Horror on the Orient Express takes place in January and February 1923, and Good Friday was on 30 March in the same year. Thus the train is eternally steaming towards Easter but never actually reaching it, which is a pity because the story is very much about rebirth and reincarnation, shedding, as it were, our human skin.
To celebrate the season I did a real quick web search for Cthulhu and Easter memes. I surfaced pop-eyed and clutching a fistful of Cthulhu bunnies.I’ll be sure to thank all you energetic hobbyists just as soon as my eyeballs stop bleeding.
When horror becomes kitsch we all know the end times are nigh, although I guess what with Cthulhu cakes and Cthulhu furries we collectively splintered through that barrier a long time ago. Stop it people! For God’s sake you know not what you do. Or perhaps you do… If we mock and trivialize horror it loses its insidious power. Only when the lights are on of course; in the dark and alone, are you really sure the glassy eyes of that plush Cthulhu doll aren’t following you round the room?
Easter is, naturally, all about pagan fertility symbols. Shub-Niggurath seems the obvious fertility goddess of the Lovecraftian canon, although she rarely is mentioned beyond the standard invocation: Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young! (Poor Shub-Niggurath, typical superannuated female deity; the male gods take all her real power and she’s left with a placating prayer to keep her happy.) On that note, in Horror on the Orient Express, the Belgrade chapter is even now being re-written so that… I’m not allowed to say… but just look at the start of the paragraph and fill in some holes.
However, a post-Freudian argument can be made for Cthulhu being the true symbol of renewal and fertility, albeit birthing destruction and chaos instead of redemption. There are some interpretations of Great Cthulhu as a giant, walking uterus. This may be a useful metaphor for those who wish to delve into Lovecraft’s psyche and explore the subconscious forces that drove him to write, but I don’t think it helps us understand why we continue to enjoy the stories. Why?
We enjoy them because they scare us and we like to be scared. They scare us because they posit malevolent creatures of deity-level power inhabiting an uncaring universe in whose chinks humankind survives only because we are so insignificant we have not yet been noticed. This is a terrifying and nihilistic vision that no other writer of horror has ever evoked so completely, and it is unique. Cthulhu may be born of the subconscious fears of one man’s id, but that fear was reshaped as a terrifying and primal force that can still reach out and touch us with the very tip of one cold slimy tentacle today, decades after the stories were first written.
How’s that for a Happy Easter?