When we talk about Hastur, King in Yellow, the memory runs to the Myths of Cthulhu.
It is news a few days ago that a certain symbol, linked to this Ancient One, did NOT appear on the page of NeedGames nor in a certain video that was leaked on the net.
Maybe the stars aren't in the right position yet. In these clear nights try to raise your eyes to the sky and observe the sidereal emptiness. Look for Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus, but DON'T observe too much. DO NOT name it and DO NOT look for the black hole where it appears to be locked away.
In our pages we have already had the opportunity to talk about Myths of Cthulhu in the most disparate ways. We played several librigames that dealt with the subject, such as Choose Cthulhu, Carcosa e Dagon. We let ourselves be bewitched by music by Erich Zann and how many bands have found inspiration in this universe of fear. We flew ours fears by mail and played its version for Dungeons & Dragons. Finally we studied the images and representations of the Myths and a kind of De Rerum Supernatura where some of the iconic creatures were collected.
Today, however, it is time to invoke Hastur, He who Must Not Be Named.
The literary origins of Hastur
In overseas literature Hastur appears, for the first time, in Haïta the Shepherd of 1893. In this story, Ambrose Bierce describes this entity as a benign deity, protector of shepherds, it was only later that its nature began to change. It was with Robert W. Chambers that the figure of the Ancient One took on more macabre hues; in his The King in Yellow, from 1895, the author hypothesizes a future world, and at times dystopian, in which the yellow sign of Hastur begins to appear in some areas of New York and Paris. Paranoia, fear, irrationality, horror, these are the themes treated by Chambers in his collection and they all have a leitmotif in a sentence:
Have you found the Yellow Sign?
Have you found this Yellow Sign?
In the 30s of the last century, the Providence Solitaire, Howard Philip Lovecraft, also decided to bring up Hastur in one of his works, precisely in The one who whispered in the darkness
[...] I read names and words that I had already heard elsewhere and that I knew refer to the most horrid mysteries: Yuggoth, the Great Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Yog-Sothoth, R'lyeh, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Hastur, Yian, Leng, Lake Hali, Bethmoora , the Yellow Sign, L'mur-Kathulos, Bran and the Magnum Innominandum; I was led into worlds foreign to ours, whose existence the author of the Necronomicon had vaguely guessed; I became aware of the abysses of the original life, of the various currents that derive from it, and, finally, of a monstrous mixture that had been produced between those currents and a further abomination that came from outside [...]The Whisperer in Darkness, 1930
However, it was not just Lovecraft who paid homage to this Ancient One. August Derleth, Lin Carter, James Blish e Joseph Payne Brennan attempted to show the horror behind Hastur, trying to describe him directly, or to expose some of his avatars with which he used to reveal himself to mortals.
Il King in Yellow, Invited, only two of the most famous avatars, but perhaps the scariest description of this entity was left by Lin Carter who in his Carcosa, story about Hali (1989) gives the following description:
[...] The Creature that was thrown into the Black Lake was Hastur himself: Hastur, the Unnameable, He Who Must Not Be Named, the Prince of the Great Ancients, prince and rebel against the Old Gods ... Great was the might of Hastur, any other living thing [...]
Be it the Invited, which is the King in Yellow or its original form, always remember that around him his servants, i Byakhee, they will fly dancing around their master, carrying people and things for him through interstellar horror.
The King in Yellow, Hastur's most famous avatar
When we see the symbol of the King in Yellow, immediately think of the description of James Blish in his story More light
[...] He is motionless above the balcony. It has no face and is twice as tall as a man. Wear pointy shoes and a tattered tunic, in fantastic, indescribable colors. On his head he has a hood, from which a silk band hangs. Sometimes it manifests itself as a winged being, others surrounded by a mystical halo [...]
But what does this avatar mean, and why does this sign lead to madness? The human mind is fragile. We often find ourselves trying to give an interpretation of something that should just be forgotten, but artists can't. Like in a famous 90s horror movie entitled The Seed of Madness (J. Carpenter, 1994), it is precisely the artists who are the means for the creatures of horror to return to our world. The more the faithful who believe, the shorter the road they have to travel to reach us. However, this concept is opposed by that of Enrique Breccia, Hans Rodionoff and Keith Giffen who, in the comic book Lovecraft, allows us to understand how the work of the Providence solitaire, in reality, allowed the door to remain closed.
In the realm of the mind, everything is dual. And the artist more than other people is subject to the charm of the unknown. Cesare Lombroso He is saying:
Nothing is more like a madman, under the access, than a man of genius, who meditates and shapes his concepts
So why be surprised if the King in Yellow prefer the company and faith of artists? Their last act will obviously culminate in a horrible death, that's for sure, but perhaps in a fit of lucidity it could be them, the artists who make the difference. Have you ever seen the episode of Doctor Who where does the Doctor meet Vincent Van Gogh? Here it could be a perfect transposition of the descent into madness by an artist who, in the end, however, manages to fight an invisible monster. A transposition of a mental illness? Possible. A monster of the Myths? Equally likely.
Maybe just the King in Yellow it could show us the truth, or at least a truth of it.
Hastur in popular culture
The figure of this Ancient One has found a strong representation in popular culture. Whether they are novels, comics, television series, games, the speudopodi of this entity have touched the minds of their creators.
Marion Zimmer Bradley in her saga of Darkover it uses the name, which I will avoid repeating because you never know, to identify a deity and also the name of the royal family. In the book Good Omens by Terry Prattchet and Neil Gaiman, one of the Dukes of Hell takes the name of Hastur. You have seen, inter alia, the television series on Prime Video?
The quotes don't end there. In the first season of the television series T there is a reference to the city of Carcosa and continuous references to Hastur and King in Yellow, especially when, in the finale, Rust (one of the two detectives) is told to throw off the mask so as to allow the darkness to flow out and make room for the Light. This is a definite reference to Chambers' work in the collection I cited earlier.
For comics I would like to recommend the first chapter of the work of Alan Moore that composes the Neonomicon and which takes the title of The Courtyard (2008). Here an FBI agent comes into contact with a narcotic substance named Aklo, capable of showing other universes and breaking contact with reality. I will not give you any spoilers about the end of Aldo Sax, but I can assure you that the work he puts in place in the last tables of The Courtyard it's really remarkable.
And now Hastur has inspired a new version of the Gumshoe system, produced by Pelgrane Press, which will be brought to Italy thanks to NeedGames as I mentioned earlier, with not one, but four books. Each book will deal with a different and unique historical period, will make players * cross different consciences while waiting to find the city of Carcosa.
Personally I find Hastur one of the most interesting Great Ancients, certainly more evocative of Cthulhu who does nothing but sleep. An entity in a Black Lake (a black hole? A black star?) That manages to expand its mind and will to touch artists and poets leading them to produce superhuman masterpieces is something constructive and destructive at the same time.
It is fascinating. If it wasn't, there wouldn't be dozens of other quotes in books, comics, games and more. To list them all we need a special article, so I ask you for help.
Did you find other references to Hastur in your life as a fantasy and science fiction fan? Would you like to share them with us?
Il King in Yellow awaits you, but remember to NEVER mention it!