Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Mark of the Beast

Legendary author and poet Rudyard Kipling is probably best known for The Jungle Book, Gunga Din, and The Man Who Would be King, but with today's post (and our second story from the June 1953 issue of Chilling Tales #16), we find Kipling tapping into the shadowy nightmare regions of Eastern Hindu horror and delivering one truly weird tale of blundering British Imperialism and its consequences.








NEXT: We'll take a second look at this Kipling horror classic as presented in Christopher Lee's Treasury of Terror paperback--- with art by the great Johnny Craig!

10 comments:

Drew said...

Notice that "Chilling Tales" gives no credit at all to Kipling, even though their version opens with an EXACT copy of his text (ala "Classics Illustrated" mode). For shame...

Other pre-code comics often credited famous authors that they directly ripped off (Poe, for example), perhaps because they thought it added a little class to their magazines.

Karswell said...

>Notice that "Chilling Tales" gives no credit at all to Kipling

Yeah, it's a cheap thing to do, but it wasn't always the case with Chilling Tales... in fact the next story in this issue right after "Mark of the Beast" is Poe's "The Curse of Metzengerstein" and Poe is fully credited in the splash panel under the title (though they do spell his middle name wrong!) Anyone interested in checking it out can see it at Quasar Dragon II where I donated the scans back in Jan '09:

http://qd2.blogspot.com/2009/01/curse-of-metzengerstein.html

8thRay said...

I'm a big fan of Victorian ghost / horror / jungle stories, and I've read this one many times. It was fun to see it illustrated!

Karswell said...

>fun to see it illustrated!

And you'll get to see it again in the next post too 8th Ray, I have the Johnny Craig version lined up for comparison.

Anonymous said...

TOTALLY ENJOYED THIS ONE TOO, I WOULD LOVE TO SEE MORE JUNGLE HORROR TALES! AND I AM TOTALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO THE JOHNNY CRAIG POST!!!!!

Mr. Cavin said...

RE attribution: you think it's possible that they didn't want to put Kipling's name on the title, a la the usual Edgar A. Poe presentation, simply because he is so much better known for stories about animals for children than he is for supernatural horror?

And if that's so, then it should be rectified--this guy should certainly be known for horror. I've never read this story, but I am going to have to track it down.

All sorts of things come into play with regard to the likely origins of werewolf folklore, including the dual nature of man, the nearness and danger of wilderness, the differences between good people and criminals, the possible contagion of bloodlust and war.

Disease is also pretty important, of course--thus the communicability of monstrous-ness in most of these tales. When reading folklore, it is often frustrating to attempt theories that unify stories from one telling to the next. Versions rarely jibe and frequently contradict. It is fun to note the number of tales in which the werewolfism represents disfiguring diseases like leprosy, behavior-altering ones like rabies, antisocial ones like alcoholism, or psychological ones like, well, clinical lycanthropy (all of which, rightly or wrongly, were perceived to be contagious at one time or another).

But here, in this very cool short story, we see the intersection of three of these ideas, sort of a legendary unification field theory for the wolf man. And a silver patient zero to boot. Sweet.

I particularly like it when even the narrator catches the antihero's drunkenness in the second panel of page two.

prof. grewbeard said...

great story, shame about the art. the Craig version should rectify the problem!

Karswell said...

Excellently analyzed, as always, Mr C... I didn't think of a werewolf connection but now that you mention it, for sure. It will be interesting to see if these thoughts remain in line with the Johnny Craig version coming up next. Can anyone reccomend any other Kipling tales of horror?

And yes Prof, the black and white artwork in the next version will blow you away-- afterall, it's Johnny Craig!

Mr. Cavin said...

Professor: I'm not sure I can come down too hard on the art here. It's not the most excellently rendered, I guess, but it's certainly well imagined. That handless footless leper man is going to haunt me for a while.


Today's word verification: ripeat.

Drew said...

Actually, the art for Kipling's tale is much better than the terrible art for the Poe story that followed. (See for yourself at Karswell's link above.)

The most interesting thing about the leper character is how he walks upright with NO FEET!