Dunwich (Lovecraft)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Dunwich is a fictional town that appeared in the H. P. Lovecraft short story "The Dunwich Horror" (1929). Dunwich is found in the fictional Miskatonic River Valley of Massachusetts, part of the imaginary region sometimes called Lovecraft Country. The inhabitants are depicted as inbred, uneducated, and very superstitious, while the town itself is described as economically poor with many decrepit and abandoned buildings.

Origin[edit]

Abandoned barn in Athol, Massachusetts

Lovecraft may have named the town after the lost port of Dunwich in Suffolk, England. This town was the subject (though not mentioned by name) of Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem "By the North Sea", which was in an anthology owned by Lovecraft. This Dunwich also appears in Arthur Machen's novella The Terror (1917), which Lovecraft is known to have read.

Lovecraft also could have been inspired by other New England towns with names ending in -wich, such as Ipswich near Salem, Massachusetts, East and West Greenwich in Rhode Island, and Greenwich, Massachusetts, a rural town that has since been flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Although the English town is pronounced "DUN-ich" (similar to the Rhode Island Greenwiches), Lovecraft never specified how he preferred his Dunwich be pronounced.[1]

Lovecraft is said to have based Dunwich on Athol, Massachusetts, and other towns in Western Massachusetts.[2] S. T. Joshi has also seen Dunwich as being influenced by East Haddam, Connecticut, location of the "Devil's Hopyard," the "Moodus Noises," and a witch tradition.[3]

Description[edit]

Lovecraft locates Dunwich in "north central Massachusetts", found by travellers "tak[ing] the wrong fork at the junction of the Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners." Aylesbury and Dean's Corners are both Lovecraft creations, neither of which appears in any other of his stories, though Aylesbury is mentioned in his poem sequence Fungi From Yuggoth[4] and the Aylesbury Turnpike is mentioned in "The Lurker at the Threshold".

"The Dunwich Horror" describes the region around Dunwich as "a lonely and curious country," broken up with "ravines of problematical depth" and "stretches of marshland that one instinctively dislikes". There is dense natural growth and abundant wildlife such as whippoorwills, fireflies and bullfrogs, though "the planted fields appear singularly few and barren." The "sparsely scattered houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation," while the "gnarled, solitary" inhabitants are "silent and furtive".

Lovecraft describes the village of Dunwich itself:

Across a covered bridge one sees a small village huddled between the stream and the vertical slope of Round Mountain, and wonders at the cluster of rotting gambrel roofs bespeaking an earlier architectural period than that of the neighbouring region. It is not reassuring to see, on a closer glance, that most of the houses are deserted and falling to ruin, and that the broken-steepled church now harbours the one slovenly mercantile establishment of the hamlet. One dreads to trust the tenebrous tunnel of the bridge, yet there is no way to avoid it. Once across, it is hard to prevent the impression of a faint, malign odour about the village street, as of the massed mould and decay of centuries. It is always a relief to get clear of the place, and to follow the narrow road around the base of the hills and across the level country beyond till it rejoins the Aylesbury pike. Afterward one sometimes learns that one has been through Dunwich.

Connections[edit]

After "The Dunwich Horror", Lovecraft did not mention Dunwich in his prose fiction again, though the town does appear in his poem "The Ancient Track" (1929).

The town was used as a setting by August Derleth in his posthumous "collaborations" with Lovecraft, notably in "The Shuttered Room" (1959).

Many Cthulhu Mythos stories by other writers have also been set in Dunwich, some of which are collected in The Dunwich Cycle.

Other appearances[edit]

The town is also the setting of the loose film adaptation of Lovecraft's story, also called The Dunwich Horror, starring Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee. The town is also the setting of the 1999 direct-to-video movie Witchouse, although the town itself is never seen, as the entire movie takes place in a mansion in Dunwich.

The horror film City of the Living Dead, directed by Lucio Fulci, features a town called Dunwich, named as a tribute to Lovecraft.

Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu role-playing game uses Dunwich as a setting, notably in H.P. Lovecraft's Dunwich: Return to the Forgotten Village.

The video game The Bard's Tale features a town named Dunwich in which many occult events occur.

"The Sun Dog", a novella by Stephen King that appears in the 1990 collection Four Past Midnight, gives passing mention to "a fellow in Dunwich, Massachusetts, to whom Pop [Merrill] had once sold a so-called spirit trumpet for ninety dollars; the fellow had taken the trumpet to the Dunwich Cemetery and must have heard something exceedingly unpleasant, because he had been raving in a padded cell in Arkham for almost six years now, totally insane."[5]

The town of Dunwych, spelled with a "y", is featured in season 3 of Seven Days as a fishing town in new England, in which the inhabitants are driven insane by a bioweapon dredged up from the bottom of the sea.

In Charles Stross' novel The Jennifer Morgue, a British spy (implied to be antithetical to the James Bond archetype of a spy) mentions that Dunwich is a "treaty zone" between human and alien forces.

In the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society's audio drama adaptation, Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Dunwich Horror, a map of Dunwich (supposedly taken from the Miskatonic University archives by Henry Armitage's secretary, Edith) is included among the CD's supplemental materials.

The video game Fallout 3 features the Dunwich Building, the headquarters for a pre-war drill company. The drill site under the building has become the site of an occult ritual meant to raise a dead god.

Doom metal band Electric Wizard included a song called "Dunwich" on its album Witchcult Today.

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, a group whose works are heavily inspired by Lovecraft's writings, includes a song referencing the town, "Going Down to Dunwich".

The town and the events of "The Dunwich Horror" feature in an expansion for the Lovecraftian boardgame, Arkham Horror.

Spanish author Alberto López Aroca's short story "Al otro lado de Dunwich" ("The Other Side of Dunwich") in his collection Los Espectros Conjurados is a prequel to "The Dunwich Horror" and August Derleth's "The Lurker at the Threshold".

A Swedish death metal band Revolting has a song called "Hell in Dunwich".

The Secret World (MMORPG) features areas called Dunwich and Lovecraft Street.

See also[edit]

Other fictional settings from the stories of H. P. Lovecraft:

References[edit]

  • Lovecraft, Howard P. (1984) [1929]. "The Dunwich Horror". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). The Dunwich Horror and Others (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-037-8.  Definitive version.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Joshi, The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, note #14, p. 108.
  2. ^ Books and Writers, "H(oward) P(hillip) Lovecraft", accessed July 13, 2006.
  3. ^ Lovecraft, Howard P. (1984) [1928]. "The Dunwich Horror". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). The Dunwich Horror and Others (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-037-8.  Definitive version.
  4. ^ Joshi, Index to the Fiction & Poetry of H. P. Lovecraft, pp. 11, 17
  5. ^ King, S. (September 1991) [First published 1990]. Four Past Midnight (MMP). New York City, NY: Signet/Penguin. p. 657. ISBN 0-451-17038-5. 

External links[edit]