Short Story #389: The Doom that Came to Sarnath by H. P. Lovecraft

Title: The Doom that Came to Sarnath

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft


Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The story explains that Sarnath sits upon a large lake that has no streams or rivers attached to it.  Near Sarnath, there once stood a city called Ib, which was inhabited by strange alien creatures said to have come from the moon worshiped the great water-lizard god, Bokrug.  In the early days of man, men eventually came to the lake and established Sarnath and after some time, feeling hatred for the strange creatures of Ib, they slaughtered them wholesale, dumped their bodies in the lake, and destroyed the city, only keeping a strange statue of Bokgrug.  The night after the assault the statue disappears that the high priest guarding it is found dead, having scratched out "doom" before dying.  Centuries pass and Sarnath becomes a the center of a great empire and trading routes.  On the 1000th anniversary of the sacking of Ib--something celebrated annually--they have a great festival, inviting nobility from all around.  Much time and money is put into this event and many rare foods are prepared for the king's feast, including large fish from the lake.  As the party approaches midnight, the high priests observe a strange mist rising from lake and things descending from the moon to meet the mist along with a strange light.  They quickly flee and then, chaos breaks out as the princess and royalty at the feast flee the palace in complete and utter madness, which scares the rest of the population into fleeing as well out of the city and into night, never to return.  In the palace, the strange creatures of Ib had returned and reclaimed the city.  Long afterward, when men braved to revisit Sarnath, they found that all signs of the great city were completely destroyed and all that was left was  marshlands.  The one remnant that was discovered was the statue of Bokrug, which eventually became the god of worship throughout the lands.  


It's not a surprising story--as soon as the slaughter happens and we see "doom" scrawled by the priest, we know that is what is to come, so it's more a matter of time.  It's also an interesting tale by Lovecraft as it contains no actual characters and isn't a first-person narrative.  Instead, the beauty of this story lies in the descriptions.  He pays ample attention to talking about how the city grew, its size, its layout, its habits.  Thus, the city contains most of the attention and detail and it seems that Lovecraft just wants to reader to ponder the idea of vastness of the past and the strange ways civilizations have risen and fallen long before we ever existed.  

Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  I read this version  of a the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft from Red Skull Publishing (that's their book cover too).  However, you can find all of H. P. Lovecraft's work for free at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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