Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The Grove of Ashtaroth" by John Buchan

Every once in a while, a story comes along that encompasses the supernatural, but in a much kinder and gentler way. This is one of those stories. I honestly don't really know what place it has in a collection of so called 'classic horror stories', but I'm not Michael Kelahan, and don't have the expertise (yet) to put myself in his shoes and make such assessments as to which stories belong and which don't. So after that little preamble, it's off to the races with Buchan's tale of mythology and nature.

Quite a nice little story; a man decides to leave the filth and politics of London behind him, and settle down in the country, surrounded by colors and nature. And on that note, I feel bad for London, always kinda bathed in a grey light. I'm sure it's not as bad a place as so many stories make it out to be. In any case, he builds a beautiful home surrounded by rolling greenlands and lush forests filled with wildlife and all the little glories that only nature can provide. Including a little grove, with a small tower in it, a shrine to some long ago forgotten nature goddess. It seems, however, that the goddess may still reside here, breathing her fresh breath into the lands and seeking peace and happiness in one of her last sanctuaries from her reign as a goddess of man.

Again, my love of mythology got a handful with this story; I love the introduction of a peaceful and non-evil or demonic presence in a story. What is the real harm that this presence has created, aside from driving a lone man crazy? I mean, it's his fault, for deciding to plop himself down right in her rightful place. Not that she was hostile and territorial or anything, it's just interesting is all. This is kind of an older version of the Lorax and other environmentally friendly books. Even throughout the climax/conclusion, the narrator was all too aware of the ultimate goodness and peace of this sanctuary and the goddess that inhabited it. And was overcome with guilt and sadness over what he was doing in order to 'cure' his friend. Why not just bring him away from the place, and back to London or somewhere else? It's always the violent destructive solution that the human mind jumps to first..

I think this was an excellent story in how unique and original it really was. Not a true horror story, but I was still really happy that I got to read it and reflect on all the monstrosities mankind has done to nature. After all, the world was here before us, and will be here after us.. Who are we to go about destroying things and claiming that the world is here for our kind, and for our use?

- Justin

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