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A Night In Na-Nupp: Dr. Seuss In Lovecraft’s Dreamlands

January 18, 2016

And then, like a lot of dreams… There’s a monster at the end of it.

— Rust Cohl, True Detective

Howard Phillip Lovecraft (born 1890) and Theodor Seuss Geisel (born 1904) were literary contemporaries, both with a penchant for creating fantastic worlds that teetered on the brink of madness. But until the discovery of Dr. Seuss’ “secret stories,” nothing had been written about the hidden dialogue Lovecraft and Geisel exchanged through their writing. There are pages in Seuss’ children’s books that, lifted and rearranged, form a contribution to the weird fiction canon as unsettling as anything Robert Chambers, August Derleth, or Lovecraft himself envisioned — often with the same problematic attitudes on race and gender.

The excerpt below is from the hidden story “A Night In Na-Nupp,” which was scrambled and embedded in Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Things You Can Think. That is the danger with too much free-range thought. The journey inward just might lead you to the eldritch dangers of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands.

NightInNaNupp1

Na-Nupp, like Carcosa, is a mythical “country” with details that point to an otherworldly or other-dimensional location. It is at night that the humans of Na-Nupp walk freely, when the birds are asleep. We are never privy to the specifics of the threat the birds pose. They are a menace that is noted, but otherwise taken for granted, a masterful technique of world-building often employed by Lovecraft.

NightInNaNupp2

Light in the darkness is a common theme in the Lovecraftian sub-genre, but instead of illumination providing safety, peering under the darkness is the path to madness and death. The symbol of ascending stairs is similarly inverted. Here, the ascent is not a rise out of fear and darkness, but into the lair of the Beast.

NightInNaNupp3

And at last, the monster at the end of the dream, inescapable, inevitable. The monster’s form echoes and enhances the menace of Na-Nupp’s birds, but its dusky coloration and referential appellation calls back to the most controversial aspect of Lovecraft’s work — his xenophobic dread of other races. Indeed, what would you do? Geisel provides no answers.

 

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