Nerdful Things – Lovecraft & Stephen King: ‘Sleepwalkers’
I remember watching Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers on VHS. I must’ve been about eight or nine years old and I fell in love. I loved the movie but I also had a huge crush on Mädchen Amick. As a lifelong cat lover, I loved the idea of cats being the heroes to a certain degree. I wasn’t a fan of all of the dead ones in the front yard, mind.
As I’ve posted a few times now, my new addiction to the works of H.P Lovecraft has rekindled a flame from my pre-teen up to my late teens/early twenties. My brother bought every Stephen King book he could. As a result, my love of reading grew from looking at the cool, interesting covers of all the books on his numerous bookshelves. The first of King’s work I remember reading was The Talisman which was co-written with Peter Straub. From there, my love of his writing grew to the point where he was all I would read. And here I am, years later desperately trying to get back into reading after having lost the burning desire I once had, reading nothing but Lovecraft and, for when I can’t read, listening to audiobooks on Audible.
I was listening to an episode of the Lovecraft Literary Podcast (which I’ve only recently subscribed to and have started from the very beginning) in which they were discussing The Cats of Ulthar. The short story centres around the origins of a law in which cats could not be killed in the town of Ulthar. As I was listening, they described scenes that reminded me of Sleepwalkers and I instantly took to Google to see if this is what inspired Stephen King’s unpublished story that had been adapted into a motion picture. Within the first few pages of results I found nothing confirming this but it’s too much to be coincidence. Lovecraft’s story depicts cats being killed and tortured by an unusual old couple and the cats seeking revenge. It paints the picture of cats pacing around the perimeter of the house, waiting for their opportunity to strike. All of which appears in Sleepwalkers where we see cats hanging from trees, their bodies strewn across the front yard and various traps placed to catch them. Even the unusual couple is there, although King did a fantastic job detailing just how unusual they were – Brian Krause is the son/lover of his mother played by Alice Krige who must feed on the life force of virginal females. Of feline descent, and previously worshipped like gods in Egyptian times, they are the last of their kind.
“It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat; and this I can verily believe as I gaze upon him who sitteth purring before the fire. For the cat is cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see. He is the soul of antique Aegyptus, and bearer of tales from forgotten cities in Meroë and Ophir. He is the kin of the jungle’s lords, and heir to the secrets of hoary and sinister Africa. The Sphinx is his cousin, and he speaks her language; but he is more ancient than the Sphinx, and remembers that which she hath forgotten.”
But surely I can’t be the only one to draw the same conclusions that The Cats of Ulthar has been some form of inspiration for this? Even reddit came up empty for me so, unless my keywords in my searches are way off, it appears as though I am. How can this be?
—The Trying Scotsman has a ‘Don’t Be A Dick’ policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—