The Tale of Satampra Zeiros
"The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" is a short story written in 1929 by Clark Ashton Smith as part of his Hyperborean cycle, and first published in the November 1931 issue of Weird Tales. It is notable as the story in which Smith created the Cthulhu Mythos entity, Tsathoggua.
The story, narrated by the thief Satampra Zeiros, is said to be written with his left hand, for he no longer has his right hand. A native of the city of Uzuldaroum, Zeiros and his companion Tirouv Ompallios together journey in search of treasure in the long-abandoned and overgrown former capital city of Hyperborea, Commoriom. Entering an ancient temple of the god Tsathoggua, they are disappointed to discover that the statue of the deity is carved from stone, and has no inserted jewels. Meanwhile, from within a vast basin beneath the idol, a flowing protoplasmic entity soon emerges, puts forth a head and limbs, and chases the men through the jungles. Eventually, they find they have run in a circle and have returned to the temple. They enter and barricade the doors. However, the entity flows in through some high apertures and threatens the thieves once again. Zeiros hides behind the statue of the god, while Ompallios clambers into the basin. Suddenly, the entity flows in from above Ompallios, and silently devours him. Zeiros attempts escape but the entity throws out a limb which encircles his right wrist, and in escaping the temple, Zeiros loses his right hand.
"Satampra Zeiros" is a story written in the style of Lord Dunsany, who wrote a similar tale of thievery gone wrong called "How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art upon the Gnoles". Robert M. Price points to Dunsany's "Bethmoora", featuring another deserted city, as an additional likely inspiration.
When Smith sent his friend H. P. Lovecraft a copy of the unpublished manuscript, he responded with "well-nigh delirious delight.... You have achieved in its fullest glamour the exact Dunsanian touch which I find it almost impossible to duplicate.... Altogether, I think this comes close to being your high point in prose fiction to date...."
- Robert M. Price, The Tsathoggua Cycle, p. 56.
- H. P. Lovecraft, letter to Clark Ashton Smith, December 3, 1929; cited in Price, p. 56.