Lovecraft, Lovecraft-H.P.

The Terrible Old Man

The Terrible Old ManThe Terrible Old Man

There was once an old man who lived by himself. He was considered to be a strange man, that no one really thought of more than once. He had little vials, in which were suspended little bits of lead on strings. He would talk to the vials, calling them by names such as Long Tom, Spanish Joe, and Peters, and it seemed that the bits of lead would move accordingly. Despite this, no one in town considered him interesting enough to pay a second glance to.

Three men, who were from out-of-town, were planning a visit to the terrible old man. Their names were Ricci, Czanek and Silva. They wanted to make the old man talk. He knew were some treasure was, apparently. He had once been a pirate, or so it was said. Czanek was to stay behind with the car and Ricci and Silva were to go see the old sea-captain and make him talk, with their special ways of making people talk about things that they did not want to talk about.

It had been some time since his confederate no-good-doers had left him in the car and Czanek became curious. Perhaps the old man had died before giving up the location of his treasure and a thorough search was warranted. Czanek made his way to the house, peering inside, seeing nothing but the old man, and his strange yellow eyes.

The town was a quiet little place, which is why, when three horribly mangled bodies washed up on the shore that people couldn’t quit talking about it. The bodies were cut all over, as if by many cutlasses. They were stepped on, as if by many boots. No one thought of the terrible old man in relation to any of it, nor did the terrible old man say anything about it. He was after all, older, and held much more reserve about these things than younger people.

Observations

This story is a bit creepy and I kind of like it.

I don’t know how this old man managed to turn his fellow pirates into bits of lead, but that seems to be what happened.

Themes

Sailors, seafarers, and pirates have all known to be a superstitious group of people. This man had been a pirate captain in his younger days and he was still a pirate captain even now, as feeble as he may now be. Somehow, he has managed to take his crew with him in order to live a quiet life alone, well, not entirely alone, he has the companionship of his lead crew.

There’s this idea that if you pledge yourself to some leader, that the leader has ultimate control over you. He can make you do what he wants. In piracy, this was certainly a big deal. You better listen to the captain, or else. Actually, in seafaring ships in general, listening to the captain was a big deal. His word was law and that was just that. This ship captain in this story had such a control over his crew that he could turn them into bits of lead, or capture their souls, or whatever it is that happened, and still have them do his bidding, even after whatever transformation they went through.

Piracy has never been a good thing, no matter how much you may swoon over Jonny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Being a pirate is considered being lawless. You’re not a good part of society. Signing on to go on a pirate ship is essentially like signing on to sin. You might as well go ahead and sign yourself up with the devil. I’m sure God forgives pirates in they’re penitent, but suppose you were not a penitent pirate. Suppose, you went right on from being an awful, sinful pirate, to being an awful, sinful minion of the devil. The devil then has control over you, not unlike the manner that the pirate ship captain had control over you.

Really, you could think of these balls of lead in this manner, these men, had been bad in life, and from the moment they signed up as pirates they were doomed to follow the bidding of the captain forever more.

Overall

Don’t mess with creepy old pirate ship captains?

P.S. Let us not forget that some demons are said to have yellow eyes.

Weigh In

Would you mess with this terrible old man?

Do you think in some sense signing into something like being a pirate marked you as such for the rest of your existence?

 

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