The Hound is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft in September 1922 and published in the February 1924 issue of the magazine Weird Tales. It contains several references to the body of lore known as the Cthulhu Mythos that Lovecraft shared with other horror writers. Most notably, it marks the first appearance of one of Lovecraft’s most famous literary creations — the forbidden book known as the Necronomicon. H. P. Lovecraft was one of the greatest horror writers of all time. His seminal work appeared in the pages of legendary Weird Tales and has influenced countless writers of the macabre.
Violence: One of the main characters is gruesomely attacked. The body in the grave is described in detail to create suspense. One of the characters shoots someone. The monster of the story is gruesomely described to create fear and a violent demeanor. A village is attacked by the monster.
Sexual Content: The only instance is the description of some statues having “comely figures.”
Drug/Alcohol Use: While not said outright, there is mention of the main characters having used drugs at one time in the past. At the time period of the book, some groups would gather to take hallucinogenic or overdose on certain common medicines to “expand the mind.”
Spiritual Content: One of the main characters is nicknamed St. John, but the reason is not explained. The main characters show great interest and sometimes partake in devilish rituals. While not explained outright as Satanic or toward any particular belief system, the narrator recognizes their interests as evil and macabre. No actual verses or rituals are specifically described. The name Belial is mentioned. Ghostly voices are heard and haunted happenings begin to unfold as the story progresses.
Language/Crude Humor: No language or crude humor is used.
Other Negative Content: The story is based around two grave robbers who take pleasure in collecting items from protected cemeteries and mausoleums. These objects are described and meant to be disturbing. Examples include disembodied heads in jars, stolen gargoyles, the smell of funeral lilies and open graves, a book bound in human skin, etc.
Positive Content: The narrator expresses deep remorse over their deeds and attempts to fix his mistakes. He takes action to protect anyone else from discovering the cursed object. He seeks forgiveness from the heavens for his misconduct.
The Hound begins with the narrator sitting alone in his room with sounds of bats and the distant howling of a large hunting hound. It’s from his point of view that he tells the tale of his grave robbing escapades with his lifelong friend, St. John. After losing interest in other hobbies and experiments of the mind, they both became fascinated with the Decadents, an abstract movement of people who believe in the eventual decline of society, religion, and morals. With a growing emotional need for danger, terror, and thrill, they began researching and traveling to find priceless artifacts and diabolic items to collect.
They read about the centuries-old grave of a tomb raider who died under precarious and suspicious circumstances. The authorities claimed it to be some assailant’s attack, but the locals believed he fell victim to a curse after he found an extremely rare jade amulet. The two friends immediately travel to Holland to steal the object from the deceased. After they find it, haunting and gruesome events begin to unfold as the grave attempts to reclaim its property.
The Hound is one of my favorite scary short stories. H. P. Lovecraft has the amazing ability to describe even the minutest details of the environment in such a way that it immerses the reader. His balance of thrill and building terror is a talent that very few have ever been able to match to this day. Even in his short stories, he is able to spin the most horrific tales and leave you either horrified or wanting more. Maybe even both.
Lovecraft has an ability to take the world we know and love and spin tales that make you question what you know to be true. He shows us a parallel world full of frightful beasts, gargantuan monsters, and the most unlikely of heroes. Sometimes the good guys win in a great fight to the finish, but sometimes the monsters win — despite the hero doing all the right things. And sometimes even the hero finds themselves suddenly agreeing with the monsters and beginning to follow in their footsteps. The Hound is no exception, as the reader delves into a story filled with real places and relatable people being thrown into dangerous adventures. The reader can’t help but to question what they would do in such a situation.
I first discovered the story in a recorded reading found on Youtube while on a road trip. The story only took 30 minutes to listen to, but it has remained one of my favorite stories for its gradual build to a terrifying reveal of the monster’s identity and the despairing note of the ending that is the trademark of Lovecraft’s stories. As an author, he has a way of keeping his readers engaged, ingeniously unfolding mystery, and never has the same outcome for more than one story.
Some may be hesitant to read it because of the main characters’ dabbling in taboo rituals and having a macabre collection of stolen items, but the story is a great example of how a horror story should be set up. We open to a narrator who is confessing his deeds in order to find some sort of peace after a traumatizing experience. The narrator describes their original intentions as mere curiosity or acting in the aid of a friend, much like how the road to destruction is paved with good intentions. After digging too deep into a mystery that wasn’t meant to be revealed, they find themselves at the mercy of powers greater than themselves. It’s only by accepting their misdeeds and repenting of their ways that they can begin to correct what went wrong. What we so often find is that what started as a mere curiosity can get people hurt, make us feel trapped and hopeless, and will eventually either break us or make us into better people.
In a way, I believe this story is reflective of sin and the human spirit. Often times, what starts as a good intention or curiosity will spiral out of our control or take us down a path we never intended to go. We know what we were doing was wrong, but we reasoned that it only affected ourselves or that we had the situation under control. We were in denial of the monster that was growing and thought we could hold back the danger that it brought. In the end, it’s only by confessing and repenting that we can begin to reverse the damage and begin to heal. We serve an ever merciful God who understands our plights and suffering.
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+ A quick read for an on-the-go lifestyle. + An immersive story form the very beginning. + A plot that will make you question what you believe to be true.
- Contains themes that may be disturbing to some. - While used as a device to build terror, there is quite a bit of violence and gore. - Lovecraft does not hold back when creating frightening situations.
The Bottom Line
The Hound is a sci-fi/horror short story depicting the plight of two grave robbers when their fascination with the macabre goes further than they intended.