The Great God Pan

The Great God Pan

by Arthur Machen


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"The Great God Pan" is a novella by Welsh writer Arthur Machen. Now his most celebrated work, it was broadly condemned by the media as horrific and degenerate due to its sexual content and decadent style when first published. The plot revolves around a man called Clarke who agrees to witness an odd experiment performed by his friend, Dr. Raymond in an attempt to open a person's mind to the spiritual world. After some minor brain surgery, Mary-the test subject-awakens to utter horror before quickly becoming "a hopeless idiot". Arthur Machen (1863 - 1947) was a Welsh author and renowned mystic during the 1890s and early 20th century who garnered literary acclaim for his contributions to the supernatural, horror, and fantasy fiction genres. His seminal novella "The Great God Pan" (1890) has become a classic of horror fiction, with Stephen King describing it as one of the best horror stories ever written in the English language. Other notable fans of his gruesome tales include William Butler Yeats and Arthur Conan Doyle; and his work has been compared to that of Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde. Many vintage books such as this are increasingly scarce and expensive. It is with this in mind that we are republishing this volume now in an affordable, modern, high-quality edition complete with a specially-commissioned new biography of the author.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789386780584
Publisher: Alpha Editions
Publication date: 09/28/2017
Pages: 72
Sales rank: 221,218
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Arthur Machen (1863 - 1947) was a Welsh author and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy and horror fiction. His novella The Great God Pan has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. Stephen King has called it "Maybe the best [horror story] in the English language". He is also well known for his leading role in creating the legend of the Angels of Mons.

Matthew Phipps Shiell (1865 - 1947) - known as M. P. Shiel - was a prolific British writer of West Indian descent. His legal surname remained "Shiell" though he adopted the shorter version as a de facto pen name. He is remembered mostly for supernatural horror and scientific romances. His work was published as serials, novels and as short stories. The Purple Cloud (1901; 1929) remains his most famous and often reprinted novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter four


The midday heat bakes the earth and makes me yawn. Eternity is long; gods have a lot of empty time.

But then my eyes pop open, for a girlish voice zigzags about my ears.

The voice lilts closer.

I push up onto an elbow and look around.

A human child comes through the grasses. The gnarled olive branches filter the sun to silver. Shadow hides her face as she stoops to pick red and yellow and black anemones.

I scamper behind a thick tree trunk. Is she alone? How can that be? A girl child of her tender age shouldn't go unattended. Artemis, my most beloved aunt, protects maidens, especially when they romp in forests and meadows. Nevertheless, the girl's parents are neglectful to let her stray alone.

This Part of Arcadia is sparsely populated. The only road runs from Argos, in the northeast, to ugly Sparta, in the central south. The difference between the two is like the difference between the sun and the moon. Which is she a child of?

I don't care for human adults, who scream when they see me.

But I like human children. I've watched them play, almost like goat kids. Nowhere near as nimble, though. On my two legs I can never run as fast as goats or climb with as much agility. But I can best any human at both.

I peek out from around the tree. The child talks to a flower.

She comes closer.

I pull my head out of sight. A long while passes. I scratch my rump against a low broken-off branch. A breeze shakes the narrow leaves, green-silver-green.

What is she doing?

I peek.

She rolls in the grass in full sunlight. Her hair picks up bits of stick and leaves. She's as blissful and free as some sort of cub.

I jump into view.

She gets toher feet, eyes instantly wet and bright, hands out to each side; at the first hint of evil, she'll take flight.

I sit on my haunches, thinking, Stay, child. Stay a while.

She bends at the waist just enough so that her face

comes forward slightly. Her small breasts press against her shift. She's older than I thought. "What are you?"

What, not who. She's taken me for a beast. She's an idiot, after all. The sharp points of my horns could pierce her soft belly like a knife through fresh cheese.

Her full face watches me, open, waiting.

And I see there is nothing dull in her eyes, nor any hint of superiority. Her purity deserves honesty. "A freak," I say.

She withdraws a step, blushing. She thinks I am embarrassed to be as I am. Silly girl. I am the delight of the gods.

"Do you mean me harm?" she asks.


"Are you nasty like other hybrids?"

A nasty question. "Which hybrids do you speak of?"

"The centaurs," she says.

"Some centaurs are noble," I say.

"They're known for rape."

I shrug. "No, I'm not nasty."

Her arms lower slowly. She looks over her shoulder, then back at me. Her hands grip at the folds in her shift. And now I can see that she is a rare beauty.

I lift my nose and breathe deep. "You smell of thyme." A smell I favor; thyme honey is the best.

She touches her hair uncertainly and picks out debris. "Everything lives in these grasses."

"It's rash to roll here. You're lucky you aren't stinging from thistles."

"I checked first," she says. "None of these flowers or herbs is poisonous."

I grant her a small smile. "Who taught you so much about plants?"

"I learned on my own. I love the outdoors." She looks over her shoulder again.

"Are you expecting someone?" I ask.

She smiles shyly and shakes her head. "They don't know I took a walk. They forbid midday walks."

She could have said yes. She could have used a cloak of lies to protect herself. "And who are they?"

"My mother and sister and the servants. We stopped because of the heat, and Electra, she's my sister, she cried of thirst. Now they're napping."

"Did you cry?"

"I never cry."

I tilt my head. "You expect me to believe that?"

"Believe it or not, as you wish."

She's saucy. This time I hold in my smile. "I didn't mean to offend. Why would you refuse to cry?"

She hesitates. "Why should I answer you?"

"For the same reason I answer you."

She stands there silent.

I put both hands on my knees and rub my palms in circles. The knots of hair that form come off in clumps.

She picks one up. "Are you ill?"

I almost laugh. "Just molting."

She drops the clump and sucks in air. "Can you keep a secret? "

Why would this girl trust me so fast? I nod.

She looks at me hard. "I'm not my mother's daughter. Or, well, not her blood daughter. My real mother abandoned me at birth. So I have to be extra good to be loved. Before my sister was born, I didn't have to be so careful. But it's different now."

Her matter-of-factness steals my breath. A newborn abandoned by a mother--this is a story I know. Mothers can be cruel. After a moment, I ask in a quiet voice, "Why is this a secret?"

The girl shrugs.

"Do you know your real mother?" I ask.


I have to ask. "Do you know why she abandoned you?"

"She wasn't married."

"How do you know all this?"

"I overheard the servants, so I asked my mother."

"You asked her outright?"

"And why shouldn't I have?"

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Great God Pan 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this story it is what Machen DOES NOT tell that is so horrifying. Artist that he was... he left us to only imagine what she saw... brilliant writing and subtle deep horror.
clfisha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are three stories fantastical horror stories, melding the everyday Victorian World with the supernatural and I am go to review them separately. The 1st (and longest) story about a medical experiment gone awry, is his most famous and inspired many a horror writer from Lovecraft to king. Published in 1894 it holds up remarkably well, although sadly not that scary (a sexual women, dear god!). However Machen is great at building atmosphere and only hints at the real horror: the God Pan can loom as large in your imagination as you wish. It's quite gripping as we watch the main protagonist drawn deeper into a dangerous mystery but it's a pity that the ending feels so hurried. 3.5* The 2nd is nice little mystery involving mysterious signs, a disappearing girl and frightening ritual. It's an enjoyable quick read but not high on atmosphere and(?) a bit of a clumsy mystery. 3 * The 3rd is a mixed bag, starts off with dull dialogue (read lecture) about the nature of real evil and suddenly switches to a 1st person account from a young girl and her experience with the little people. Sadly Machen cannot write in the voice of a young girl, it's bad enough to make you wince but oddly this is the bit of the book that I enjoyed the most. Machens description of a dark, eerie landscape captures the imagination vividly and gives a tantalising hint of the unknown which only deepens the sense of mystery and keeps you turning over the story in your mind long after you close the book. I can't rate this one ;-) perhaps 2-4!=3
ed.pendragon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I was young I swore by H P Lovecraft while my friend championed Machen. At the time I thought The Hill of Dreams pretty insipid compared to anything with Cthulhu in it. Several decades on I felt that I have to give Machen another chance, as it were, and this edition of The Great God Pan (and the two companion pieces in this volume, The White Pyramid and The Shining People) provided the opportunity.Machen fin-de-siècle novels are still a taste I have yet to acquire. By today's standards the horror (and Machen tends to get his characters to refer to 'horror' in case we can't put a word to their feelings) is pretty tame, more alluded to than described. The title story is about the degradations that are begat on a particular individual and visited on those that come into intimate contact with her. The answers to the mysteries are obvious to the reader, but the narrators and protagonists, not to mention the dilettantes and flaneurs of Late Victorian Britain, seem blind to the implications of what they are investigating, and the tale seems rather overlong as a consequence.The other two slighter tales are, strangely, more convincing. The White People suffers from a clumsy framing device, but the ever-flowing and scattergun chattiness of the child narrator in the central portion strike me as typical of children's descriptions generally, in the way that the dialogue in the opening section (on the nature of evil) is rather artificial and less true to life. The Shining Pyramid has been described as almost an occult Sherlock Holmes story, but I find the detective figure's deductions, for all their apparent logic, come over as pure leaps in the dark as far as realism is concerned, and the climax oddly anti-climactic.Machen's strengths are in creating atmosphere, whether in gloomy London or the eerie depths of the countryside. Claustrophobia is induced by descriptions of dark streets or fog-bound moors and woods, intensified by a general geographical vagueness. Characterisation is less successful; in all three stories I had little sense of individuality, for the men in particular, and had to keep looking back in the text to see who was who in any given passage. While I was unmoved by these tales, I would still like to revisit some of his other stories like The Great Return to see if time has played more fairly with them in my memory. But I'm almost certain my youthful obsession with Lovecraft is a thing of the past, so I shan't waste time on him.A brief word of praise here for this edition's cover artist Chris Iliff, due to his capturing precisely the look I imagined Machen ascribing to the title story's femme fatale. No wonder men went mad staring into those eyes! The Foreword by Ramsey Campbell is, like Machen's prose, strong on atmosphere but comes over chiefly as eulogising, while Tomos Owen's notes (which add in some of the historical, cultural and literary contexts) are workmanlike if not very inspired.
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The word "incoherent" frequently comes to mind.
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One of my favorite horror stories. Machen is superb.
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MaGicAllyGeNuisJ More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because when I was reading After Sunset by Stephen King. I saw that this Author and this book was mention in his book.I could not find this book anywhere, I went to my favorite store in the world Barn N Noble, and they said we have to order it. But I didn't want them to order it. I wanted it right then and there. I went to Books a Million they had to order it. I went to Walden books they couldn't order it. I went to a little store here in town and they didn't have it. So that very same day I called back and they order it. It cost me 9.00 and some odd cent. N to be honest, what I thought when the lady handed to me is....So this is what I waited for, this is what I was bugging people about. LOL.But....The Great God Pan. WOW!! What can I say, it was well written very captivating, and its like it pulls you in chapter by chapter. It was also very odd book, but yet it was mind blowing and mind puzzling. The Great God Pan is about a women name Mary who was used as a experiment. In this experiment she got to see a world beyond our world.And in that world she met Pan who raped her and 9 months later she conceived a child name Helen.Helen moves to London and turns London upside down with her weird kinky sex by Pan. This book is extraordinary!!! Two thumbs up!!!! A MUST READ!!!!! I cant wait to read Book 2
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amazing Horror novella about a girl and a god.
firsTraveler More than 1 year ago
Pan reads like one of H. P. Lovecraft's weaker stories. All the action takes pace off stage told mostly by third person observers. As for the god, well the Greeks certainly wouldn't recognize the effect.