Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The House on the Borderland

Go To

A fantasy/horror novel by William Hope Hodgson, who also created Carnacki the Ghost-Finder and The Night Land. It was first published in 1908. H. P. Lovecraft said "but for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality [it] would be a classic of the first water."

Some friends visiting Ireland find the curious ruins of an old house, and an old diary of the man who was presumably the last inhabitant of it. The majority of the story is the contents of the diary.

Here's a link to an online version of the entire novel at Project Gutenberg. It comes in several formats, including HTML, EPUB, Kindle, and TXT.

Was adapted in The Aughts as a one-volume Graphic Novel by Vertigo Comics, with Richard Corben on drawing duties.

This story includes examples of:

  • Alien Sky: The Plain of Silence appears to be illuminated by "a gigantic ring of dull-red fire", whose interior is "black as the gloom of the outer night"; it might be a red giant in a perpetual solar eclipse, assuming familiar astrophysics still apply wherever the Plain is.
  • All Just a Dream: One possible explanation of the events listed under Apocalypse How.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • A possible explanation for who the Swine Things were and what they wanted can be found in Hodgson's Carnacki story, The Hog. It really depends on whether they're set in the same continuity or if Hodgson was simply reusing a concept. That said, the Mind Screw doesn't completely go away because The Hog does nothing to explain the House itself or its green doppleganger.
    • The name of the framing story's narrator ("Mr. Bereggnogg") isn't revealed anywhere in the book except the title page, which a lot of readers would typically skip.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The diary.
  • Apocalypse How: The narrator spends an extended period being fast-forwarded through endless spans of time, witnessing the gradual death of the Earth and the Sun.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: This is the final fate of the Recluse in the graphic novel, as revealed in the epilogue. He describes himself as "Something less than immortal, something more than human," and reveals that he now keeps an eternal vigil to prevent the creatures from returning to corrupt the human world.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Incestuous subtext was added to the graphic novel, which displeased some fans of the original book.
  • Cool Old Guy: The Recluse, at least when he's protecting the house and driving away the Swine Things
  • Cosmic Horror Story: A precursor to the genre, in any case.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the graphic novel, one of the two young men from the Framing Device is killed by a pig creature. The narrator is apparently killed by the Recluse himself after becoming infected with the evil rot from the other dimension.
  • Eldritch Location: The strange alternate dimension the Recluse visits, which contains a jade copy of his house.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Pepper. The dog's lack of fear helps convince the narrator that the Pig-things actually have departed for parts unknown.
  • Framing Device: Much like The Night Land. The Recluse's story is told through his diary, which was found by a pair of travellers in the ruins of his house. They sense something "diabolical" while exploring and eventually leave before seeing anything, but their speculation fills in some of the gaps left by the manuscript's missing pages and inconclusive ending.
  • Genre Shift: Subverted. It starts out as Cosmic Horror, then quickly turns into a mix between Action-Horror and Mystery but then goes right back to Cosmic Horror in the second half.
  • Haunted House: Possibly. There are no actual ghosts, unless you count the Recluse's Lost Love.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Discussed and averted. The Recluse notes that if he were telling a tale he would have said the house's first clear supernatural manifestation happened on Halloween, but actually it was after midnight on the 21st of January.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: The remains of some of the first pig-things to be killed are promptly scavenged by another pig-thing, which the Recluse shoots in disgust.
  • No Ending: Yes, in the sense that 1. we never get any explanations on the Swine Things or any of the other supernatural stuff, and 2. we aren't given the details about what actually became of the Recluse and his sister. However, the Framing Device's epilogue does give the horrifying broadstrokes of what ultimately happened after the diary's narrative is cut off (while leaving the particulars to the imagination).
  • Named by the Adaptation: The two men from the framing device are given the names Colin and Edward in the comic adaptation.
  • No Body Left Behind: The day after the siege on the house the Recluse cannot find any corpses of the pig-things that he shot or even any blood on the ground. The only thing casting doubt that it was all in his head is the damage to the study door and claw marks found on the outside of the house that were not previously there.
  • No Name Given: Almost everyone in the story except Pepper the dog. The narrator usually refers to his sister as simply "my sister" but at one point addresses her as Mary. The "editor" of the journal refers to the Narrator as The Recluse in his footnotes.
  • Pig Men: The mysterious antagonists of the story.
  • Posthumous Character: The Recluse's lover.
  • The Siege: The Narrator is forced to fend off an extended assault on the house by the Pig-things.
  • Thematic Series: This book is the second installment of what Hodgson referred to as a trilogy. None of the three books share the same characters, and it's debatable on whether they're even supposed to be in the same continuity. In terms of plot and setting, the first and third books in this trilogy - The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" and The Ghost Pirates, respectively - don't have all that much in common with each other and have even less in common with House.
  • Time Skip: As the diary had lain open before being covered in debris a number of pages in the middle of the story are damaged and unreadable leaving a section where the editor is unsure of what events occurred between the last visit to the cellar and the voyage through time.
  • Unreliable Narrator: It's possible to intepret everything as delusions brought on by the Recluse's excessive grief and possible dementia (his sister seeming to not be aware of any of the supernatural stuff certainly supports this notion). That viewpoint holds up until the epilogue when Tonnison and Bereggnogg discover that the events in the diary probably did happen.