Abdul Alhazred

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Abdul Alhazred is a fictional character created by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. He is the so-called "Mad Arab" credited with authoring the fictional book Kitab al-Azif (the Necronomicon), and as such is an integral part of Cthulhu Mythos lore.

Name[edit]

The name Abdul Alhazred is a pseudonym that Lovecraft created in his youth, which he took on after reading 1001 Arabian Nights at the age of about five. The name was invented either by Lovecraft, or by Albert Baker, the Phillips' family lawyer.[1] Abdul is a common Arabic name component (but never a name by itself), but Alhazred may allude to Hazard, a reference to the book's destructive and dangerous nature, or to Lovecraft's ancestors by that name.[2][3] It might also have been a play on "all-has-read", since Lovecraft was an avid reader in youth.[4]

Another possibility, raised in an essay by the Swedish fantasy writer and editor Rickard Berghorn, is that the name Alhazred was influenced by references to two historical authors whose names were Latinized as Alhazen: Alhazen ben Josef, who translated Ptolemy into Arabic; and Abu 'Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, who wrote about optics, mathematics and physics. Ibn al-Haytham is said to have pretended to be mad to escape the wrath of a ruler.[5]

Abdul Alhazred is not a real Arabic name, and seems to contain the Arabic definite article morpheme al- twice in a row (anomalous in terms of Arabic grammar). The more proper Arabic form might be Abd-al-Hazred or Abdul Hazred. In Arabic translations, his name has appeared as Abdullah Alḥa ẓred (عبدالله الحظرد): Arabic ḥaẓraحظر = "he fenced in", "he prohibited". Hazred could come from the Arabic word "Hazrat" meaning Great Lord with a twist that makes it sound like "red" and "hazard" both indicative of danger. It is also thought by some to be a corruption of sorts on the phrase "All has read," to imply he has read lots, and has immense amounts of knowledge. However Abdul is a common Arabic prefix meaning "Servant" and "Al" is Arabic for "the", and if "hazra" means "he prohibited", "he fenced in" or "Great Lord", then the name would mean "Servant of the Prohibited", "Servant of the Fenced in", or "Servant of the Great Lord" which would make sense considering his role, even if it is not a proper Arabic name.

Similarly, an article[citation needed] (written from an in-universe perspective) in the Call of Cthulhu tabletop role-playing game speculates that it may be a corruption of Abd Al-Azrad, which it claims translates to The Worshipper of the Great Devourer.

The phrase "mad Arab", sometimes with both words capitalized in Lovecraft's stories, is used so commonly before Alhazred's name that it almost constitutes a title. A reference to the "Mad Arab" in Cthulhu Mythos fiction is invariably a synonym for Abdul Alhazred. Later writers sometimes preface Alhazred with words such as "monk" (such as in the Chick parody tract "Who will be Eaten First?" by Howard Hallis) or "scholar" replacing Arab to avoid any racist overtones.

Biography[edit]

H. P. Lovecraft[edit]

According to Lovecraft's "History of the Necronomicon" (written 1927, first published 1938), Alhazred was:

a mad poet of Sanaá, in Yemen, who is said to have flourished during the period of the Ommiade caliphs, circa 700 A.D. He visited the ruins of Babylon and the subterranean secret of Memphis and spent ten years alone in the great southern desert of Arabia—the Roba El Khaliyeh or "Empty Space" of the ancients—and "Dahna" or "Crimson" desert of the modern Arabs, which is held to be inhabited by protective evil spirits and monsters of death. Of this desert many strange and unbelievable marvels are told by those who pretend to have penetrated it. In his last years Alhazred dwelt in Damascus.

In 730, while still living in Damascus, Alhazred supposedly wrote a book of ultimate evil in Arabic, al-Azif, which would later become known as the Necronomicon. Those who have dealings with this book usually come to an unpleasant end, and Alhazred was no exception. Again according to Lovecraft's "History":

Of his final death or disappearance (738 A.D.) many terrible and conflicting things are told. He is said by Ebn Khallikan (12th cent. biographer) to have been seized by an invisible monster in broad daylight and devoured horribly before a large number of fright-frozen witnesses. Of his madness many things are told. He claimed to have seen the fabulous Irem, or City of Pillars, and to have found beneath the ruins of a certain nameless desert town the shocking annals and secrets of a race older than mankind. He was only an indifferent Moslem, worshipping unknown entities whom he called Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.

August Derleth[edit]

August Derleth later made alterations to the biography of Alhazred, such as redating his death to 731. Derleth also changed Alhazred's final fate, as described in his short story "The Keeper of the Key", first published in May 1951. In the story, Professor Laban Shrewsbury (a recurring Derleth character) and his assistant at the time, Nayland Colum, discover Alhazred's burial site.

While the two are heading a caravan from Salalah, Oman, they cross the border into Yemen and find the unexplored desert area that the Necronomicon calls "Roba el Ehaliyeh" or "Roba el Khaliyeh" — presumably a reference to the Empty Quarter or "Rub al Khali".

At the center of the area they discover the Nameless City (the setting of the Lovecraft story of the same name) and in Derleth's text the domain of the Great Old One Hastur. Shrewsbury, an old agent of Hastur and the devoted enemy of Hastur's half-brother, Cthulhu, crosses its gates in search of Alhazred's burial site.

He indeed finds Alhazred's burial chamber and learns of his fate. Alhazred had been kidnapped in Damascus and brought to the Nameless City, where he had earlier studied and learned some of the Necronomicon's lore. As punishment for betraying their secrets, Alhazred was tortured. Then they blinded him, severed his tongue and executed him.

Although the entrance to the chamber warns against disturbing him, Shrewsbury opens Alhazred's sarcophagus anyway, finding that only rags, bones, and dust remain of Alhazred. However, the sarcophagus also contains Alhazred's personal, incomplete copy of the Necronomicon, written in the Arabic alphabet. Shrewsbury then uses necromancy to recall Alhazred's spirit and orders it to draw a map of the world as he knew it. After obtaining the map, which reveals the location of R'lyeh and other secret places, Shrewsbury finally lets Alhazred return to his eternal rest.

In non-Mythos fiction[edit]

Like his creation the Necronomicon, Alhazred is often referenced in works that are not generally considered part of the Cthulhu Mythos, either as a subtle nod to Lovecraft or to create a connection to his world.

In The Eyes of the Dragon, by Stephen King, the Mad Arab appears in a reference by the evil wizard Flagg to the Necronomicon, "written on the high, distant Plains of Leng by a madman named Alharzed."

In Fallout 3, an irradiated and mentally insane character named Jaime Palabras can be heard rambling on an audio tape, saying "Abdul comes again, on the feast of the weaker. Feast for the Deep Temple. Born again, here. Alhazred, G’yeth. G’yeth."

In Diablo III, a travelling scholar named "Abd al-Hazir" is the narrator for many of the game's features. Given the similarities in the two characters' names, professions, written works and generally dark subject matter, it is likely[weasel words] that Lovecraft's Alhazred provided the main inspiration for al-Hazir.[citation needed]

The Mercyful Fate albums Time and Into the Unknown reference Alhazred.

The MMORPG Wizard101 features a Krok called Alhazred who teaches Balance magic.

A statue of Alhazred makes a cameo appearance as the "Mad Scholar" in Graham McNeill's book A Thousand Sons. This novel features sorcerers who become destroyed by forbidden knowledge and takes place in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, itself utilizing Lovecraftian themes.

Abdul Alhazred acts as vizier to King Calaphim and Queen Allaria in the Land of the Green Isles in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.

In the game 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the library contains a book called Kitab as-Azif. The character Snake says it was written by Abdul Alhazred and was said to be one of the books used in the creation of the Necronomicon.[citation needed]

A book by Al-Hazred is mentioned in The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross.

In the Novel Metrom by Andrew Knaut, Abdul Alhazred was in an elite Esis protection team known as Vel Team L-Viathan. He was banished after contacting Esis on Gabrielle DuMont's whereabouts and lived in the Waste alone. When meeting his old team he caused his best friend and partner Zan Farkafk to go insane.

In the novel, A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny, a character carries an icon painted by Alhazred known as the Alhazred Icon.

In the video game Wild Arms, the similarly named Alhazad (Japanese: アルハザード, Aruhazādo) is an evil Metal Demon with a great enjoyment for killing and destruction. He also practices human experimentation, transforming humans into monsters and other creatures.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • August Derleth (2000) [1951]. "The Keeper of the Key". Quest for Cthulhu. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-0752-6. 
  • Harms, Daniel (1998). The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed. ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. ISBN 1-56882-119-0. 
  • Pearsall, Anthony B. (2005). The Lovecraft Lexicon (1st ed. ed.). Tempe, AZ: New Falcon. ISBN 1-56184-129-3. 
  • Knaut, Andrew (June 2013). Ruby Alsharaf, ed. Metrom. Blogger. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Harms, p. 7, The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana.
  2. ^ L. Sprague de Camp, Lovecraft, a Biography. Ballantine, 1976.
  3. ^ Rootsweb page on Lovecraft's family tree, showing his Hazard ancestry.
  4. ^ Pearsall, "Alhazred, Abdul", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 55.
  5. ^ Rickard Berghorn "Alhazen och Alhazred" (Swedish)