I've recently read "The Mound" and am having trouble fully understanding the big reveal.

For those interested, here is the full text of the story: http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/mo.aspx

The final sentence is: "Seized by the will of K’n-yan in the headless body of T’la-yub."

The trouble I'm having is understanding what "in the headless body of T'la-yub" means exactly.

I understand that both Zamacona and T'la-yub were captured and turned into undead servants, the y'mi-bhi. And the description of Zamacona says, "It had been made a sentry for punishment, and it was quite dead—besides lacking head, arms, lower legs, and other customary parts of a human being."

Edit: Further context, the message was inscribed on this torso.

The only way I've been able to interpret this is that all that remains of Zamacona is the torso and said torso has been attached or inserted into the headless body of T'la-yub? She's supposed to be easily recognizable as a woman (though headless) from a distance and I feel like a man's torso attached to her in any way would have been noteworthy before the big reveal.

If it isn't attached to T'la-yub, then I'm also at a loss as to how this limbless torso is moving around.

Edit: The point was made below that Zamacona's body specified lower legs, so if it is not attached to T'la-yub, then it could walk on its upper legs/thighs, which is a plenty disconcerting image. That still leaves the message stating "in the headless body of T'la-yub" rather confusing unfortunately.

2 Answers 2


I think the phrase could be interpreted to mean that the will or spirit of K'n-yan animated the headless body of T'la-yub and was thereby responsible for the seizure of Zamacona. This is a realization that the "Author" comes to in the last lines and shows the futility of trying to do anything against the mound or the beings within as the whole power of the beings is funneled through the living-dead.

In my interpretation it shows that K'n-yan was already aware that Zamacona would attempt to escape and was still able to prevent his escape, as forbidden by the court:

It was now made plain to him, though indirectly, that his own penalty for another escape-attempt would be service as a gate-sentry—but in the form of a dead-alive y’m-bhi slave, and after amphitheatre-treatment even more picturesque than that which T’la-yub was reported to have undergone. It was intimated that he—or parts of him—would be reanimated to guard some inner section of the passage; within sight of others, where his abridged person might serve as a permanent symbol of the rewards of treason

K'n-yan was able to do this even though Zamacona was practicing dematerialization:

What gave him a final hope of scatheless escape from K’n-yan was his growing mastery of the art of dematerialisation. Having studied it for years, and having learned still more from the two instances in which he had been subjected to it, he now felt increasingly able to use it independently and effectively...

...The only trouble would be if he failed to maintain his spectral condition at all times. That was the one ever-present peril, as he had learned from his experiments.

The "Author" of the manuscript goes on to speculate that perhaps something happened to Zamacona, such as the feared re-materialization and that he was captured, perhaps by T'la-yub (emphasis mine):

Zamacona must have barely reached the outer world when overtaken by some disaster—perhaps an involuntary rematerialisation. He would naturally, in that event, have been seized by whichever sentry happened to be on duty at the time—either the discredited freeman, or, as a matter of supreme irony, the very T’la-yub who had planned and aided his first attempt at escape

What the author didn't realize, until he saw the headless etc. body of Zamacona was that they are essentially powered by the supremely powerful will of the beings under the mound and have been preserved in that state more or less indefinitely as a warning to others and a punishment for the individual involved.

Yes—it had been a very human being once; and what is more, it had been white...

...if that manuscript was as true as I think it was, this being had been used for the diversions of the amphitheatre before its life had become wholly extinct and supplanted by automatic impulses controlled from outside

Edited to add: as to how it is moving, it seems perhaps flopping or stumbling on stumps:

Then there was a sound—a flopping; a padding; a dull, advancing sound which heralded beyond question a being as structurally material as the pickaxe and the shovel...

...The padding grew more distinct, and from the mechanical cast of the tread I knew it was a dead thing that stalked in the darkness.

  • 1
    If I'm understanding you right, you're saying the inscription is stating that the will of K'n-yan is what is in the body of T'la-yub. Not that the body of Zamacona is in the body of T'la-yub. So, a more explicit wording would be, "The headless body of T'la-yub, acting under instructions from K'n-yan, has seized Zamacona." That's very compelling to me and I think addresses the exact trouble I was having understanding. I misinterpreted the structure of the sentence entirely.
    – Omnificer
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 16:15
  • 1
    @Omnificer - that's exactly how I interpreted the sentence.
    – bob1
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 20:49

Actually the stories about the mount described two ghosts that haunted it, a man and a woman.

The "man ghost" was the reanimated corpse of Zamacona and the "woman ghost" was the reanimated corpse of T'la-yub.

Zamacona's corpse is described as:

"It had been made a sentry for punishment, and it was quite dead—besides lacking head, arms, lower legs, and other customary parts of a human being."

Clearly Zamacona's corpse still has upper legs and thus could still walk, though not as well as if it was complete, if it does not just float around via magic.

So if T'la-yub's corpse is in exactly the same condition as Zamacona's it should still be able to walk a bit using the upper legs. But it is uncertain whether T-la-yub's corpse is in the same condition as Zamacona's. It is described as:

the headless body of T’la-yub

So maybe all that it lacks is the head, and it retains legs for walking and arms to seize Zamacona with.

Anyway, if the people of k'n-yan can use their magic or advanced technology to reanimate corpses, that magic or advanced technology can make those corpses move without legs and seize Zamacona without arms, if necessary to carry out the functions entrusted to them.

  • 2
    The two ghosts mentioned are the "freemen" of K'n-yan pulling sentry duty during the day and the corpse of T'la-yub during the night. "It was unmistakably a human shape, and I knew at once that I was seeing the daytime “Indian ghost” I did not wonder at the description, for surely the tall, lean, darkly robed being with the filleted black hair and seamed, coppery, expressionless, aquiline face looked more like an Indian than anything else in my previous experience"
    – Omnificer
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 17:59
  • I mean to mention as well, that Zamacona's corpse walking on its upper legs/thighs is a good point as the description was specific about lower legs.
    – Omnificer
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 18:34

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