Month: February 2017

Shambleau A Journal Analysis


 

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Shambleau is the first story published by C. L. Moore in the November 1933 issue of weird tales. To many fans of the genre,  C.L. Moore is the uncrowned Grand Wizard of science fiction and fantasy.  Had she been in good health and not died in 1987 she would be the first female Grand Wizard. To date, we have 33 Grand Wizards, and only 5 of them are women. It says much about her writing and recognition from colleagues. Shambleau is a brilliant short story because the tale entwined itself with perfection and imperfection.  So subtle is the blending you the reader gain insight into a mythological creature once perceived as a monster but illogically garnering sympathy and erotic fantasies by our confused hero and the reader. The purpose of this writing journal is to analyze the perfection and imperfection of the classic short story Shambleau, ultimately explaining how it maintains its brilliance with the gradation of imperfection.  My conclusion or final analyses will point to if the story still stands up to the fantasy and science fiction narrative developed today.

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From the abstract, the reader is aware that one of the characters or many may be a form of a vampire, however, not in the conventional satanic evil forming of traditional vampires. The perfection is ultimately adhering to the science fiction and combining the earthly demonic vampire and mythological Gorgon. Moore’s introductory paragraph is perfection the following direct long quote illustrates her skill for combining words into a poetic wisdom with symbolic meanings to come forth.

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“ “Shambleau! Ha. Shambleau!” The wild hysteria of the mob rocketed from wall to wall of Lakkdarol’s narrow streets, and the storming of heavy boots over the slag-red pavement made an ominous undertone to that swelling bay, “Shambleau! Shambleau!”Northwest Smith heard it coming and stepped into the nearest doorway, laying a weary hand on his heat gun’s grip, and his colorless eyes narrowed.Strange sounds were common enough in the streets of Earth’s latest colony on Mars—a raw, red little town where anything might happen, and very often did. But Northwest Smith, whose name is known and respected in every dive and wild outpost on a dozen wild planets, was a cautious man, despite his reputation. He set his back against the wall and gripped his pistol, and heard the rising shout come nearer and nearer.” (Wolf. 1999, PG 137)
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Moore’s wants the reader to envision a new world with new creatures along with subtle hints of interbreeding between earth people and alien beings.  We ‘re well into the future of space travel, but the writer takes us back to the nineteenth century American wild west spacemen style.  As I’m reading, I envision the rustic red planet and windy deserts along with bawdy hotels where mixed breed beings aliens entertain the men much like the saloon girls of the old wild west.  I love the protagonist Northwest Smith bravado and his  Lone Ranger attitude in sticking up for the demure and cat-like entity.  It is brilliant how the Shambleau goes from a female in distress to sexual attraction to antagonist.  Moreover, the look of horror when the colonist accepts the spaceman Northwest willingness to help the girl. The colonist look of degradation upon Northwest raises so many questions on what kind of abominable act he may commit with the creature known as Shambleau. Northwest likens the reception to himself committing cannibalism or something unclean in the eyes of God. On page 140 the crowd disperses after Northwest claims the girls belongs to him.  However, he notices something deeper and more rooted than that. Instinctive, utter disgust had been in the faces he saw—they would have looked less so if he had admitted cannibalism or {Pharol-worship}. Like Northwest we the readers become curious to what secrets the exotic alien owns. Perfection achieved by blending the expected and unexpected and not knowing if the expected is the unexpected. For example, the conversation between the two,  Shambleau answers Northwest question by stating, “ my people—are—are—you have no word. Your speech—hard for me.”What’s yours? I might know it—try me.”She lifted her head and met his eyes squarely, and there was in hers subtle amusement—he could have sworn it.”Someday I—speak to you in—my own.”

You’re under the impression they are going to meet again in other stories.  Nothing prepares you for the ending though expected unexpected ultimately bringing out the flaws and brilliance of imperfection.

 

 

Imperfection or deficiencies are ultimately leaving you wanting more and feeling cheated. I believe Shambleau should have escaped after all she is immortal. Hence we come to our first flaw because Medusa is a mortal woman who is cursed by Athena. Medusa dies at the hands of Perseus.  Medusa had two sisters who were immortal Euryale and Stheno. The story would have presented more intrigue if they hid the opening title and used Euryale or Stheno as the Shambleau an immortal to turn men to stone, drain their blood or give them the pain of immortality.  To continue Moore could have worked her magic placing more importance on the strange odour as an aphrodisiac to weaken the mind of men and open them to all pleasures pure and unpure that life has to offer. A strange scent is known to Martians citizens as the odor of death. A powerful female demon who creates havoc every 50 years or so it would present a case for Northwest ignorance of the Shambleau. Another imperfection is the mob’s bravery in numbers. The citizens are becoming the hunters. It seemed weak in that the abstract talks of vampires and Gorgon’s as possessing invisible gifts yet still the men were able to seek out a demon for execution.  Moore leaves out important details such as the word {pharol} you get a sense it is an unclean act opposite to all that is good. I imagine bestiality, incest, cannibalism pedophilia being a {pharol} act.

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Nonetheless, the imperfections emanate perfection. C.L. Moore brings a woman’s touch and expertise in weaving words into poetic ecstasy and a hint of forbidden sex with an alien being something not human-beast-but more worldly and erotically more sexual and violent than humanity. Although the creature is a young girl, you get the sense she is older than time itself. Although the Martian colonist perceives her as an unclean inferior animal, you have a sense her culture and species may be more advanced than known civilizations.  Finally, the character of the Venusian {Yarol} appears to be too redundant in explaining what we know already of the legend of Medusa. He saved his friend by avoiding eye contact with the Gorgon. It seems impossible one man could survive such a peril without previous knowledge of his nemesis behind the unopened door.  I so much would have appreciated the Gorgon upon hearing the footsteps of the Venusian disappear out the window with cat-like stealth. Shambleau senses were keen throughout the story until the end. The ending of the story is premature and inconsistent to the path the tale took. I would have liked the demon escaping and Northwest encountering Shambleau in other stories.

In conclusion, Northwest does appear in other stories of Moore. However, the tale of Shambleau ends. A sequel to Shambleau never materialized. However, the story stands the test of time, and the imperfections blend well with its perfection.  A woman has the courage to take the directive and change sci-fiction and fantasy forever. C.L Moore truly is an iconic figure within women liberation.  Moore is the mother of science fiction and where every author such as Anne Rice recognizes her genius by adding her style in many of her novels.  C.L  Moore reminds me of Virginia Woolf one particular novel Orlando. I ‘m certain Virginia  Woolf may have been one of her icons. Maybe just maybe the author left Shambleau for future generations of writers to develop.

By Courtney Duncan

APA (American Psychological Assoc.)
Wolf, L. (1999). Blood Thirst: 100 Years of Vampire Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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A JOURNAL ANALYSIS BY COURTNEY DUNCAN ON THE SHORT STORY THE SPIDER BY HANNS HEINZ EWERS


 

To understand the short story titled, The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers; we must present an abstract outlining his life. Hanns Heinz Ewers (3 November 1871 in Düsseldorf – 12 June 1943 in Berlin) was a German actor, poet, philosopher, and writer of short stories and novels. He wrote on a wide range of subjects but he his most famous for his works on horror.  Ewers most famous work is the trilogy of novels about the adventures of Frank Braun, a character modeled on him. The best known of these is Alraune published in 1911. The third novel in the sequence, Vampyr, written in 1921, concerns Braun’s eventual transformation into a vampire, drinking the blood of his Jewish girlfriend. During the period he wrote his major horror stories he also gave lectures on the topic of the religion of Satan. Ewers wrote short stories concerning pornography, blood sports torture, and execution-ultimately describing his style as graphic, violent and eye opening.   Hanns Heinz Ewers influence on fantasy and horror is everywhere but his connection to Nazi party although he disagreed with the ill treatment of the Jewish people. The major literature circles around the world have excluded him from major writing groups and awards because of his association with the Nazis.  The only work receiving lasting recognition in colleges and universities is the short story The Spider.  The purpose of my journal analysis is to explore the tale researching witches, spiders, vampires and the symbolic meaning of names in short stories with regards to a basic outline of the tale for those who have not read the narrative.

The story opens like a detective mystery in that a series of murders or suicides occur in the same room any given Friday between 5 and 6 pm.  The hero is Richard Bracquemont, a medical student. He convinces the chief detective he could solve the mystery through knowledge presumably of science and nature. Bracquemont reason to solve the mystery is a ruse he only wants to gain fame, notoriety and free meals by staying in the villa as long as he is permitted by the police department chief. Here is where we encounter our first clue to the mystery. Bracquemont keeps a diary of his account in the room. On March 7th he writes, ‘As for me, I hope to stay here as long as possible. I may not conquer Paris here, but I live very well, and I’m fattening up nicely. I’m also studying hard, and I am making real progress. There is another reason; too, that keeps me here. The mysterious woman he calls Clarimonde gives the story a striking spin. The dark hair pale skinned woman dressed in early black Victorian clothing weaving on a spindle, Bracequemont describes as one his Grandmother used handed down to her by her aunt. We the readers connect the strange black spider found on the previous victims to the pale skinned beauty renting the room across the street. What is the connection? The connection explores my first point in claiming that the woman is a powerful witch. I believe that the spider is a familiar. The term familiar refers to companions of witches, pagans or occultist.  Each pagan worshipper has his animal familiar. I have seen Vincent price movies where he has a pet raven; you saw witches with black cats, other occultist using snakes, hounds, and vampires using people as familiars.  Over the centuries the familiars have taken many forms, and the witch when powerful enough can transform into the spirit animal she has taken as familiar. The witch chooses an animal as a familiar because they are more in touch with nature  A witch is a male or female, and witches can have as many familiar as they choose.  In the tale of the spider, using a creature such as a spider is brilliant,  because the witch Clarimonde emulates the spider in her movement her dress and her out-dated spinning. If you were to research the Black-Widow spider you would learn that she entices her male lover into the web for a sexual tryst-ultimately trapping them in her web to be used as nourishment. Clarimonde is a powerful witch who happens to use the spider as her familiar and weapon. The two work to entice the victim to let down guard under the pretense of love and when he is in too deep it’s too late to escape, and such is the case of all four victims in the tale.

We have a chosen a path to solve the mystery of the story. The third step is to research the name with connections to witches and demonic creatures. The name Clarimonde is a German baby name. In German, the meaning of the name Clarimonde is Brilliant protector. Clairemonde is also the name of a vampire in the story Clarimonde (“ La Morte Amoureuse”) by Theophile Gautier. In the story of the vampire Clairmonde, a priest falls for a beautiful woman just before he is to ordain into the ministry. He goes ahead with vows and little while after a soldier visits him on horseback who order him to follow him to a palace in the forest to meet his lady who is dying. The priest obliges and follows the knight to the palace where he sees the woman he envisioned during his passage to the priesthood. They fall in love, and the head bishop comes to visit and notices the priest his looking pale. To shorten the plot the priest reveals his love affair and to his terror, the bishop takes him to Clairemonde crypt. They open the crypt, and they see the youthful Clairmonde. The bishops yell drinker of blood and gold Drinker of blood and gold!’ And he flung holy water upon the corpse and the coffin, over which he traced the sign of the cross with his sprinkler. The blessed spray had no sooner touched poor Clarimonde than her beautiful body crumbled into dust and became only a shapeless and frightful mass of cinders and half-calcified bones.  In our tale, the creatures always appear at sunset between 5 and 6 pm. The author mentions not being the summer months the story would have garnered more profit for the landlady. In the winter season of Paris an evening sky would have been appearing as opposed to the scorching sun.  The story points to a woman being a witch as opposed to a vampire. However, the tale is one of the non-human vampire genres because of the succubi, witch or vampire uses the same skills to manipulate. The skills being telepathy, hypnosis, a connection to sunset and night, dark clothing, the earth and affirmation to old objects.

    I see Theophile Gautier being an early influence to Hanns Heinz Ewers. Ewers reflects on the occult, Nazism, sado- machismo, blood sport, suicide and violent killings in his novels and short stories. One should not be surprised of the genius of the man to combine all the elements mentioned in one short story. In conclusion, Bracquemont documents the entire story finally realizing the entity is the one who is spinning the web and laughing at him. He is now the hunted, and he’s caught in the trap.  All of the men fell under the spell of the witch.  I would not characterize their act as suicide or madness. The spell is so powerful once it sets in the only escape is making peace with God.  Bracquemont’s death is a revelation for the police department.  They realize that the deaths are related to black magic. Bracquemont fought to the very end he destroyed the spider whose job would be to bring back a drop of blood to his sorcery queen the witch Clairmonde. Clairmonde can crush the spider in his mouth.  The mystery remains is there something about the window itself, thinking back to what the policemen said.  The window is positioning for the witch and her familiar to weave their deadly web.  In wrapping up, I find the ending brilliant because it leaves a trace yet still no trace.