The Shadow Over Innsmouth

2/24/2020
Contains Spoilers for the story The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Go read the story first if you had not yet read it because we are going to discuss the ending of it in this short article.

Did Lovecraft know about The Blue Fugates when he wrote The Shadow over Innsmouth in 1931? The Blue Fugates are people with Blue Skin from Kentucky. I can find many articles but no actually photos of people with blue skin. All the photos I found online were colorized fakes.

In the story The Shadow over Innsmouth, a young man, Robert Olmstead,  goes to a fictional town called Innsmouth . You can find a variety of maps of Innsmouth online. Olmstead first arrives at Arkham on a genealogical tour to celebrate his coming of age. He hears a lot about the town, but is warned to stay away. He decides to go anyway. He looks at some items that are made by the under-sea craftsmen of Innsmouth. When Robert Olmstead examines the jewelry and items made by Innsmouth Craftsmen under the sea. He is drawn to these items in a way he can not explain. This is due to him being in fact one of the Innsmouth People himself. They have a large supply of a metal that is like gold platinum and silver. They support themselves by selling these items. The undersea people may live in a reef that is slightly offshore from the coast. The humans call it Devil Reef. But, the name Devil Reef is breed from misunderstanding the Fish People who are not demonic, and want to live peaceful.

The people of Innsmouth start out looking normal, but slowly transition into fish like creatures. The man becomes frightened when he perceives that the townsfolk are coming to kill him during the night, but it turns out they are only there to welcome him. But, before they can find him, he blends in with the others and escapes. Later he learns he will also turn into fish person when he gets older. He finds his grandmother and joins up with the other fish people, or at least he states that he intends to join them.

The protagonist begins the novel speaking with prejudice against the fish people. He even reports them to the government which causes some of them to be arrested and likely killed or at least interned in camps. But, by the end of the novel his tone has completely changed. He says he will get his cousin out of an insane asylum and they will both go and join their people under the sea, and they will be immortal. The grandmother is the one who has the fish gene. She married the grandfather before she had turned into a fish person. He kept her hidden away and when it was time for her to go into the sea, everyone was told she had died. There is a family tree you can find of the fictional family. The blue people’s parents did not need to look blue. They only had blue children when they were married to each other. Because two of the hybrids were on either side of family, he got the fish gene.

“Some Fugate descendants may still carry the methemoglobinemia (Blue) gene. There may still be blue people in the Troublesome and Ball Creek areas, but if so, they keep to themselves.”

There is also a mention of epidemic of 1846 in which most of the Innsmouth Folk died and now they are only 300 to 400 left. The disease was brought over from China just like coronavirus. The history is told to the hero in an interesting sort of dialogue that sounds  colloquial. The Innsmouth Folk also kept to themselves. The non Innsmouth people did not associate with them. That is what kept the secret for so many years.

The man who tells him the story says:

“But the real thing behind the way folks feel is simply race prejudice—and I don’t say I’m blaming those that hold it. I hate those Innsmouth folks myself, and I wouldn’t care to go to their town.” But rather then elaborate, the speaker changes the subject. “I s’pose you know—though I can see you’re a Westerner by your talk.”

Extra Stuff: The Rough Draft

You should also check on the Unfinished Draft of The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Lovecraft is out of copyright so you can get all of his stories online for free at various fansites. Kindle also has several options things like all Lovecraft Stories for 99 cents, but once you download a Kindle book you are stuck inside the Kindle system which means you won’t be able to take notes or research the text. I prefer using the free online fansites.

I found a few differences in between the Draft and the Finished Story. The number of survivors after the plague in Innsmouth is 500 to 600 instead of 300 to 400. The character Father Iwanicki does not appear in the finished story. I believe Father Iwanicki was a character who was going to give the protagonist (Robert Olmstead) some insight or advice. Father Iwanicki character was dropped with the reworking. What really moved me about the story was Olmstead transforming from hating the people of Innsmouth to becoming one of them and actively finding his salvation amount them. The name Father indicates he was a religious man in nature, but I can not be sure of that. I would have liked to see what Father Iwanicki role was going to be in the earlier version.

Father Iwanicki is a minor character in The Dreams in the Witch House, written by H.P. Lovecraft (1932). Lovecraft decided to recycle the character Father Iwanicki into Dreams in the Witch House. There are always new things to discover when re-reading Lovecraft.

Father Iwanicki is also used by Post Lovecraft writers, but I don’t accept those stories as cannon to Lovecraft. August Derleth changed the narrative to good vs. evil. This reminds me of the Star Wars Franchise. When I was young, I thought the first Star Wars Movie (1977) was great like everyone else, but as I matured found this type of plotline to be tedious. I longed for a more complex and sophisticated worldview that Lovecraft provides.

In a Lovecraft Story the greatest battle is within the hero’s own mind. Given a set of choices the choices made determine the outcome of the story. Most of Lovecraft’s protagonists end up leaving or forsaking the difficult situation, but if not they either die or go mad. The reason for this is said to be because both of Lovecraft’s Parents died in mental hospitals. When an Innsmouth child is young, he looks the same as a normal person, but once he grows older fish-like traits develop. The Hero can either fight the changes if possible or embrace them and try to make the best of them.

 

 

 

 

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