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Quotes Regarding the Necronomicon from Lovecraft’s Stories

Even before Lovecraft introduced the Necronomicon to his readers, he mentioned its author, Abdul Alhazred, and the “unexplainable couplet”:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.

The first reference to the Necronomicon occurred when Lovecraft’s “The Hound” (September 1922) was printed in the February 1924 issue of Weird Tales:

Immediately upon beholding this amulet we knew that we must possess it; that this treasure alone was our logical pelf from the centuried grave. Even had its outlines been unfamiliar we would have desired it, but as we looked more closely we saw that it was not wholly unfamiliar. Alien it indeed was to all art and literature which sane and balanced readers know, but we recognised it as the thing hinted of in the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; the ghastly soul-symbol of the corpse-eating cult of inaccesible Leng, in Central Asia. All too well did we trace the sinister lineaments described by the old Arab daemonologist; lineaments, he wrote, drawn from some obscure supernatural manifestation of the souls of those who vexed and gnawed at the dead. (“The Hound”)
The jade amulet now reposed in a niche in our museum, and sometimes we burned strangely scented candles before it. We read much in Alhazred’s Necronomicon about its properties, and about the relation of ghouls’ souls to the objects it symolised; and were disturbed by what we read. (“The Hound”)

Imagine the intrigue that these fragmentary comments stirred in the hearts of Weird Tales readers. In “The Festival” (1923), Lovecraft mentions the Necronomicon along with several “legitimate” occult books:

Pointing to a chair, table, and pile of books, the old man now left the room; and when I sat down to read I saw that the books were hoary and mouldy, and that they included old Morryster’s wild Marvells of Science, the terrible Saducismus Triumphatus of Joseph Glanvill, published in 1681, the shocking Daemonolatreia of Remigius, printed in 1595 at Lyons, and worst of all, the unmentionable Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, in Olaus Wormius’ forbidden Latin translation; a book which I had never seen, but of which I had heard monstrous things whispered. (“The Festival”)

The Necronomicon figures in the rites practiced beneath Kingsport, and another lengthy quote is included at the end of the story:

The nethermost caverns...are not for the fathoming of eyes that see; for their marvels are strange and terrific. Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth’s pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl. (“The Festival”)

Lovecraft made a couple of passing references to the Necronomicon in “The Descendant” (1926). This fragment (the title is not Lovecraft’s) did not see publication until 1938 when it appeared in issue 2 of Leaves. Lovecraft only mentions the Necronomicon briefly in “The Call of Cthulhu” (Summer 1926) and, in spite of the heavy occult tone of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (January–1 March 1927), Lovecraft didn’t rely on the Necronomicon, instead referring more to traditional occult works.

Then, Lovecraft used his creation in two unusual ways. First, he included it in “The Last Test” (1927), a story he was revising for Adolphe de Castro, one of his most frequent revision clients. Second, he invented an Arabic title for the book, which only made sense because its author was Arabic:

“Be careful, you ——! There are powers against your powers—I didn’t go to China for nothing, and there are things in Alhazred’s Azif which weren’t known in Atlantis!” (“The Last Test”)

Lovecraft never used this Arabic title for the book again, except in letters and in his fictional “History of the Necronomicon” (1927). In this brief work, not printed until after Lovecraft’s death, Lovecraft gives an account of the origin of the Necronomicon, as well as its translations from the original Arabic, into Greek, Latin, and eventually, English. Besides the “History,” the greatest amount of information about the Necronomicon appeared in “The Dunwich Horror” (Summer 1928). The following passage is especially powerful:

Nor is it to be thought...that man is either the oldest or the last of earth’s masters, or that the common bulk of life and substances walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men somtimes know them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man’s truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones where Their seal is engraven, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again. (“The Dunwich Horror”)

In another revision story, “Medusa’s Coil” (May 1930), Lovecraft made only one passing reference to the Necronomicon. But, in his next tale, “The Whisperer in Darkness” (24 February–26 September 1930), the Necronomicon is mentioned no less than five times. However, all of these references were also merely in passing. Just when it seemed as if Lovecraft had decided to use the Necronomicon as little more than window-dressing, he makes nearly a dozen references to it in At the Mountains of Madness (February–22 March 1931), one of his first tales that leans more heavily towards science-fiction than horror.

Something about the scene reminded me of the strange and disturbing Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich, and of the still stranger and more disturbing descriptions of the evilly fabled plateau of Leng which occur in the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. I was rather sorry, later on, that I had ever looked into that monstrous book at the college library. (At the Mountains of Madness)
Dyer and Pabodie have read Necronomicon and seen Clark Ashton Smith’s nightmare paintings based on text, and will understand when I speak of Elder Things supposed to have created all earth-life as jest or mistake. (At the Mountains of Madness)
These viscous masses were without doubt what Abdul Alhazred whispered about as the “shoggoths” in his frightful Necronomicon, though even that mad Arab had not hinted that any existed except in the dreams of those who had chewed a certain alkaloidal herb. (At the Mountains of Madness)

Although Lovecraft’s references to the Necronomicon in this story are not especially long or overt, his tying together of occult lore and scientific evidence is very effective. Lovecraft uses a similar technique in “The Dreams in the Witch House” (January–28 February 1932), in which he combines elements of the occult with that of Einsteinian physics.

Non-Euclidean calculus and quantum physics are enough to stretch any brain; and when one mixes them with folklore, and tries to trace a strange background of multi-dimensional reality behind the ghoulish hints of the Gothic tales and the wild whispers of the chimney-corner, one can hardly expect to be wholly free from mental tension. Gilman came from Haverhill, but it was only after he entered college in Arkham that he began to connect his mathematics with the fantastic legends of elder magic. Something in the air of the hoary town worked obscurely on his imagination. The professors at Miskatonic had urged him to slacken up, and had voluntarily cut down his course at several points. Moreover, they had stopped him from consulting the dubious old books on forbidden secrets that were kept under lock and key in a vault at the university library. But all these precautions came late in the day, so that Gilman had some terrible hints from the dreaded Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred, the fragmentary Book of Eibon, and the suppressed Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt to correlate with his abstract formulae on the properties of space and the linkage of dimensions known and unknown. (“The Dreams in the Witch House”)

Now that Lovecraft had established the Necronomicon in the minds of his readers, there was no need to rely on lengthy descriptions or quotes from it. After this point, Lovecraft refers to the book only briefly in seven stories: “The Horror in the Museum” (October 1932), “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (October 1932–April 1933), “Out of the Aeons” (1933), “The Thing on the Doorstep” (21–24 August 1933), “The Shadow out of Time” (November 1934–March 1935), “The Diary of Alonzo Typer” (October 1935), and “The Haunter of the Dark” (November 1935). His previous references to the Necronomicon had been sufficient to arouse the interest of his readers, and the image of this archetypal book of evil had been firmly planted in their minds.

  Return to The Truth About the Necronomicon This page last revised 10 March 2001.
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