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Old 12th March 2010, 05:42 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Tinsel: There is no photograph in the story. It is an engraving in a very old book, published long before photography was even thought of. Nor does the picture change, save as its appearance is altered (or, more specifically, made more vivid) by the splash of red from above. As for that spatter of blood... the idea is that the room above is his abattoir, where lie the freshly-butchered remains of his latest victim. This is quite likely the reason he did not respond to the narrator's knocking and original entry: he was absorbed in his gruesome task of dismembering and "dressing" his "victuals".

As for the reference to sin... yes, as I said above, he was of an age where Puritanism was extremely strong, so he would have had such beliefs as the "ain't we all born and livin' in sin" sort... but that is no reason to accept those beliefs as actually objectively working within the milieu of the story. Nor is it likely Lovecraft meant that thunderbolt to be from the hand of God, as it were. For one thing, Lovecraft was an atheist whose worldview was very much that of a mechanistic materialist. It is much more likely that the stroke of lightning was either fortuitous or -- as has been posited before -- the entire experience was an encounter with the ghost of both house and man; which would account for the narrator's surviving the destruction of the house virtually unscathed. There are problems with this reading, but then there are problems with the ending as it stands. But in any event, the entrance of God into the picture is very unlikely, as this would be a distinct deus ex machina... something Lovecraft (and just about any writer worth their salt) would steer clear of as simply a cheap trick. If he were to invoke such a being, he would lay plenty of "clues" in advance -- things one might not notice at the time, but in retrospect would be quite clear... which is obviously not the case here.

And yes; like Hawthorne, Lovecraft was heavily influenced by history, and one of the major themes of his work is the way the past reaches out to engulf some unwitting inhabitant of the present....
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Old 12th March 2010, 07:03 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

The book contained quite a few carved plates. Basically plate XII, was focused on, but other plates were mentioned and there was an out of place quality to all of the pictures. What I am suggesting is that the book was evil. The title of the story is a clue, that the picture was significant. I think that the work that was going on upstairs was not simply butchery, but it was an act influenced and brought on by the picture (a supernatural act in progress). There doesn't appear to be a whole bunch of victims in the vicinity to support continuous murders. It is as if time stood still.

There is talk of the Almighty as well as a Bible, but the storm did slowly build in intensity so it is ambiguous as to what caused the thunder bolt.

Well, what gets me when I read Lovecraft is that there is always talk of "brothers" in these stories and here is another example involving the brothers De Bry.

Last of all points, this version of the book was written in Latin. It was a book that was supposed to talk about the Congo region of Africa. It sounded like there were oddities/errors within the book, things out of place or trapped or drawn wrong, etc.

Anyway, the picture is the focus and it was perhaps not fully explained, but every time this brother talk enters these stories, not far behind is witchcraft and monsters/aliens.

It turned out to be a more involved story than I first realized.

Actually, one last edit. The blood that fell down from the ceiling must have been lamb's blood, and than the blood drop would have some form of symbolic significance. I would argue that it was lamb's blood and not a human victim. Anyway, it will remain a mystery. It looks like Lovecraft deals with concepts that are beyond mere fiction because they are left ambiguous. That is the style of his writing, and that is what makes it worth pondering.

I like how the stories feel when I read them, and than some of them are worth discussing to some extent. When the discussion turns to religion it is difficult to provide a satisfactory answer. Of course the Biblical sacrifice involved Abraham and Ishmael/Issac (conflict between two religions).

Well I would rather refer to Lovecraft in the spirit of story telling rather than the Bible! The stories of Lovecraft are more entertaining then the stories in the Bible, etc. Not all of his stories are up to par but this one was reasonably well told, although unfortunately is was quite dark and sinister.

Last edited by Tinsel; 12th March 2010 at 07:55 AM.
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Old 12th March 2010, 09:50 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

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The book contained quite a few carved plates. Basically plate XII, was focused on, but other plates were mentioned and there was an out of place quality to all of the pictures.
I'm not sure what you mean here by "an out of place quality". As I recall, the description of the plates illustrating the volume were in general quite neutral, almost nonexistent, focusing on the fact that the book kept opening to this one disturbing plate.

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What I am suggesting is that the book was evil.
Again, I'm not sure where you are getting this, at least from the text itself. It may, however, have made that impression on you personally. But the Regnum Congo is simply an account of travels in the region. To quote from Joshi's notes to the tale:

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Filippo Pigafetta (1533-1604) wrote a work in Italian entitled Relatione del reame di Congo et delle cironvicine contrade (1591), an account of the travels in the Congo of a sailor, Duarte Lopes. It was translated into Dutch in 1596, into English and German in 1597, and into Latin (by A. C. Reinius) as Regnum Congo in 1598.[...] The plates by the brothers De Bry first appeared in the German edition of 1597.
-- The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Tales, p. 372

As I recall, the plates were not included in the Latin edition, though I could be misremembering on this. At any rate, there are several errors in Lovecraft's tale concerning the book, and one of the most important is the emphasis on the cannibal butcher shop, as can be seen from the following reproduction of the actual plate:

http://www.angelfire.com/games5/delt...gnumCongo.html

(And I wouldn't take too seriously any of the information included on that page, as this is material intended for a Lovecraftian game, not factual scholarship. The reproduction of the plate, however, is genuine.)

The point being, that this is a minor part of a book of travels, not the main thrust, making the book anything but evil... though, as I said, it may have well impressed you that way from the tale itself; that is an individual reaction, and quite valid on that ground, but it was not something Lovecraft himself is likely to have intended.

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The title of the story is a clue, that the picture was significant.
Yes, the title is significant (all his titles are, in fact), though the meaning here seems to be more the perversion of the aged inhabitant of the house and the secrets being hidden within that house; as well, perhaps, as Lovecraft once again drawing that line to the tendency of people in lawless conditions repeating the actions of primitive, perhaps even pre-human, conditions.

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I think that the work that was going on upstairs was not simply butchery, but it was an act influenced and brought on by the picture (a supernatural act in progress). There doesn't appear to be a whole bunch of victims in the vicinity to support continuous murders. It is as if time stood still.
That last is an interesting point, and may apply to what I mentioned earlier. This is an idea which -- though never realized fully or developed as well as it might be -- also plays a part in the events of "Medusa's Coil" (a revision he did for Zealia Bishop) and "The Ghost-Eater" (a revision/collaboration with C. M. Eddy, Jr.). As for it being "an act influenced and brought on by the picture"... I think there is a deal of truth to that, but I'm not sure there is anything actually supernatural at work where this aspect is concerned; rather it fits in with what Lovecraft is saying in the opening paragraphs about how these Puritan people, in isolation, reverted to such actions as mentioned above:

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In such houses have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen. Seized with a gloomy and fanatical belief which exiled them from their kind, their ancestors sought the wilderness for freedom. There the scions of a conquering race indeed flourished free from the restrictions of their fellows, but cowered in an appalling slavery to the dismal phantasms of their own minds. Divorced from the enlightenment of civilisation, the strength of these Puritans turned into singular channels; and in their isolation, morbid self-repression, and struggle for life with relentless Nature, there came to them dark furtive traits from the prehistoric depths of their cold Northern heritage. By necessity practical and by philosophy stern, these folk were not beautiful in their sins. Erring as all mortals must, they were forced by their rigid code to seek concealment above all else; so that they came to use less and less taste in what they concealed.
This seems pretty straightforward an explanation for the events, without drawing on the supernatural for his perversion.

As for the comment about "simple butchery" and

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The blood that fell down from the ceiling must have been lamb's blood, and than the blood drop would have some form of symbolic significance. I would argue that it was lamb's blood and not a human victim.
I think the text is actually quite clear about how he had become more and more perverted in his taste for "victuals [he] couldn't raise nor buy", along with the strong hints that he himself had done away with Parson Clark and the district schoolmaster (and, as the events of the tale indicate, quite a few others as well over the years), making the likelihood of it being a lamb extremely slender. And if it were a lamb, why would he be butchering such upstairs, and acting so furtively about it, when there was nothing abnormal about such butchery by a yeoman farmer to begin with? No, this is, I think, one of those cases of Lovecraft being a tad too explicit perhaps in driving home his point about the culinary habits of the strange old man of the tale, and the inference that it is yet another person he has killed and is preparing for his table seems pretty inescapable.

As for the scarcity of such victims... well that is an interesting point; but one must remember that even such isolated roads as the one which led by this place were still the only ways to get to some regions at the time; what we know as modern freeways and the like still being some decades in the future. More often than not, such lonely backroads were traveled by itinerant salesmen, preachers, antiquarians, and various other types of travelers seeking out the smaller towns and villages, and these were not infrequently on foot (automobiles being still a rare commodity and bicycles being only slightly more common with such travelers). So he would quite likely have been able to "keep his hand in" at least periodically; though the coincidence of such having happened on the same day as the narrator's visit may be considered a stretch.

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There is talk of the Almighty as well as a Bible, but the storm did slowly build in intensity so it is ambiguous as to what caused the thunder bolt.
Yes, there is such talk, but again, this is part of the man's Puritan background, where "theological self-examination" was involved with every aspect of life; that's the nature of a theocracy: nothing is entirely secular; it is all, even the most minute particular of a person's life or thought, involved in the Divine Plan in one way or another. Again, though, this does not indicate anything in the tale to support the idea that such a Deity even exists, let alone takes such an active role as to send a thunderbolt at the opportune moment. As for the storm building slowly... storms quite often do, of course, and I'm not sure where that would indicate such involvement, either. All told, I think this is imposing a reading on the text, one which it does not itself support, rather than discovering such a reading in the material itself.

Quote:
Well, what gets me when I read Lovecraft is that there is always talk of "brothers" in these stories and here is another example involving the brothers De Bry.

Anyway, the picture is the focus and it was perhaps not fully explained, but every time this brother talk enters these stories, not far behind is witchcraft and monsters/aliens.
I think your point about brothers is an interesting idea... it ties in with the idea of Lovecraft's use of "doubling", which is indeed a common motif in many of his tales. I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on this aspect....

Quote:
Last of all points, this version of the book was written in Latin. It was a book that was supposed to talk about the Congo region of Africa. It sounded like there were oddities/errors within the book, things out of place or trapped or drawn wrong, etc.
Well, as noted earlier, it was simply a book of an account of travels, and such were frequently riddled with such errors, even when not written down second-hand (as this was). This sort of error dates back to Pliny at least, and makes for some peculiar looks at the world outside the writer's usual sphere....

At any rate, an interesting discussion. Keep your thoughts coming. While I may or may not agree with them, it's fascinating to see what someone else makes of these things....
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Old 12th March 2010, 10:23 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

While the butcher shop apears in the image almost as an after thoughts , yet it kind of makes you wonder at how common it would have to be for the people around it not taking specific notice in it and it .
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Old 13th March 2010, 02:52 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

They type of magic that the book is associated with is Voodoo. There are several races depicted which were originally black, such as Caucasian and Native Indian. An account of the Congo would involve black magic.

Who were these brothers? fictional or not?
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Old 13th March 2010, 05:45 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

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Originally Posted by Lobolover View Post
While the butcher shop apears in the image almost as an after thoughts , yet it kind of makes you wonder at how common it would have to be for the people around it not taking specific notice in it and it .
That is hard to say. On the whole, though, I think a lot of it may be chalked up to the artist's imagination rather than the account itself. I don't know for certain, having not read the book itself (I don't believe anything more than brief excerpts have ever received an English translation), but such would not be at all uncommon.

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Originally Posted by Tinsel View Post
They type of magic that the book is associated with is Voodoo. There are several races depicted which were originally black, such as Caucasian and Native Indian. An account of the Congo would involve black magic.

Who were these brothers? fictional or not?
The Brothers De Bry? Quite real, as is the book itself. As for the rest... the book (if you are referring to the Regnum Congo) isn't associated with magic at all, though it may have a brief account of some of the natives' beliefs. I also can't help but ask where you get the idea of any connection with Voodoo. Certainly the text doesn't give that impression, not from anything I know about that particular religion (which is itself a far cry from "black magic"; it is indeed a formal religion with both darker and lighter aspects and is a rather complex syncretistic belief system). However, Lovecraft would almost certainly not have used voodoo in any case, as I doubt he knew much of anything about it (save for whatever may have been included in the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica which he owned). His knowledge on the subject of occult beliefs was extremely scanty at this point in his career, though he would later read a bit from some reasonably good authorities on the subject. Even then, his views of the fictional possibilities of such were often quite dim, as he felt that genuine folklore and religious or occult beliefs were too garbled and jury-rigged as a result of their gradual evolution (and often absorption of elements of other belief systems which they encountered over time) to allow them to have the consistency necessary for artistic verisimilitude.

However... I would be interested in what about the story brings the connection with voodoo to mind....
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Old 13th March 2010, 06:46 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

People don't chop each other to pieces and eat human flesh for little or no reason. There has to be an influence. I believe that the picture had an influence on anyone who looked at it and the source that makes sense based on the book being about Africans, is their voodoo religion. Now these Africans were white and native so they were no longer black. I can't say anything else because I don't have the book. I don't know anything about the brothers, except that there is one thing that I do know about and that is the presence of electricity; the thunder storm. It is by personal experience that I have had with spirits, that so called magic is developed by electricity (power) but the rest I hesitate to try to explain. Well if you can not see it, than that is fine. You might not be able to see it, in other words, it might not be possible. It is not my intention to convince anyone but that is how I would explain the happenings in the story. I was wondering where the connection was to magic, and now that you mentioned the Congo, than that answers my question. Those damn brothers though. There is something there. They were depicted as monsters if I remember correctly, half dragon.

Oh and the blood...and the blood in "The Dunwich Horror"...all unexplained.

More Information from wikipedia:
Quote:
He and his son John-Theodore (1560 - 1623) made adjustments to both the texts and the illustrations of the original accounts, on the one hand in function of his own understanding of Le Moyne's paintings, and, most importantly, to please potential buyers. The Latin and German editions varied markedly, in accordance with the differences in estimated readership. Amerindians look like Mediterranean Europeans and illustrations mix different tribal customs and artifacts. In addition to day-to-day life of the American natives, Theodore de Bry even included a few depictions of cannibalism. All in all, the vast amount of these illustrations and texts influenced the European perception of the New World, Africa, and Asia.
Okay so this somewhat dispels the myth. Apparently the brother's father made carvings that were relative to his European readership. In other words, his European audience would see other races depicted as Europeans. It mentions cannibalism as being a practice of American natives, at the time. This explains the discrepancy in the book plates. It is because the engraver drew them wrong on purpose.

Now, what still remains unanswered is, why the old man began to become a cannibal. In addition, why were the brothers De Bry depicted in the way that they were?

Now this also opens up another religion and that is the religion system of the American natives, and than here you have spirits involved. Something had to have influenced the observer of the picture on plate number XII. It is either Voodoo or else something to do with natives, and really it can't be answered, and there still remains the question of the brothers depicted as part dragon. This reminds me of the brothers in "The Dunwich Horror".

Last edited by Tinsel; 13th March 2010 at 07:38 AM.
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Old 13th March 2010, 07:52 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Here is a quote from a site on the Internet:
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The Anziques were the natives of the historic African state of Anziko, which bordered along the Congo River.


I forget but in the book, the Anzique butcher shop depicted the Anzique's as whites? Is that correct? Were they European whites? If so, than that stands to reason, but somewhere in the story it does mention "Injies" unless I spelled that wrong, sorry. I understand that word to mean, native Americans. Than that goes back to the fathers drawings. Well I should maybe read it again while looking for these answers because I don't remember what the exact references were made to.
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Old 13th March 2010, 08:05 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Here is a voodoo connecton: The Fairfield Project: Regnum Congo

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[...Anziques and their dark rituals.]
Suggestive of voodoo or some like black magic.
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Old 13th March 2010, 07:17 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Final Re-reading

In the end my final conclusion is that the evidence shows that the brothers father did add relativity to the carvings so that aspect of the book was not unusual or out of place and that is a major point that is not found in the Penguin edition.

Next, although the African tribe practiced cannibalism, so did the native Americans. The brother's father depicted that in older carvings during his lifetime according to the online encyclopedia. What I am forced to conclue is that the antagonist after listening to sermons would look at plate number 12 and was somehow influenced by the land and evil spirits. What else can I conclude.

Now as for the drawing of the monsters, that is a recurring pattern in Lovecraft's short stories. There is no direct sub plot, yet he does include that in the story for some unexplained reason.

The thunder bolt and the blood are mysteries.
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Old 13th March 2010, 07:40 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

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Those damn brothers though. There is something there. They were depicted as monsters if I remember correctly, half dragon.
Are you still referring to the brothers De Bry? They were the artists. They do not appear in the story. They were not depicted.

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Now, what still remains unanswered is, why the old man began to become a cannibal.
No, that is also in the story. He thought that he could prolong his life by eating human flesh. He says so.

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In addition, why were the brothers De Bry depicted in the way that they were?
I repeat: They were the artists behind the illustrations. They are not depicted.

Quote:
Now this also opens up another religion and that is the religion system of the American natives, and than here you have spirits involved. Something had to have influenced the observer of the picture on plate number XII. It is either Voodoo or else something to do with natives, and really it can't be answered, and there still remains the question of the brothers depicted as part dragon.
No.
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Old 13th March 2010, 09:22 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Yes I know that already Ningauble. I read that part lightly, than re-read it and the picture is of half dragon with reptilian head and part monkey beasts similar to the frog and fish hybrid in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth".

What we somehow have here is the American version of the book printed in Frankfurt with relativism applied to it. Was this what Lovecraft was looking at when he wrote the story?
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Old 13th March 2010, 09:36 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

First, as Ningauble has noted, the Brothers De Bry are not in the story save by the brief mention of their being the artists who did the plates for the Regnum Congo. They are not depicted in any way; no information is given on them whatsoever beyond that in the previous sentence. However, you may have an interesting point about the frequency with which mention of brothers -- whether they are actual characters in a tale or not -- and weird or unnatural happenings are connected in Lovecraft's work. It would be an interesting survey to see how often these occur.

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People don't chop each other to pieces and eat human flesh for little or no reason. There has to be an influence.
Well, yes and no. Think of the various notorious cannibals of history. Think of Elizabeth Bathory, who bathed in the blood of virgins because she thought it kept her young. Then there are simply those who are cannibals for other, personal reasons -- Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein being prominent examples in recent American criminal history. As for there being an influence, as Ningauble has stated, the cannibal here gives his reasons plainly in the text:

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"When I read in Scripter about slayin’—like them Midianites was slew—I kinder think things, but I ain’t got no picter of it. Here a body kin see all they is to it—I s’pose ’tis sinful, but ain’t we all born an’ livin’ in sin?—Thet feller bein’ chopped up gives me a tickle every time I look at ’im—I hev ta keep lookin’ at ’im—see whar the butcher cut off his feet? Thar’s his head on thet bench, with one arm side of it, an’ t’other arm’s on the graound side o’ the meat block.[...] Onct I tried suthin’ funny—here, young Sir, don’t git skeert—all I done was ter look at the picter afore I kilt the sheep for market—killin’ sheep was kinder more fun arter lookin’ at it—[...] Killin’ sheep was kinder more fun—but d’ye know, ’twan’t quite satisfyin’. Queer haow a cravin’ gits a holt on ye— As ye love the Almighty, young man, don’t tell nobody, but I swar ter Gawd thet picter begun ta make me hungry fer victuals I couldn’t raise nor buy—here, set still, what’s ailin’ ye?—I didn’t do nothin’, only I wondered haow ’twud be ef I did— They say meat makes blood an’ flesh, an’ gives ye new life, so I wondered ef ’twudn’t make a man live longer an’ longer ef ’twas more the same—”
This, too, ties into the Biblical quote "For the blood is the life" (Deut. 12:23; cf. Gen. 9:4 and Lev. 17:11) -- a quote also used in connection with Dracula, incidentally.

Quote:
I believe that the picture had an influence on anyone who looked at it and the source that makes sense based on the book being about Africans, is their voodoo religion.
Again, voodoo as such is not an African religion; it is a syncretistic blending of pre-existing beliefs of various tribes and elements of Roman Catholicism given their own slant to blend with those beliefs. Combine this with the totemism of the snake, and various beliefs developed under the reign of slavery, and you end up with the amalgam which is voodoo. While it did become a practice in Africa (Dahomey, if I remember correctly) voodoo has always been at its strongest in the slave cultures of the West Indies and, to a slightly lesser degree, some parts of the American South, etc. There is mention of "Injuns" in the story, but it is in a passage where even the old man is commenting on the inaccuracies of the picture, whereas the "sort of dragon with the head of an alligator" is "a fabulous creature of the artist" -- i.e., a creation of the artist's imagination without reference to a real beast. The Africans being white was, as stated, a mistaken -- deliberately or otherwise -- depiction of the artist, not the genuine state of the tribe depicted.

As for this being your explanation of the events of the tale... it's an interesting take, but I'm afraid not supported by the text, which gives a quite adequate explanation for the occurrence of the cannibalism, the fascination with the picture, the general perversion of the old man, and even the appearance of the blood. The religion of the American Indians doesn't enter into the tale at all, not even by implication.

As for the link you sent on the voodoo connection... again, this is simply quoting from the same site from which I linked the picture itself -- this is noted by the "hosted by Angelfire" at the top of the page -- and that site is, as you can see by reading the rest of the text, devoted to a Lovecraf-based game. The "facts" there are not to be trusted as genuine, but are rather concocted of part actual historical fact and large amounts of pure fiction, for the purposes of enhancing the atmosphere of the game's scenario.

The problem with what you are bringing in here, though it is as I said an interesting interpretation, is that it isn't supported by the text of Lovecraft's tale, nor by things in his other stories -- such as, for example, George Wetzel's idea of the "ghoul-changeling", which is a theme Lovecraft developed through several stories, from a nascent, inchoate form such as we may see here (though this is arguable) to the final overt statement of such in "Pickman's Model". That is the risk of bringing too much of one's own views to the reading of a tale: you end up imposing a reading on a text which really can't be found in the text itself (even in relation to other texts by the same author), rather than developing or explicating something which is inherent at some level in the original work.

(I repeat, though, that your idea concerning his use of brothers may be a quite valid one; at any rate, it is certainly worthy of examination.)

And, again, the blood in both tales is amply explained. In both cases, it is used to "[make] blood an’ flesh, an’ [give] new life"; here, by the cannibalistic hermit; there, for both Wilbur and his brother, whose ancestry is at least half alien, the father being Yog-Sothoth.....
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Old 13th March 2010, 09:37 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

Hmmm, I think that I also remember that on the Online encyclopedia article on the brother's De Bry's father. There is mention of dinosaur carvings. I think that is what it said. Anyway that is the only explanation that I can come up with for the hybrid animals and the monster depiction, other than it is Lovecrafts theme, but there is that basis in actual history that he drew dinosaurs if memory serves, I don't use my memory very much though.

Well whatever.
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Old 13th March 2010, 09:39 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Re: The Picture in the House

j.d, I have to read your post later since I am at work! I can't log in again.

Please respond to the issue that what is being used is ethnocentrism and this book sounds like what the American version would look like. That is an important point.
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