Reasons to like Lovecraft: Hastur, as The King in Yellow

If you’re a fan of H.P.Lovecraft you may recognise and hopefully enjoy seeing this. If you’re unaware of H.P.Lovecraft, then peel the rime off your eyeballs and get into this world of ultimate, sanity-blasting cosmic horror…

Hastur - King in Yellow - image by Jezebel

Hastur as The King in Yellow – image by Jezebel

Hastur (The Unspeakable One, Him Who Is Not to be Named, Assatur, Xastur, or Kaiwan) is a fictional entity (Great Old One) of the Cthulhu Mythos.  The King in Yellow is merely one of many aspects of this potent and truly amorphous denizen.

It is possibly one of the most written about and discussed Great Old Ones within this Mythos, and conversely, one of the least understood. This fuzzy, blurred and vague state of comprehension is exacerbated by a divide between literary fans of Hastur, and the RPG community. The fact Hastur is so hard to accurately quantify is no coincidence.

As you’ll see for yourself.

Ambrose Bierce & Robert W. Chambers

Both these authors were touched by That Which Must Never Be Named and consequently spent an increasing amount of their lives trying to define the very thing that is indefinable, giving birth to a perpetually evolving “Mythos”.  Other writers and artists have been sucked into this fascination, adding to the Mythos and so the infection grows.  This document you’re reading now part of this process.  Be warned.

Hastur as the King in Yellow weilding The Yellow Sign

The King clutching The Yellow Sign

The man who first brought Hastur out of the shadows of the churning chaos and into the printed daylight of humanity’s collective consciousness was Ambrose Bierce, in 1893, with his short story “Haïta the Shepherd” where Hastur appears as the benign God of shepherds.  Bierce had already introduced Carcosa two years earlier, in 1891, with the short story “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” – and like all things to do with Hastur, the definition of this place is hard to pin down.

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Robert W. Chambers pulled Hastur and Carcosa together, amongst other iconic memes, in 1895 with his collection of short stories called, aptly enough, The King in Yellow.  Most notable within this collection are the individual shorts called:

  • The Demoiselle D’Ys (Hastur is suggested as being a sort of supernatural servant)
  • The Repairer of Reputations (Hastur is defined as a place)
  • The Yellow Sign (Hastur is a vague entity without explanation)

In “The Repairer of Reputations” and “The Yellow Sign” Chambers swirls together the ingredients of a deadly cocktail: Carcosa, Hali, The Yellow Sign, and the apocryphal play The King in Yellow (not to be confused with the title of the overall collection of short stories).

Orbis Tertius and legend of Tlön

It has been rumoured that certain academics and intelligentsia within Orbis Tertius have become involved with disseminating materials recovered from Dead Cities.  It is possible they see echoes of Tlön within the chaotic reality warps emanating from books, and other information, brought out of the Dead Cities in the post-apocalyptic world of Yellow Dawn, where the consequences of the Age of Hastur have begun to occur.

Carcosa

Carcosa - black and white pen and ink illustrationCarcosa is a city, supposedly destroyed before the narrator recounts the tale of it within Ambrose’s story, “An Inhabitant of Carcosa”.  It’s a fabulous literary creation of tenebrous mood, confusion, paranoia, despair and insanity.  It’s interesting to note that Carcosa preceded the emergence of Hastur into the fertile imagination of men by two years; Carcosa was the conduit to infection.  Bierce was possibly influenced by a Gustave Naudad’s poem “Carcassonne” which deals with the subject of striving for completion of a quest whilst the cold breath of death enfolds and urges you on.  Chambers was taken by the idea of Carcosa and expanded it into a nocturnal, warped version of Paris, which was where he lived and worked as an artist in the late nineteenth century.  I’ve certainly been drawing heavily upon its murky waters as I explore the influence of Hastur & the King in Yellow within the world of Yellow Dawn, including the recently published short stories: “House of Heavenly Light”, “The Tainted Moor” and “The Corrupt Moon”.  For me, the idea of a fusion of Renaissance Paris with rusting and decaying components, also fits my experience of Venice – with its labyrinthine alleys and canals, its dislocation from normal reality through separation by fluid and the confusion created by the city layout.

Venice at night photo: David J Rodger

The oily waters of Carcosa seep into Venice at night. Photo: DJR

Venice alley at night

Lost in Carcosa. Photo: DJR

Further Reading

The only place I want to recommend you start is the informative  wikia page on the King in Yellow.

More about Hastur:

Exploring influence of Hastur – King in Yellow – on post-apocalyptic world of Yellow Dawn through scifi & dark fantasy short stories

Related Articles – if you like Hastur you might like these:

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You may also enjoy this:

The Black Lake: A novel that explores the influence of the King in Yellow upon a scientific expedition.

the-black-lake-a-ghost-story-within-the-cthulhu-mythos-by-british-sci-fi-dark-fantasy-author-david-j-rodger

Available in paperback or Amazon Kindle

Paperback: LULU & Amazon Kindle US ($), UK (£), DE (Euro), FR (Euro)

THE BLACK LAKE: The Earth has been ravaged by an event known as Yellow Dawn. Ten years later, survivors are putting lives back together and probing the frontiers of a new Wilderness; whilst overhead the orbital colonies slide across the sky, removed and unaffected. Five men leave the fortress island of Malta on an expedition to the sub-Arctic waters above Scotland. They intend to undertake scientific observations of an alien meteorological phenomenon that has followed the apocalyptic event. What they find is a cosmic horror that seethes amongst the shadows of a shattered Earth. It is a story of escape and wonder, of madness and terror. David J Rodger’s trademark unforgiving rendering of harsh reality, and relentless narrative pace, are here in palm-sweating abundance, delivered in a novel that tears open a rent in the boundary of reality, providing a nerve-jarring glimpse of the Outer Chaos and the horrors that lurk just beyond the threshold of our fragile, human existence.

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See more posts like this – click

David J Rodger – DATA

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4 thoughts on “Reasons to like Lovecraft: Hastur, as The King in Yellow

  1. Man I love this, it really helps me get my mind around this particular deity. I’m a fairly new Lovecraft fan and appreciate that you took the time to elaborate on how confusing it is that everyone’s Hastur is a different thing or place.

    • Hey Ian – glad you found it useful. Hastur can really do your head in when you start digging into the wider interpretations – but that’s possibly the point; and, possibly an actual manifestation of this spectacularly creepy Mythos entity entering our reality. What scenario / campaign are you playing at the moment?

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