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Monday, November 19, 2012

Kingsport as Portown

Map of Marblehead, MA, inspiration for Lovecraft's Kingsport

Previously, in "How Zenopus Met His Doom", I discussed similarities between Holmes' Sample Dungeon & Lovecraft's short story, The Festival, set in the fictional New England town of Kingsport. The geography of the Sample Dungeon and Portown also fits well with Marblehead, the real-world town on which Kingsport is based. 

Holmes describes his wizard's tower as "on the low hills overlooking Portown" and "close to the sea cliff west of the town, and appropriately, next door to the graveyard". Marblehead has several cemeteries in the hills overlooking the town, including near the sea to the west of the town (which is on a peninsula so the sea is to both the east and west of it). I have no idea whether Holmes himself was aware of this, but he was familiar with books about the Cthulhu Mythos, as mentioned in his letter in The Dragon #16. Regardless, the similarities make the geography of Marblehead a useful model for a map of Portown.

In addition to The Festival, Lovecraft's fictional Kingsport is also the setting for two other Lovecraft stories: The Terrible Old Man (1921) and The Strange High House in the Mist (1931). Lovecraft scholar Joshi notes that this later tale is also inspired by two other New England locations (Magnolia; Mother Ann) having high sea cliffs, as well as "a passage in Dunsany's Chronicles of Rodriguez (1922) about the home of a wizard on the top of a crag" (Note by S. T. Joshi in The Dreams in the Witch House, pg 431).  An excellent graphic adaptation of Strange High House can be read here.

Update - An 1872 map of Marblehead, showing the Waterside Cemetery to the west:

Marblehead, MA, 1872 map


  1. Although I'm very happy with the vision of Chania-as-Portown portrayed on Dragonsfoot, I do like this idea of Portown kind of isolated out there on a peninsula ...

  2. Yes, that Portown map by paleologos is great. I've been meaning to post it here. The two maps could possibly be combined by turning the Chania map sideways and placing it on the Marblehead map, and then moving the Zenopus ruins to the west.

  3. Fantastic connection to Lovecraft & Holmes' Portown. I may have to incorporate my version of Portown onto this map. :D

  4. Portown seems based on Marblehead but on a fantasy Black Sea not fantasy New England...