The Mathematics of the Witch House, Part 5 – What exactly is Brown Jenkin?


The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli (1781), which is on the cover of Penguin Classics edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dreams in the Witch House And Other Weird Stories (edited by S.T. Joshi).  The strange creature sitting on the woman’s stomach reminds one of a Brown Jenkins-like creature

In the previous article, I hypothesized that Keziah Mason’s and Walter Gilman’s ability to travel through hyperspace was precipitated by signaling those outside the audient void on where and when they are located.  The entitles outside of our space-time have the technology, ability and energy to create wormholes but need the aid of entities inside of our space-time to guide them through.  I also hypothesized that it was not the witch who served as a guide or teacher to Gilman, but instead it was Brown Jenkin and possibly the Black Man (Nyarlathotep).  We will save a discussion on Nyarlathotep for a later date.  So for now, what exactly is Brown Jenkin?

Brown Jenkin by Mamitu

Before I get into the discussion I have to say that a lot of the ideas presented here originate from the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast with hosts Chris Lackey & Chad Fifer and special guest host Kenneth Hite.  They had some great discussions on The Dreams in the Witch House over three episodes and it is full of interesting information and ideas I found very valuable.  I strongly recommend everyone who is a fan of Lovecraft to check out their Podcast as well as Kenneth Hite’s great book Tour deLovecraft, the Tales, which can be found in an eBook format (Kindle for me).

The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast

We know Brown Jenkin was critical in assisting Walter Gilman to travel through hyperspace but what was he?  A number of ideas have been proposed about what exactly Brown Jenkin is, from a biological standpoint.  First, we know he was the size of and had the body of a large rat, with a human face and four human hands instead of paws.  This strange hybridization reminds me of the hamster-man from the movie Return of the Fly or the man-dog from the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both shown below).


Movie Poster for The Return of the Fly (1959) featuring the hamster-man

The Man-Dog from the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Since Keziah Mason was a witch, Brown Jenkin appeared to be her familiar, in the classic sense of a witch.  However, HPL turned this old bit of witch mythology on its head by making Brown Jenkin the “master” or teacher and Keziah, as well as Walter Gilman.  One idea was that Brown Jenkin was the offspring of Keziah and an extra-dimensional entity (similar to Wilbur Whately in The Dunwich Horror).  While Brown Jenkin did “nuzzle” up to Keziah, there was no indication that they were related.

Another idea was that he was an ancient wizard who served the Black Man and for his services was “awarded” immortality with the ability to travel through time and space.  Unfortuntately to do this, he had to take the form of a large rat, yet he still needed a human head with vocal cords as well as human hands (four mind you) to chant and cast his spells, respectively.

Brown Jenkin by Pawn Attack

Still another idea is that Brown Jenkin is also from outside of our space-time and that his appearance is a “shadow” or three dimensional interpretation of what he looks like in our space-time.  He may look very different in his own dimension.  Personally I don’t think Brown Jenkin is made of “other stuff” like the Mi-Go or the Spawn of Cthulhu or even the Black Man.  I think, based on how he interacted with both the witch and Walter Gilman, Brown Jenkin is an entity of our space-time.

I think he is either a creature from another time, place or planet or that he is a wizard who was awarded with his existing appearance by Nyarlathotep, which allows him to easily travel through space and time.  On a side note, if you want to see some examples of artwork that may have inspired HPL’s creation of Brown Jenkin, please check out David Haden’s page

Next time the conversation will be on the strange appearance of the Elder Ones in The Dreams in the Witch House.  Thank you – Fred

The Dreams in the Witch House, Illustrated by Bryan Baugh


13 thoughts on “The Mathematics of the Witch House, Part 5 – What exactly is Brown Jenkin?

    1. Hey Joe – thank you for the correction. Looking at her Kickstarter site, I used her deviantart website name of Mamitu. I will make sure to cite the correction on the WordPress page. Thanks again! Fred

  1. Hm…very interesting concepts. Did you know that in the twilight abyss, Gilman sees an entity that sounds a lot like Yog-Sothoth? There’s another trapezoidal monster.

    I would think that either of these could be Brown Jenkin/Keziah in a different form while traveling through hyperspace, particularly because both seem to be self-aware.

    I look forward to the next article – particularly because I’m confused about the inclusion of the Elder Things. I’m including them in the film…but I’m quite unsure about their significance.

    Brian O’Connell

    1. Hey Brian – thanks for the comments. You are correct about the trapezoidal creature. There are actually two shape creatures that follow him around and I think they are suppose to be the witch and Brown Jenkin in that other reality or in hyperspace. That is not my original thought – I heard that on the discussions on “The Dreams in the Witch House” on the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast.

      The next article on the Elder Ones in the Witch House should be up in a day or two. Thanks again! Fred

      1. Yes…its a great Podcast show and all of the Lovecraft story reviews are free. Definitely worth listening to.


  2. This line should be considered:

    “Then he saw the fanged, bearded little face in the rat-hole — the accursed little face which he at last realized bore such a shocking, mocking resemblance to old Keziah’s…”

    Whatever the nature of Brown Jenkins, it must account for this facial similarity. That is why I find the first theory you posit (from the Lovecraft podcast, I believe), where Brown Jenkins is the offspring of Keziah. The other theories (broadly outlined as they are) don’t address their shared features.

    The theory you favour – that he was a wizard granted a new form by Nyarlathotep – strikes me as unlikely. Why would the wizard (or Nyarlathotep) choose the form of a humanoid rat? And is the fact that his new form shares facial characteristics with its companion Keziah at all significant or merely incidental? And how do all these traits facilitate Brown Jenkin’s travels through time and space?

    There must be something to the similar faces.

    1. I agree that Brown Jenkin is Keziah’s…erm…CHILD, as in many of H.P.L.’s stories there are offspring between Outer Gods and humans, but the other theory has merits as well. Brown Jenkin could’ve been a higher dimensional being who needed to appear as a third dimensional being to Keziah, just like the Hyperspace creatures. And Nyarlathotep always had a nasty sense of humor…

    2. Good point – it may have something to do with the blood signature Nyarlathotep demands – maybe be obtaining a sample of one’s DNA Nyarlathotep and modify an individual so they can easily travel through the dimensions. Like you said Nyarlathotep can be considered a manifestation of the “trickster” god so Brown Jenkin’s appearance may have amused him.

      Thank you for the comments!

      1. Wow, that is a FANTASTIC idea…you should really write a post about Nyarlathotep in H.P.’s work..because that idea needs a full feature.

        That said, H.P.L. had some idea of a soul in his dreamland cycle, because Kuranes died in real life but remained in dream.

      2. Thank you! Will be doing an article on Nyarlathotep and his representation as the fear of science and technology.

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