This story truly has it all, action, humor, romance, mystery, horror, and myth. I think the first time I read this story all the moving parts went over my head and on re-examination I decided this is one bad-ass yarn.
The heart of this tale to me is greed. It’s the pursuit of gold and land and the destruction that results in that. Though the main subject driving the action is Kenlaw’s greed, the secondary focus of mythology in this story gives us the framework of this location being an ancient place with inhabitants changing over as new groups looking for either land or gold moved in. The moon-eyed people, being moved out by the Cherokee, then the Conquistadors in their search for gold, which paved the way for European settlement. The history and the books that come up in Kenlaw and Brandon’s conversation is one of the best selections in any Wagner story as far as contextual background, and regional history. Additionally most are now in the public domain. Check these out in particular.
Myths of the Cherokee (1902) by James Mooney text
Just looking through the ToC you can see the huge inspiration this was in addition to the story of the slant-eyed giant. I would be very surprised if Wagner didn’t have this on his shelf. (Any of you experts know?)
Curious Creatures in Zoology (1890) by John Ashton text
Just a beautiful early cryptozoology text with outstanding pictures for the entries. I felt like I was looking through my Monster Manual when I found this one. The Pygmies entry is on pg. 26.
Grandfather’s Tales of North Carolina History (1901) by Richard Benbury Creecy text
This book has a special place in my heart. One of my own personal loves is a connection to place and history. Creecy did an amazing service recording his time and the stories of his area. Of interest to this story is his section on Ethnology. It mentions a sinkhole in the area pg. 129. A possible mine found by the Spaniards, used for mining mica. This mine had 14 inch tunnels thus being a piece of proof for little men.
Romance of Natural History: Or, Wild Scenes and Wild Hunters (1852) by Charles Wilkens Webber text
So, I made a mistake. At the last minute before publishing this episode I realized I made a factual error and had to remove a section from the podcast. In that section I note that Brandon (or maybe Wagner?) misquotes a text from the book Romance of Natural History by Weller. No such book exists. I believed the quote was from a book with the same title from the same time period by a Mr. Gosse. F. N. and I speculate whether this was a Wagner mistake or a Brandon mistake. I was double checking my research and actually found the book Brandon/Wagner meant, it is the above book by a Webber. Still a mistake but now it appears to be more of a miss spelling then a miss attribution. On pg. 207-210 there is the account of finding the tiny coffins which confirms for me this is the book that was meant when Brandon says Weller. That passage is worth reading alone for it’s weird elements.
A couple weeks ago at Necronomicon 2017 I got my dirty mits on the Manly Wade Wellman inspired art book by Michael Bukowski and Seventh Church Ministries. It features an awesome rendition of the mentioned Shonokin. Check out Mike and his work here.
If you want to check out how Wagner described Kenlaw’s look check out Charles Laughton in the Island of Lost Souls. trailer
The Descent, a movie F.N. and I mentioned in the episode owes a lot to the tradition of Machen, Howard, and especially Wagner. It’s probably in my top 25 favorite horror flicks and I suggest checking it out. trailer
If you want to see the map I drew of the cave system Brandon and Kenlaw explored I posted it on Instagram. Map Here
We’ll be back in two weeks with part 2 of .220 Swift
-Jordan Douglas Smith
Disclaimer: This episode is the first time I ever tried moonshine so I apologize for any extreme reactions. I grew to enjoy that jar of liquid…as the night went on.