An altercation between humans and Venusians by Mark W. Foster (www.hplovecraftart.blogspot.com)
Although the man-lizards of Venus in H.P. Lovecraft’s “In the Walls of Eryx” may somewhat appear to be related to reptiles of Earth, Lovecraft clearly understood that they are not true reptiles when he occasionally referred to them as pseudo-reptiles. However, we tend to categorize objects and organisms within the context of our own experiences and knowledge. Thus, the closely related thing these semi-anthropoid like beings represent are reptiles.
There is a fairly detailed description of the man-lizards by the main character, Kenton J. Stanfield of the Venus Crystal Company, in “In the Walls of Eryx”:
“When they [the man-lizards] drew nearer they seemed less truly reptilian – only the flat head and the green, slimy, frog-like skin carrying out the idea. They walked erect on their odd, thick stumps, and their suction-discs made curious noises in the mud. These were average specimens, about seven feet in height, and with four long, ropy pectoral tentacles. The motions of those tentacles – if the theories of Fogg, Ekberg, and Janat are right, which I formerly doubted but am now more ready to believe – indicate that the things were in animated conversation.”
Venusian man-lizard by King Ovrats (www.deivantart.com)
Human have no formal relationship with the man-lizards. Humanity’s attitude toward the man-lizards is that they are just an annoying inconvenience in the way of mining / harvesting the Venusian crystals, which are incredibly high sources of energy. In fact it is estimated that there are enough of the crystals to power the energy demands on both Earth and Venus. Kenton calls the man-lizards foolish since they only use the crystals as religious artifacts, praying to them. It’s frustrating to Kenton and others that they have to avoid the main deposits of the crystal and focus only on crystals washed into the jungle river-beds. While not explicitly explained one gets the impression that the Company has decided not to seek or mine for the large deposits primarily to avoid altercations with the natives. Additionally, given the high costs of mining, it is probably more cost effective to simply find the crystals in the river beds. Still according to Kenton he recommends wiping the man-lizards out and just taking the crystals and Venus for humanity. This scenario in “In the Walls of Eryx” makes one wonder if James Cameron read this story prior to writing the script for his 2009 film “Avatar.”
The man-lizards are known to live in communities of cities similar to ant-hills or beaver-dams that are typically adjacent to sources of water. Thus, living underground and/or near water probably keeps the man-lizards cool in the hot Venus climate. The technology of the man-lizards appears to be limited to swords and poison darts, however, they do use their technology effectively through actions of sabotage associated with damaging human water pipes and other associated infrastructure.
Based on their organized cities, the man-lizards would range fairly high on a cultural scale (see below). However, in spite of their cultural status, their technology and proposed mode of communication through the use of the tentacles, Kenton thought of them as little more than animals that should be wiped out so the crystals could be harvested and mined with no native interference.
A model for assessing cultres by Landres (www.fam99.com)
However, through the course of the tale Kenton’s attitude toward the man-lizards changes. At one point when he is trapped in the invisible maze a group of the man-lizards come out of the jungle and watch Kenton in his situation. Based on Kenton’s observation his doubt over the theory that the man-lizards communicate through the tentacles on their chests is squelched. In fact, based on their apparent communications the man-lizards seem amused over his situation. It is apparent that the large crystal placed in the invisible maze was a trap, designed to lure and trap humans, using their own greed as the instrument of their doom.
In the Walls of Eryx by N.E. Lilly (www.spacewesterns.com)
As Kenton runs out of his supplies of oxygen, food and water more of the man-lizards show up to mock him and laugh at his predicament through a high degree of agitation of their tentacles. In the end Kenton has a dramatic change in his philosophical viewpoint on Venus. Instead of thinking of it as a natural resource to be controlled, dominated and harvested by humanity, he thinks the planet should be left alone.
“They [the crystals] belong to Venus alone. Our planet does not truly need them, and I believe we have violated some obscure and mysterious law – some law buried deep in the arcane of the cosmos – in our attempts to take them.”
In fact, Kenton’s last written statement on the matter before his death is “Let us leave to Venus that which belongs only to Venus.”
Venus by Mark W. Foster (www.hplovecraftart.blogspot.com)
This theme of coming to realize that the natives of a foreign land are not mindless savages but are intelligent and highly adapted to their endemic ecosystem, of colonialism to one of understanding, has frequently been observed in both history and fiction. Many of the accounts of Charles Darwin associated with his voyage on the S.S. Beagle included the realization that endemic people’s customs and societies may seem primitive to use but have been developed with the long-term means of adapting to their environments to be successful from an evolutionary basis (that is, lead healthy lives and see their population thrive and grow). In addition, as previously mentioned, I am surprised how much “In the Walls of Eryx” closely parallels some of the themes and ideas in James Cameron’s movie Avatar (2009). Frequently the inspiration for Avatar is the 1990 movie Dancing with Wolves, which Cameron freely admits. However, many of the themes – the harvesting of a crystal or element that is an extremely high source of energy, a strange alien world including a detailed account of their resident plants and animals and the realization that the mindless savages are actually a race of highly intelligent beings – that are in “In the Walls of Eryx” are also found in Avatar. It makes one wonder if Cameron read “In the Walls of Eryx” himself and if this tale was another source of inspiration for his sci-fi epic.
Members of the Na’vi from James Cameron’s 2009 movie Avatar
One concluding thought, a number of times in “In the Walls of Eryx” there are references to an ancient civilization that may have lived on Venus; a highly-evolved race of beings that either died out or are possibly still living deep inside of Venus, possibly under the Dionaean Plateau where mysterious caverns have been found. Another hypothesis is that the man-lizards may be the decedents of this advanced yet extinct civilization. Whichever of these hypotheses is true, more than likely the invisible maze of Eryx was built with technology far beyond the man-lizards. However, the current inhabitants of Venus certainly knew how to use this ancient, yet advanced technology, to their advantage.
Venusian Lizardman by Qodaet (www.deviantart.com)
Next time we initiate a discussion of “Herbert West – Reanimator” just in time for the month of Halloween. Thank you – Fred.