(Greek: Νεκρονόμικον) is a fictional book of magic invented by H. P. Lovecraft
, which frequently features in his Cthulhu Mythos
tales. Lovecraft cites the meaning of the title as being derived from Greek language
nekros (corpse), nomos (law), eikon (image): "An image of the law of the dead". A more prosaic (but probably more correct) translation, is via conjugation of nemo (to consider): "Concerning the dead". Another etymology that has been suggested here is "Knowledge of the Dead", from Greek 'Nekrós', corpse, dead, and 'Gnomein', to know (on the apparent assumption that the G could be lost); the person so suggesting thinks this "seems to fit better with the subject treated in the book".
Another possible meaning is "The Book of the Law of the Dead Gods".
Greek editions of Lovecraft's works have commented that in Greek the word can have several different meanings when broken at its roots. More specifically:
- Necro-Nomicon - The Book of the Law of the Dead, derived from Nomicon (Book of Law).
- Necro-Nomo-icon - The Book of Dead Laws.
- Necr- Onom-icon - The Book of Dead Names , derived from onoma (name).
- Necro-Nomo-Icon - Image of the Law of the Dead.
- Necrό-Nomo-Icon - Law of Dead Images
According to Lovecraft's account the original, called Al Azif
, (the sound of cicadas and other nocturnal insects, said in folklore to be the conversation of demons), was written by the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred
, and contains an account of the Old Ones, their history, and descriptions of how they may be summoned. A number of translations were made over the centuries; Olaus Wormius
, wrongly located by Lovecraft in the thirteenth century
, translated it into Latin
, and the Elizabethan magician, John Dee
was supposed (by Lovecraft) to have possessed a copy. The book is now mentioned in various places in fiction but always as being very rare; there are copies in the British Museum
, the Sorbonne
, and the library of Miskatonic University
. The book, like other fictional works such as The King in Yellow
is dangerous to read, being almost inevitably destructive of one's health and sanity, and is kept under lock and key in these libraries.
Many later fantasy and horror writers have mentioned the Necronomicon in their own stories: two examples are a passage in Gene Wolfe's novel Peace, in which a book of necromancy being forged by a character is not named, but is obviously the Necronomicon, and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's humorous version, the Necrotelicomnicon (the book of phone numbers of the dead). The Necronomicon is also mentioned in the web comic Megatokyo, in which one character mistakenly believes that another is summoning and controlling a horde of zombies with it.
Even though Lovecraft himself insisted the book was pure invention (and other writers invented passages from the book in their own works), there are accounts of some people actually believing the Necronomicon to be a real book. This issue was confused in the late 1970s by the publication of a book purporting to be a translation of the "real" Necronomicon. This book, by the pseudonymic "Simon", published by Schlangekraft and then in Avon paperback, attempted to connect the fictional Lovecraft mythology to Sumerian Mythology. While not completely made up (indeed, several Babylonian deities are mentioned), the Necronomicon's connection to historical Sumerian Mythology is fully a product of Lovecraft's imagination.
Various writers in the school of the Cthulhu Mythos have 'quoted' from the Necronomicon, amongst them Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth.
Necronomicon was also the title of a 1980s book of paintings by the Swiss artist H. R. Giger; it was a quite appropriate title for his particularly sinister style of blended machinery and flesh.
In Sam Raimi's popular trilogy of movies Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness the Necronomicon Ex Mortis appears as an evil book of magic; in the first Evil Dead, a recording of an academic reading from the Necronomicon caused all of Ash's later trouble. In the Evil Dead mythology, this book was written three thousand years ago and disappeared circa 1300 AD.
"Books of the Dead", such as those of the Ancient Egyptians or Tibetan Buddhists, are sometimes reffered to as "real Necronomicons", it is entirely possible that Lovecraft was inspired by the historical Books of the Dead, at least in concept.
Science fiction author Neal Stephenson based the title of his book Cryptonomicon on the Necronomicon featured in the Evil Dead movies, not knowing that the name had originated with H. P. Lovecraft.
see also: false document
- H. P. Lovecraft: A History of The Necronomicon. Necronomicon Press. ISBN 0-318047-15-2 .
- H. P. Lovecraft: The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-35490-7 .