Lovecraft was an almost recluse that specialized in the macabre with tales of science-fiction, horror, and the gothic. He wrote his first story at the age of fourteen. It has been written that he seemed to have taken greater pleasure in the company of Cats than of humans. He referred to cats as cool, lithe, cynical, and an unconquered lord of the housetops. He believed that cats innately possess what human beings lack.
The Cats of Ulthar tells the story of how a law forbidding the killing of cats came to be in a town called Ulthar. Lovecraft outlined the plot to this story in May 1920, and wrote the short story June 15, 1920. And here—100 years later, I get to present it to you—in a podcast.
The exact way this story took form in his head is unclear, but it does have influences from a writer friend he admired, the Anglo-Irish Lord Dunsany— and of course it was also influenced by cats in ancient Egypt.
One of the main characters in this story, the young boy Menes, shares his name with Menes, the mythical founder of the ancient city of Memphis, Egypt. As in Ulthar, the ancient Egyptians were admirers of cats, and made it a crime to kill or export any cat.
Menes was an orphan to the plague. His only comfort a small black kitten. When the kitten goes missing, and Menes hears of the possibility of its cruel death by a mean, curmudgeon’d old couple that killed cats, he begins a meditation that gives way into prayer. Meditation and prayer so strong it reshapes the clouds in the sky, and changes the cats, the people, and the town of Ulthar forever.
This story is very short, and since it has now fallen into Public Domain, the whole story is read in this episode.
And now, I can hear my tea kettle. Fix yourself a lovely cup of hot tea, pull your cat close, and settle in for a story.
The beautiful cat, TillySue voices the majority of the transitional meows and purrs in this episode.
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I hope you enjoy The Literary Catcast. I would love to hear from you. I never plan to have sponsors—this is a work of love. I have no set schedule to release episodes, because as I mentioned the reading is very time intensive, so please subscribe to stay tuned, and tap the 5-stars if you listen on Apple Podcasts.
Cheers to cats, hot tea, excellent writers, and good story telling. Thanks for listening.