The King in Yellow, Part 1

Now here is something which ties in nicely with the previous article on paranoia. Truth be told this fits in nicely with perspective and mental health, if one wishes to see it that way; I certainly do.

The King in Yellow:

Who and what is this King in Yellow—this stranger in the tattered robes? Is he death personified or is he the essence of insanity? What is he that he himself, and even his sign, should be feared?

After all—and truth be told—the King in Yellow is only from a book.

Enter into this world that Robert W. Chambers has created, a world where a cursed book holds the secrets of life, truths to terrible to behold. This is a book which has been banned. All who read it experience insanity. Some more to than others. Those who cross paths with the King in Yellow are touched in so many ways, ways good and bad. In this book are their stories.

The Repairer of Reputations:

I pray God will curse the writer, as the writer has cursed the world with this beautiful, stupendous creation, terrible in its simplicity, irresistible in its truth—a world which now trembles before the King in Yellow. When the French Government seized the translated copies which had just arrived in Paris, London, of course, became eager to read it. It is well known how the book spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured even by the most advanced literary anarchists. No definite principals had been violated in those wicked pages, no doctrine promulgated, no convictions outraged. It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in The King in Yellow, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on words in which the essence of purest poison lurked. The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.

-The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers

Hastur, sane or insane, knew what he saw then . . .

. . . Which leaves us to wonder if we’re not all living a fantasy, one which ill-fated Hastur has become disenchanted with. It begs the question: are we the fiddlers on the roof, or is he the feral cat out of the bag?

I never realized it at first, taking things as they naturally were—oblivious to the history mentioned—until a trip to (and forgive me if I say this) Wikipedia cast a shadow of a doubt upon all that. Nothing is ever as it seems, isn’t it? I was conned by the thoughts of a crazy man, bedevilled by the King in Yellow. What he saw as fact was in fact fiction, but I was tricked into taking it as truth by R. W. Chambers no less. The Wikipedia entry listed the story as a work of experimental fiction, one which actively broke the rules of short story telling. I never knew there were any rules regarding short story telling. Silly me. But before I segway I’ll say this: that Chambers purposely wrote The Repairer of Reputations to cast doubt upon the main character, the one person in the story we need to trust as being a sound character.

Hastur was not sound. I posed the question before: who and what is this King in Yellow? Will the book give me a complete answer, or will I have to decide that myself as the reader may not be all that sound? Perhaps that is the whole point of this stranger in the tattered robes. (Death personified or the essence of insanity? Or are the two intertwined?)

In The Repairer of Reputations we are introduced with the banned book, and at the end we wonder why it is so dangerous.

It certainly drew me in . . .

. . . It certainly drew Hastur in . . . To the point of insanity, maybe. It changed the way he saw things, painted everything in a rosy tint, for better or for worse. Somehow he became convinced that he could be king over America, that he could start a revolution and change the course of history. To achieve that end he would do anything, even if it meant killing family members he saw as threats to his reign.

The story waxed and waned. His triumph came to a climax before it came to a bitter end; it died with a long, drawn out whimper. The cat was put down. Like the cat, Hastur was taken out of the bag—the realization that he was truly insane sunk in—and like the cat he was put down. After his fall he mysteriously died.

The end.

More questions were asked, while none were truly answered. I was left only with pure conjecture, and chapter two.

What of chapter two? In what way would the King in Yellow manifest himself?

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