Humor, Horror and the Supernatural – Saki
Scholastic Book Services – 1968
After reading Klein’s The Ceremonies, I pledged to read every work of horror fiction referenced therein. The collection by Saki (H.H. Munro) is actually quite important to the plot, as it lets the protagonist know that somebody has been looking through his stuff, but unlike several of the authors referenced in The Ceremonies, Saki’s writing is not actually discussed. Also, the specific collection of Saki’s stories is referred to only as “the works of Saki”, and as Saki wrote an awful lot of stories I decided to go for a collection titled Humor, Horror and the Supernatural. There are complete short stories collections out there, but I knew that only a handful of Saki’s tales are horror, so I was content to go with this shorter collection.
so I reached for the Saki collection.
Now I know I shelved that damned book under H.H. Munro, where it belongs. I specifically remember doing it, & I’m equally sure it was that way last night, because it gave me A.N.L. Munby on one side with The Alabaster Hand & Oliver Onions on the other side with Widdershins, all three books in fancy old bindings & looking quite handsome together. I remember sitting here admiring them.
But the Saki wasn’t there tonight. I found it under S.from The Ceremonies by T.E.D. Klein
I used to teach English in highschool, so I had read a couple of these stories (many times) already. I knew that Saki used a lot of irony in his stories and that he was fond of a twist ending. I had never actively sought out his stuff before, but I wasn’t upset at the idea of reading more of him.
I did not enjoy this collection. Of the 22 stories in here, there are maybe 4 that feature supernatural elements, and these elements are generally pretty silly, like when a cat learns to speak or when a girl in reincarnated as an otter. The only stories that resemble anything like horror are The Wolves of Cernogratz and Sredni Vashtar, the latter of which contains no supernatural element but is quite nasty and probably my favourite in the collection. I suppose the Open Window relies on terror for the story to work, but that terror is merely a means to an end. It is a clever story though.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of these stories are excellently written. They just aren’t really my thing. My sense of humour is more vulgar than droll, and Saki is wasted on me.
As I was reading the collection, I wrote a brief summary of each story as I read it. I am going to include these notes here for my own reference, just in case I ever want to check back. Don’t read this if you haven’t read the stories already.
|Gabriel-Ernest||mysterious boy turns out to be werewolf.|
|The Bag||shooting a fox mixup – not funny or scary|
|Tobermory||a cat learns to speak|
|Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger||a woman DOESN’T shoot a tiger|
|Sredni Vashtar||little boy has a nasty pet. good.|
|The Easter Egg||a bomb hidden in an easter egg fails to kill king|
|Filboid Studge||story about gross breakfast cereal with good marketing plan|
|Laura||silly story about a girl who is reincarnated as an otter|
|The Open Window||read in work|
|The Schartz-Metterklume Method||a rich woman is mistaken for a nanny but accepts her part|
|A Holiday Task||a woman forgets who she is and makes life uncomfortable for an awkward man|
|The Storyteller||a stranger on a train tells a gang of kids a story about a good girl who is eaten by a wolf. reminds me of another story that I can’t remember.|
|The Lumber Room||a kid punishes his punishing aunt.|
|The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleigh||an annoying woman goes missing. her family pay her kidnappers to keep her, but she was actually never kidnapped.|
|The Wolves of Cernogratz||wolves howl when an old lady dies in a castle|
|The Guests||a woman tells a story of an annoying bishop and a leopard getting stuck in her house due to a flood to convince her friend not to complain about being bored|
|The Penance||a man kills a cat and is subsequently punished by some children|
|The Interlopers||read in work|
|The Mappined Life||girl compares her life to that of an animal in the zoo|
|The Seven Cream Jugs||a relative visits a family who think he is a thief, but he isn’t|
|The Gala Programme||it’s a roman emperor’s birthday. his followers make a party for him with 2 parts, a chariot race and a fight of beasts.|
Suffragettes come and get in the way to ruin chariot race, so they unleash the animals.
One thought on “Humor, Horror and the Supernatural – Saki”
The Wolves of Cernogratz is a really moving tale, I think, and about the only Saki story I periodically go back and read again. Atmospheric.
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