Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"The Mark of the Beast"

"The Mark of the Beast"
by Rudyard Kipling
in Late Victorian Gothic Tales

 Eh, it was ok.

...And that's about all. 

Kipling pulls the ol' "what happened next is too terrible for me to write about here" stunt on us a couple of times-- "Several other things happened also, but they cannot be put down here."--and I have to admit that it works.  Those are probably the creepiest parts of the story.  Other than that, the germ of the tale is so familiar to the seasoned modern reader that it's lost most of its bite and shock value. 

It's interesting to read some snippets of commentary from contemporary reviewers:

"...As a tale of sheer terror (this story ) could not easily be surpassed."

"... this story may be curious, but it is also loathsome, and shows Mr. Kipling at his very worst."

"For pure horror, this tale is, perhaps, unmatched in English litrature...

I guess I sometimes forget how much things have changed in the past 100 to 150 years.  I wonder what, precisely, was so "loathsome" to these reviewers... The gory details-- gory by their own standards, if not ours?  The implication of torture?  Or had it more to do with the idea that a pagan god (or his follower) had the power to bring about a supernatural event?  Personally, I found the pagan religion aspect much more distasteful than the rest of it.  Well, that and the derogatory comment about marriage.  Not a big fan of that, to tell the truth.