The Hyperborean cycle is a series of short stories by Clark Ashton Smith that take place in the fictional prehistoric setting of Hyperborea (present-day Greenland). Various elements in Smith's cycle have been borrowed by H.P. Lovecraft, most notably the "toad-god" Tsathoggua. (CIRCLE: "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros", HPL: "The Mound", "The Whisperer in Darkness")
|“||I must not delay in expressing my well-nigh delirious delight at The Tale of Satampra Zeiros [Smith's short story]... [W]hat an atmosphere! I can see & feel & smell the jungle around immemorial Commoriom, which I am sure must lie buried today in glacial ice near Olathoe, in the Land of Lomar!||„|
|~ HPL , Selected Letters 3.383|
Because Smith in turn borrowed numerous Lovecraftian elements, the cycle itself may be regarded as a branch of the Cthulhu Mythos.
|“||In common with other weird tales writers, I have ... made a few passing references (often under slightly altered names, such as Iog-Sotot for Yog-Sothoth and Kthulhut for Cthulhu) to some of the Lovecraftian deities. My Hyperborean tales, it seems to me, with their primordial, prehuman and sometimes premundane background and figures, are the closest to the Cthulhu Mythos, but most of them are written in a vein of grotesque humor that differentiates them vastly. However, such a tale as The Coming of the White Worm might be regarded as a direct contribution to the Mythos.||„|
|~ Smith , CIRCLE: Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith 244|
The Hyperborean cycle mixes cosmic horror with an Iron Age-style setting. Adding to the peril is the rapidly approaching ice age, which threatens to wipe out all life on the Hyperborean continent. A host of other deities play important roles in the cycle; foremost is the toad-god Tsathoggua, who dwells in Mount Voormithadreth.
- 1 Hyperborea
- 2 Gods
- 3 Cities
- 4 Geographical locations
- 5 Notable denizens
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Hyperborea is a legendary continent in the Arctic. Before it was overwhelmed by the advancing ice sheets of the Pleistocene age, Hyperborea was warm and fertile with lush jungles inhabited by the last remnants of the dinosaurs. A race of yeti-like bipeds known as the Voormi once populated Hyperborea, but were wiped out by the pre-human settlers that migrated here from the south. These pre-humans built the first capital of Hyperborea at Commoriom. Later they moved to Uzuldaroum when prophesies foretold of Commoriom's doom.
- Main article: Tsathoggua
- Main article: Yhoundeh
In Smith's "The Door to Saturn", Yhoundeh the elk-goddess is the name of the deity worshipped in the waning days of Hyperborea. Yhoundeh's priests also banned Tsathoggua's cult, and her inquisitors punished any heretics. As the Hyperborean civilization drew to a close, Yhoundeh's priests fell out of favor and the people returned to the worship of Tsathoggua.
According to the Parchments of Pnom, Yhoundeh is the wife of Nyarlathotep, avatar of the Outer Gods. (CIRCLE: Clark Ashton Smith letter to Robert H. Barlow, dated September 19, 1934; Will Murray, "The Book of Hyperborea Introduction")
Commoriom was the first seat of power in Hyperborea, established by the pre-human migrants from the south. In its heyday, Commoriom was a grand city, built of marble and granite and marked by a skyline of altitudinous spires.
Legend has it that the populace fled Commoriom when the White Sybil of Polarion foretold of its destruction. However, Athammaus, headsman of Commoriom, disputes this claim and attributes the abandonment to the increasingly loathsome depredations of the horrid outlaw Knygathin Zhaum.
According to Smith's "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros", Uzuldaroum became the capital of Hyperborea after the populace left Commoriom. The city lies a day's journey from the former capital. It was the last population center in Hyperborea before glaciers overwhelmed the continent.
In H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, the city of the Elder Things is called "a Palaeogaean megalopolis compared with which the fabled...Commoriom and Uzuldaroum...are recent things of today--not even of yesterday". (HPL: At the Mountains of Madness)
The Eiglophian mountains, mentioned in Smith's "The Seven Geases", are a terrifying range of ebon peaks, said to be "glassy-walled", and are believed to be honeycombed with hidden tunnels. The Eiglophian mountains cross the middle of the Hyperborean continent, with one range stretching to the south and another to the east.
Mhu Thulan was a landmass attached to the main continent by a peninsula. It lay roughly in the region occupied by Greenland today (CIRCLE: "Ubbo-Sathla").
Mount Voormithadreth is a four-coned extinct volcano and is the tallest peak in the Eiglophian mountains. It is the dwelling place of various horrors, including the toad-god Tsathoggua and the spider-god Atlach-Nacha (his colossal web is here, too).
It has been suggested that the name "Voormithadreth" is a pun, a lisped homonym for "voormis' address".
The gray-litten cavern of Y'quaa is the dwelling place of Abhoth, the Source of Uncleanliness. It is indirectly connected with the Cavern of Archetypes. Atlach-Nacha originated here. Y'quaa might be the true home of the enigmatic Ubbo-Sathla.
Cavern of Archetypes
The cavern of the Archetypes is a vast cavern inhabited by the spectral archetypes of all life on this earth. Nug and Yeb reside here.
The Voormi are the bestial humanoids that once occupied Hyperborea. After most were wiped out by pre-human settlers, the most savage Voormi became restricted to caves in the upper slopes of the Eiglophian mountains. Before Hyperborea's fall, the remaining Voormi were hunted for sport.
Athammaus, who appears in Smith's "The Testament of Athammaus", was the headsman, or executioner, of Commoriom before its fall. He was also one of the last to leave the city when the population fled to Uzuldaroum. Afterwards, he recorded a chilling testament of Commoriom's final days.
Athammaus was descended from a long line of headsman. A consummate professional, Athammaus always took great pride in his skill and never shirked his official duty. His career came to an abrupt end when he faced the task of executing the outlaw Knygathin Zhaum.
Eibon, a character in Smith's "The Door to Saturn", was a sorcerer and priest of Zhothaqquah (Tsathoggua). He is renowned as the writer of the Book of Eibon, a tome that, among other things, chronicles Eibon's life, and includes his magical formulae and rites of Zhothaqquah (It is introduced in Smith's tale "Ubbo-Sathla"). Eibon lived in a five-story, five-sided tower made of black gneiss that stood beside the sea on Mhu Thulan. Eibon disappeared shortly after Yhoundeh's premier inquisitor, Morghi, came to his black tower with a writ for his arrest.
When the Inquisition came knocking, Eibon fled to Cykranosh (the planet Saturn) through a magic panel given to him by Zhothaqquah. Eibon was never again seen on Earth after that. (When Morghi vanished close on the heels of Eibon, many believed that he was in league with the sorcerer all along and so is largely responsible for the decline in the worship of Yhoundeh.)
Satampra Zeiros, who appears in Smith's "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" and its prequel, "The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles", was the master thief of Uzuldaroum. His exploits are legendary. He lost his right hand during a failed venture to loot the deserted city of Commoriom (though his companion Tirouv Ompallios suffered a worse fate).
The White Sybil of Polarion
A strange woman, reportedly coming from the realms of Ice creeping upon Hyperborea. She is presented in both "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" and "The White Sybil." In the former she is portrayed prophesizing the doom of Commoriom; in the latter, a character besotted with her pursues her into the ice realm, where he is in the end so blinded by her vision that when found by a common girl he takes his rescuer for the Sybil, weds her, and lives out his days in a joyous illusion, bearing the mark of the Sybil's kiss on his face.
The following short stories are considered part of Smith's Hyperborean cycle:
- "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" (1931)
- "The Testament of Athammaus" (1932)
- "The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan" (1932)
- "The Door to Saturn" (1932)
- "The House of Haon-Dor" (1933) [story fragment]
- "The Ice-Demon" (1933)
- "Ubbo-Sathla" (1933)
- "The Seven Geases" (1934)
- "The White Sybil" (1935)
- "The Coming of the White Worm" (1941)
- "The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles" (1958)
- Will Murray (ed.) ed. (1996) In Will Murray (ed.) ed., The Book of Hyperborea West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press.
- [[Schultz, David E.]] (Eastertide 1996) (Eastertide 1996). "Notes Toward a History of the Cthulhu Mythos" unspecified pub.. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press.
- Cornford, Laurence J. A Hyperborean Glossary. The Eldritch Dark. Retrieved on July 16, 2005.
- Jarocha-Ernst, Chris. Clark Ashton Smith connections to the Cthulhu Mythos. A Tribute to Clark Ashton Smith. Retrieved on July 16, 2005.
- Murray, Will. The Book of Hyperborea Introduction. The Eldritch Dark. Retrieved on February 12, 2006. (Online version of the "Introduction" to The Book of Hyperborea ISBN 0-940884-87-9.)