a cone-shaped alien creature just doesn’t cut it anymore as a symbol of fear…

  2. Jason says:

    It’s definitely true. His earlier work is a lot more emotional, there’s much more fear and disgust. Had he lived longer, I wonder if he would have eventually morphed into a ‘pure’ science fiction writer and gone on to be considered part of that canon…

  3. Wyvern says:

    Another splendid creation. For myself though, Lovecraft’s transition towards more detailed horror descriptions had begun the year before with “The Colour Out of Space”, with which it shares a team of investigators from Miskatonic U and a near-invisible monster. I may be biased though, as “Colour” was the first Lovecraft tale I ever read as a youngster, and not unexpectedly, it made a very lasting impression upon me!

  4. Night-Gaunt says:

    I have drawn my version of Wilbur Whateley’s unwholesome disrobing and demise. Especially to his large dark eyes, too wide mouth, faintly squamus and large pored skin, and thick lips to his elongated and hairy ears and coarse black hair from a deep widow’s peak streaming down his back in shaggy locks.

    Both this story and “At The Mountains of Madness” were transition stories from his E. A. Poe phase to his Scientific “romance” stories. I like them all.

    I like “The Hound” it is short yet full rotting sweets from unknown Goya to the necrophilic aesthetes and their search for just the right combination of the macabre to excite their jadedness.

    I first read “At the Mountain of Madness” in 1970 and was hooked.