Monday, December 5, 2016

Middle American Indians on the Cover of Weird Tales

Orientalists such as E. Hoffman Price and Otis Adelbert Kline were prominent in their contributions to Weird Tales. Less well known are the anthropologists and ethnologists who wrote for the magazine. Two of these writers were in fact father and son, Mark R. Harrington (1882-1971), aka Ramon de las Cuevas, and Johns Harrington (1918-1992). H.P. Lovecraft's friend, collaborator, and literary executor Robert H. Barlow (1918-1951) was also an anthropologist and specialized in the study of early Mexico. Barlow contributed to Weird Tales posthumously, in 1981.

Although depictions of the native people of Middle America were not as common on the cover of Weird Tales as people from the Far East, they were still the subject of three illustrations, all from the early days of the magazine. Still more stories and poems of Aztecs, Mayas, and other peoples were on the inside of the magazine.

Weird Tales, November 1924. Cover story: "Teoquitla the Golden" by Ramon de las Cuevas (Mark R. Harrington). Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch, his first for the magazine.

Weird Tales, August 1930. Cover story: "The Curse of Ximu-Tal" by Harry Noyes Pratt. Cover art by Hugh Rankin, an uncharacteristically muddy picture by the artist.

Weird Tales, March 1932. Cover story: "The Vengeance of Ixmal" by Kirk Mashburn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. This is a seldom-seen cover. The reproduction here is very poor, but it's the best image I could find of this cover.

Revised Dec. 15, 2016.
Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Terence,
    The Maya also fit prominently into the Doc Savage series, beginning with the very first story THE MAN OF BRONZE in 1933. In that tale Doc and his band of adventurers discover a hidden city of ancient Mayans still living high in the mountains of the fictional Central American country of Hidalgo (which is actually the name of a state in Mexico.) The cover of that first pulp depicts Doc in front of a large carven Mayan relic with several indians in the background; a true classic pulp image by Walter Baumhofer.

    Fascination with Central and South American ancient cultures and lost cities can probably be attributed to the highly publicized explorations of Percy Fawcett in the first quarter of the 20th Century. He was the inspiration for such fictional characters as Prof. Challenger (likely) and Fran Striker's Hamilton Quest (definitely.) In 1925 Fawcett disappeared in the Amazon region while searching for his obsession, the Lost City of Z. Check out the aptly titled book THE LOST CITY OF Z by David Grann for the whole story; a true tale of obsession as engaging as any pulp fiction you've ever read...

  2. Mike,

    Thanks for the background information on Central and South American cultures. It's always good to put developments in fantasy and science fiction into a larger cultural and historical context. By the way, Nictzin Dyalhis got his first name from Middle American languages. He seems to have assumed that name in the period circa 1890-1912. I wonder if there was a Middle American craze in American popular culture or even high culture sometime during that period.