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Vintage Treasures: Robert E. Howard’s Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors

Saturday, May 18th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Robert E Howard Cthulhu The Mythos and Kindred HorrorsOn April 27, I wrote a Vintage Treasures article about Robert E. Howard’s The People of the Black Circle, one of the first fantasy books I ever owned.

The Comments section quickly became a discussion of REH collecting, with readers swapping photos of their favorite Howard books. Joe H. shared a LibrayThing catalog of his Howard collection, noting the hardest title to find had been Cthluhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors. “It took me years to track down a copy,” he said.

Well, that’s exactly the kind of thing that perks up a collector’s ears. Intrigued,  I went on a quest to find my own copy of Cthluhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors, a collection of Robert E. Howard’s Cthulhu stories.

I finally succeeded this week, after a two-week search. I settled in with my new copy today. First thing I noticed is that the cover, by Stephen Hickman, depicts a treasured artifact from my own collection: the Hickman-designed Cthulhu statute by Bowen Designs — a prized collectible these days. Now that it’s worth something, maybe my wife will let me bring it up out of the basement.

The other thing I noticed is that this is a sizable collection: 250 pages. While I knew Howard had made some minor contributions to Lovecraft’s famous milieu before his death, I had no idea he’d written so many stories that could be categorized as part of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Perhaps editor David Drake has been fairly liberal with his selections. I note that “Pigeons from Hell” is included, and that’s only peripherally a Cthulhu story — but it’s a damn good tale, so I’m not complaining.

I haven’t encountered any dealing with Cthulhu directly yet, but the back cover text implies he’s in the mix:

The true gods of Earth existed long before our ancestors crawled mindless upon the shore: Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, Nyarlathotep… insatiate, tenebrous monsters, whose ultimate throne is Chaos.

Greatest of all is he called Cthulhu. Only in ancient, blasphemous manuscripts can that name be found… and those who decipher it are left pale and numb, aware that in the very act of decipherment they have become both pawn and prey of an ultra-worldly power that renders human existence both tenuous and trite.

The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall remain… long after they have devoured us.

I’ve been enjoying David Drake’s introduction — although it’s a rather bleak look at Howard’s life. It also suggests that his suicide was partially triggered by the death of his 12-year old dog, a theory I hadn’t encountered before.

Here’s the complete table of contents:

“Introduction” by David Drake
“Arkham” (poem)
“The Black Stone”
“The Fire of Asshurbanipal”
“The Thing on the Roof”
“Dig Me No Grave”
“Silence Falls on Mecca’s Walls” (poem)
“The Valley of the Worm”
“The Shadow of the Beast”
“Old Garfield’s Heart”
“People of the Dark”
“Worms of the Earth”
“Pigeons From Hell”
“An Open Window” (poem)

Unknown edited by Stanley Schmidt Baen-smallWe’ve covered several pulp and classic SF/fantasy reprints from Baen over the past few years, including:

Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors by Robert E. Howard (1987)
Unknown, edited by Stanley Schmidt (1988)
The Incompleat Nifft by Michael Shea (2000)
Agent of Vega by James H. Schmitz (2001)
Eternal Frontier by James H. Schmitz (2002)
Planets of Adventure by Murray Leinster (2003)
The Creatures of Man by Howard L. Myers(2003)
A Cosmic Christmas, edited by Hank Davis (2012)
In Space No One Can Hear You Scream, edited by Hank Davis (2013)
The Baen Big Book of Monsters, edited by Hank Davis (2014)

Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors was edited by David Drake and published by Baen Books in 1987. There were at least two additional printings, in 1989 and 1992. It is 250 pages in paperback, with a cover price of $2.95.

It is currently out of print, and there is no digital edition, but fortunately it wasn’t actually all that challenging to find. I paid $6.49 for a copy in new condition online.

22 Comments »

  1. John — Glad you’re enjoying it. And book collecting these days is a _lot_ different than it was in the 1990’s when about all I could do was periodically wander into the local used book stores and scan the shelves …

    Comment by Joe H. - May 19, 2013 1:00 am

  2. Hi John,
    God, do I love these books you pick!

    As far as REH Mythos tales go, it don’t ge any better than this. Sadly, “The Thing on the Roof” is in my opinion one of REH’s weakest stories with “The Black Stone” being on of the finest horror stories ever written. Maybe it’s me, but I just don’t like it even though the other tales are top notch Howard. I’m happy to still own my original copy of this.

    If you are in the mood for a very affordable REH horror collection check this out…

    http://www.amazon.com/Haunter-Other-Tales-Mystery-Supernatural/dp/1840220856/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368982133&sr=8-1&keywords=robert++e+howard+wordsworth

    And $6.95 is much better than what they want for the “Chaosium” REH Mythos collection.

    And here’s some more Trivia/Miscellanea…..

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Challenge_from_Beyond

    You’ll flip out if you’ve never read it!!! :-)

    And of course here are my REH blog posts and obligatory self promotion…..

    http://uncledougsbunkerofhorror.blogspot.de/2012/03/normal-0-21-microsoftinternetexplorer4.html

    Take care.
    Doug

    Comment by doug - May 19, 2013 1:01 pm

  3. Hi John,
    Congratulations on snagging a copy of the collection of Robert E. Howard’s Cthulhu stories! Well done.

    David Drake’s theory about Patches is new to me too so I did a little research. Howard scholar Patrice Louinet states in his article “A Man and His Dog, or not so trivial facts about Patch and his death”:

    “Which leaves us with a likely 1915 or 1916 birth year for Patches, and, consequently, that the dog died in 1927 or 1928, but no later than that.”

    We know Howard died in 1936. Since this was 8 or 9 years after the death of Patches, it seems unlikely that REH’s suicide was related to this event.

    Here is the link for Patrice’s full article:
    http://www.robert-e-howard.org/DwellingDarkValley.html

    Thanks for the review of this book.
    Barbara

    Comment by Barbara Barrett - May 19, 2013 1:40 pm

  4. Great book–I’ve had it since the early 80s. This was the book that introduced me to my all-time fave REH story: “Valley of the Worm.” The rest of the stories really gave me a taste of Howard’s non-Conan, non-Kull work. A classic collection.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 19, 2013 3:13 pm

  5. I wonder if Baen gets enough credit for what they did for Howard with this book and with the seven volume collection that followed it. I think that at the time (1990’s) they were pretty much your only source for unadulterated non-Conan Howard — heck, at that point, I think the only in-print Conan may have been non-Howard — kind of bridging the gap between the Berkley/Zebra volumes of the 1970’s and, eventually, the Wandering Star/Del Rey collections we have today.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 19, 2013 5:36 pm

  6. I think i have read most of the stories, excluding the poems, in “The horror stories of Robert E. Howard” published by DelRey.

    Pidgeons from hells was one of the few stories that really scared me. But i don’t get how it could be considered related to the Cthulhu mythios. The same goes for “Old Grafield’s heart”.

    “Dig me no grave”, on the other hand, does reference some mythos books, Von Junzt’s “Mysteriöse Kulten” if i’m not mistaken.

    Comment by Oliver.Klages - May 19, 2013 5:53 pm

  7. Joe,

    It’s not the finest REH collection I’ve ever read. But it’s got some fine pieces, even if they are only vaguely related to Lovecraft.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 19, 2013 6:18 pm

  8. Not the finest, but it has very nostalgic appeal for me because I think it was the first Howard book I ever actually owned — I came to it because of the Cthulhu/Lovecraft connection (spurious though it may be) and didn’t start reading Conan, etc., until a few years later.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 19, 2013 6:32 pm

  9. I probably still hace this book somewhere, it’s where I first read “People of the Dark” and perhaps “Worms of the Earth”.

    BTW – why the captcha stuff? Can’t remember once seeing “CH33p V14gkr4 click he3r.” ever on this blog…

    Comment by GreenGestalt - May 19, 2013 11:25 pm

  10. I bought this even though I had most of the stories in older paperbacks. It’s an interesting collection but with a little more study the editor could have made it better. He could Have included “The Hoofed Thing” and “Dagon Manor” and maybe even a couple of Conan stories that are considered to belong within the “Cthulhu Mythos”.
    Congratulations on snagging a copy of that statue…with H.P. Lovecraft’s current trendiness it will only go up in value!

    Comment by Jase811 - May 20, 2013 12:19 pm

  11. Ironically, before I discovered REH, I read most of HPL’s output and picked this up and passed it along after a quick read. Once I started collecting REH and circled back and re-purchased it.

    I don’t know if Baen got the credit for that 7 volume non-Conan REH series, but *I* always acknowledged them. ‘Eons of the Night’ spurred me into REH the way this collection didn’t. :) Being someone hung up on the lore of Vikings reaching North America, “Marchers of Valhalla” blew me away. I got around to reading Conan tales later.

    Comment by pmcnamee67 - May 20, 2013 5:04 pm

  12. > God, do I love these books you pick!

    Doug,

    Glad you’re enjoying my selections! But I credit Joe H. with picking this one. :)

    > If you are in the mood for a very affordable REH horror collection check this out…

    Thanks for the suggestion! I’m a big fan of the Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural collection, and I wrote about four of the best in December: William Hope Hodgson’s The Casebook of Carnacki The Ghost Finder, The Beast with Five Fingers (by W.F. Harvey), The Power of Darkness — Tales of Terror (Edith Nesbit), and Alice and Claude Askew’s Aylmer Vance, The Ghost-Seer.

    I link to all the articles here:

    http://www.blackgate.com/2012/12/21/vintage-treasures-the-casebook-of-carnacki-the-ghost-finder/

    I don’t have a copy of The Haunter of the Ring and Other Tales, but I did buy another Howard title in the same series, the Solomon Kane collection The Right Hand of Doom:

    http://www.amazon.com/Right-Hand-Wordsworth-Mystery-Supernatural/dp/1840226110/

    I’ll have to track this one down as well. Thanks for the rec!

    Comment by John ONeill - May 21, 2013 1:13 pm

  13. > We know Howard died in 1936. Since this was 8 or 9 years after the death of Patches, it seems unlikely that REH’s suicide was related to this event.

    Barbara,

    I knew you’d be able to shed some light on the mystery. :)

    Thanks for the link. Seven decades later, even the smallest aspects of Howard’s life continue to fascinate us.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 21, 2013 4:38 pm

  14. > This was the book that introduced me to my all-time fave REH story: “Valley of the Worm.”
    > The rest of the stories really gave me a taste of Howard’s non-Conan, non-Kull work. A classic collection.

    John,

    A sterling endorsement! For a long time I regarded this book as a collection of Howard’s lesser-known horror tales; I’m glad I finally took Joe’s advice and sought out a copy.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 21, 2013 4:40 pm

  15. > I wonder if Baen gets enough credit for what they did for Howard with this book and with the seven volume collection that followed it.

    Joe,

    I don’t think they did. Baen’s REH volumes are really terrific, and I greatly appreciated their variety.

    Some of them (especially Eons of the Night and Beyond The Borders) took me a long time to track down – although I note that prices seem much more reasonable these days. Perhaps the Del Rey editions have made these redundant in the eyes of some collectors?

    Comment by John ONeill - May 21, 2013 4:44 pm

  16. > BTW – why the captcha stuff? Can’t remember once seeing “CH33p V14gkr4 click he3r.” ever on this blog…

    Green,

    We had two back-to-back security intrusions on the website a few months back, and as a precaution we upgraded security across the site. The captcha is part of that.

    I realize it’s a nuisance, but there’s been no repeat of our earlier problems, so we’re likely to keep things the way they are for a while.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 21, 2013 4:47 pm

  17. > He could Have included “The Hoofed Thing” and “Dagon Manor”

    Jase,

    No argument there.

    > and maybe even a couple of Conan stories that are considered to belong within the “Cthulhu Mythos”

    True — but there are plenty of other sources for Conan material, so I don’t begrudge Drake his focus on non-Conan material.

    > Congratulations on snagging a copy of that statue… with H.P. Lovecraft’s current trendiness it will only go up in value!

    Thanks! I don’t know if a statue is likely to increase in value in a field where collectibility is dominated by limited edition hardcovers and comics… but I’m very glad I bought it when I did.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 21, 2013 4:50 pm

  18. > Pidgeons from hells was one of the few stories that really scared me. But i don’t get how it could be considered
    > related to the Cthulhu mythios. The same goes for “Old Grafield’s heart”.

    Oliver,

    I had the same criticism. But “Pigeons from Hell” is a splendid tale, and I don’t blame Drake for stretching the boundaries a bit to include it!

    Comment by John ONeill - May 21, 2013 4:52 pm

  19. > I don’t know if Baen got the credit for that 7 volume non-Conan REH series, but *I* always acknowledged them.
    > ‘Eons of the Night’ spurred me into REH the way this collection didn’t.

    Paul,

    I know what you mean – there’s something about those seven volumes that calls out to collectors. :) Maybe it’s the covers?

    And it’s hard to be inspired to collect something by a standalone book like Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 21, 2013 4:54 pm

  20. Well, between the magazine and the website you’ve put enough books on my shelves over the years — glad to return the favor!

    Comment by Joe H. - May 21, 2013 9:19 pm

  21. […] Vintage Treasures: Robert E Howard’s Cthulhu: The Mythos and Kindred Horrors […]

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  22. […] reprints of some of the most essential classic SF and Fantasy of the 20th Century — including Robert E. Howard, Andre Norton, James H. Schmitz., Murray Leinster, and P. C. Hodgell’s God Stalker […]

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