Friday, January 27, 2017

Peacocks on the Cover of Weird Tales

I closed the last series with a cover showing a peacock. That made me think of a further entry on the peacock covers of Weird Tales. I wish I could say that this is a happier topic than the previous several series, but there's more human sacrifice and bondage here. 

There are four peacock covers in Weird Tales, a fair number for a subject you wouldn't ordinarily associate with weird fiction, although Flannery O'Conner, who wrote what might in a broad sense be called weird fiction or at the very least gothic fiction, was known for raising peacocks. I suppose the association between peacocks and weird fiction has to do with the association between peacocks and the Orient: very often, weird stories are set in that part of the world, or its villains originate there.

Weird Tales, November 1926. Cover story: "The Peacock's Shadow" by E. Hoffman Price. Cover art by E.M. Stevenson.

Weird Tales, August 1932. Cover story: "Bride of the Peacock" by E. Hoffman Price. Cover art by T. Wyatt Nelson.

Weird Tales, November 1937. Cover story "Living Buddhess" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, November 1943. Cover story: "The Valley of the Assassins" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by A.R. Tilburne. The artist Tilburne specialized in depicting animals. It's no surprise that his peacock would be the most prominent on the cover of Weird Tales.

I still have a few categories to go in completing this series on the cover themes and subjects in Weird Tales, but I would like to take a break from it and get back to the biographies of the writers and artists who contributed to "The Unique Magazine." First, though, I will write about the secret origins of zombies in America.

Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I love the "Bride of the Peacock" cover by T. Wyatt Nelson! The composition has an almost hypnotic depth and spiral fluidity which draws the eye to the flaming brazier in the background, further enhanced by a rendering that beautifully achieves high contrast through its use of light & dark along with complimentary colors. Hyper-realistic yet very surreal. Again I say, I love it!
    Your assumption that the use of the peacock may have had something to do with the contemporary fascination with things oriental sounds right to me. Plus, to a European or American eye, the peacock looks like a bird that is too exotic to be real. And the cry of peafowl is very startling to an unprepared person, sounding unlike any other living thing that I know of; it could easily be mistaken for the call of something supernatural, making this bird a perfect fit with the Unique Magazine.

    A few years ago, near where I was living, there was a peacock who took to wandering with a flock of wild turkeys...which I have since learned is not uncommon. It was both beautiful and amusing to watch him get into competitions of tail displays with the toms. I have since learned that the two species can perhaps interbreed, though I've never seen the resultant "turcock" myself. In fact, there is some question as to the validity of this claim, with critics placing the turcock in the same category as the sasquatch...a reputed animal whose existence is as yet unproven.

  2. I like this series, Terence, and it is interesting to see how many different themes were visited on the covers of WT.

    1. Thanks, John,

      Depending on how specific I want to get, this could go on forever.