The White Ship (story)
|"The White Ship"|
|Genre(s)||Horror short story|
|Published in||The United Amateur|
|Publication date||November 1919|
Unlike many of Lovecraft's other tales, "The White Ship" does not directly tie into the popularized Cthulhu Mythos. However, the story cannot be entirely excluded from mythos continuity either, since it makes reference to preternatural, godlike beings. The tone and temperament of "The White Ship" speaks largely of the Dream Cycle literary structure that H. P. Lovecraft utilized in other stories such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926) and "The Cats of Ulthar" (1920).
A lighthouse keeper named Basil Elton engages upon a peculiar fantasy in which a bearded man piloting a mystical white ship is found sailing upon a bridge of moonlight. Elton joins the bearded man on this ship, and together they explore a mystical chain of islands unlike anything that can be found on Earth.
They travel past Zur, a green land, where "dwell all the dreams and thoughts of beauty that come to men once and then are forgotten." Then, the majestic city of Thalarian, "City of a Thousand Wonders." They pass Akariel, the huge carven gate of Thalarian, and continue their voyage. At both Elton is informed that those that enter either have never been seen to return. They seem to be following an azure celestial bird. They also pass Xura, the Land of Pleasures Unattained. Seeming appealing from a distance but reeks of plague upon getting nearer. They finally settle in Sona-Nyl, Land of Fancy, where Elton spends a period of time, which he describes as "several eternities" living in what seems to be a perfect society. In his time in Sona-Nyl, Basil learns of Cathuria, the Land of Hope. Though no man truly knows where Cathuria is or what lies there, Elton is thrilled with the idea, fantasizing about it wildly, and urges the bearded man to take him there; a request which the latter reluctantly obliges to. They follow the celestial bird westward. After a perilous journey to where the crew believes Cathuria to be, the ship instead finds itself at the edge of the world, and plummets to its doom.
Elton awakens to find himself on the wet rocks next to his lighthouse, mere moments after he first departed on the white ship - and just in time to witness a catastrophic shipwreck caused by the light having gone out for the first time. The story ends with Elton unsure whether his journey took place in reality, or was a dream.
"The White Ship" has been published in the following collections.
Note: Most of this bibliography comes from The H. P. Lovecraft Archive. This list should not be considered complete.
- The United Amateur (Volume 19) #2 – November 1919 (pp 30–33)
- Weird Tales - May 1927
- The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath – Ballantine Books, New York – 1970 (pp 220–228)
- The Lurking Fear and Other Stories – Ballantine Books, New York – 1971 (pp 41–48)
- Dagon and Other Macabre Tales – Arkham House, Sauk City, WI – 1987 (pp 36–42) (definitive version)
- The Transition of H. P. Lovecraft: The Road To Madness – Ballantine Books, New York – 1996 (pp53–58)
- The Thing On The Doorstep and Other Weird Stories – Penguin Books, New York – 2001 (pp 21–26)
- Waking Up Screaming: Haunting Tales Of Terror – Del Rey, New York – 2003 (pp 224–231)
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Full-text at The H. P. Lovecraft Archive.