Short Reviews – The Quest of Iranon, by H.P. Lovecraft

Friday , 14, July 2017 3 Comments

The Quest of Iranon, by H.P. Lovecraft appeared in the March 1939 issue of Weird Tales. It can be found all over the place, but you won’t have to download a pdf if you go here.

Look at this loser


The Quest of Iranon may be the first old pulp story I’ve read and reviewed for Short Reviews that I’d already read before. While I’m a big fan of Lovecraft, I tend to prefer his science-fiction and horror to his more strictly fantasy outings. Dreamworld stuff is all right when it’s well-grounded, but much of his Dreamworld stuff I’ve generally found weaker, and The Quest of Iranon is perhaps one of my least favorites.

Iranon is a traveling bard from the city of blah, in the valley of bloop, who finds himself wandering in the lands of blarg. He longs for his wondrous city of blah and sings songs that are beautiful and haunting. He does so wandering ageless from place to place until either he’s sick of the place or the place is sick of him. Okay, so that is not entirely fair to the story, but this, of all the Lovecraft I’ve read, feels the most derivative of Dunsany.

While there is, I suppose, some lovely symbolism in this piece and pathos-evoking tragedy in the twist that Iranon was just some schlub who made up his magnificent city with which none can compare, it’s hard to escape the feel of it being merely Dunsanian homage, especially when you’ve seen Dunsany do as much or more with fewer words. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is this piece in which an author dies disillusioned of his creation, one so wonderful that the real world paled in the author’s mind, was published posthumously and alongside a story as bad as August Derleth’s The Return of Hastur.

Feel free to tell me how wrong I am about this story in the comments!

  • deuce says:

    I don’t mind it for what it is, but I don’t go around recommending it to people.

    What is cool about it is that it shows us some of HPL’s ancient fantasy Earth. This, like several other tales lumped into the category, is NOT a “Dreamlands” tale. Like “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”, it takes place in the Waking World, coeval — by Lovecraft’s own admission — with CAS’ Hyperborea and preceding Howard’s Thurian Age. There have actually been S&S/fantasy tales set in this period by various authors and it is a — mostly — untapped source of cool fantasy stories.

    So, it’s not a literary masterpiece, but it does have something to recommend it. A springboard for better tales.

    • Alex says:

      I’d forgotten that this one wasn’t dreamworld, partly because so many editors stick it into dreamland anthologies.

      A lot of stuff that gets lumped in dreamworld is so lumped because a character is dreaming of the prehistoric world (Polaris is an example of this, I believe).

      I think that it’s the lack of discernible connection to the real and present world that hampers Iranon most. Even Dunsany’s Pegana implies a real-world middle eastern setting by placing it ‘in a time before allah was allah’; just a real world that happens to exist in a true-but-lost cosmology (that Lovecraft ripped off wholesale in places, though he had the good sense to change the names).

  • Alex says:

    Really, one of the things that has struck me most about this issue is how substandard Virgil Finlay’s art is throughout. I mean, he is undeniably one of the best, and the illos he did for the Thrilling I recently reviewed were superb, but just about everything in this issue of Weird Tales has been kind of bland and muddy.

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