Review: Horror Story: "Olalla" by Robert Louis Stevenson
March 1, 2017 5:38pm CST
A Scottish officer, wounded in Spain in “the good cause” [i.e., fill in the name of the war], is sent, on the recommendation of his doctor, into the mountains to recover at the residencia of an aristocratic family who has fallen on hard times. “The air of these mountains will renew your blood; and the quiet in which you will there live is worth all the medicines in the world,” his doctor tells him. He’s looking forward to getting away from it all, frankly. When he asks about the family, he’s told that they were once quite the power in Spain. Now there is an older mother and her two adult children. No one is sure who the children’s father is or when he died. Some say she was never married to begin with. The family’s son, Felipe, picks him up in horse wagon. Our hero was warned Felipe was an “innocent,” but he seems intellectually challenged, childlike and subject to mood swings. He brings the lodger meals. And odd, lopsided friendship develops between the two men. Their mother seems capable of only small talk while she sunbathes in the courtyard. Both she and her son bear a striking resemblance to a portrait of an ancestor in our hero’s room, a portrait that shows the subject’s malice as well as her beauty. The last member of the family he meets is the daughter, Olalla. The moment he does, he falls in love with her. She returns his love, but there’s something standing in the way. And it’s not another suitor. He finds a note in his room saying, in effect, if he cares for Olalla, he’ll leave that very day. In the act of throwing the note out the window, he cuts his wrist. Because he has no means of stopping the bleeding or dressing the wound, he goes to courtyard and approaches the hostess where she’s still sunbathing, apologizing for disturbing her. He needs help— She lunges at him, biting him on the wrist and sucking his blood. Wow. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Neither did our hero. The rest of the story is spent trying to what just happened. What are the implications for his hoped for future with Olalla? She quickly disabuses him of the notion they have a future. Is she just a nut, sacrificing herself because she has a disabled brother (even if he’s handy in the garden) and a mother who does nothing but sunbathe all day? Or is there something more sinister she’s guarding against? They certainly should have figured it out, given all the time they spend blathering on about it, but the ball seemed pretty firmly in the air when last we see our hero. Robert Louis Stevenson, who was ill for much of his life, is best known for his adventure stories like Treasure Island, and, of course, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This story is available from Project Gutenberg: _____ Title: “Olalla” Author: Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) First published: Court and Society Review Christmas 1885 Source: ISFDB
4 people like this
• United States
2 Mar 17
Maybe that's the story I read a long time ago! I was thinking about something like that, I thought I read the story in a book, but I've never been able to find the book again. The name however, doesn't sound familiar. I think there's a movie or tv episode based on this story, or a similar one. Do you know anything about it? It might have been Alfred Hitchcock or something like that.
• United States
2 Mar 17
It's been in a number of anthologies. I might suggest Internet Speculative Fiction Data Base. It'll take a couple of pages, but it will show you a list (often with covers) of all the anthologies it's been in. One of them might ring a bell. The only things I could find in Internet Movie Data Base was a 2006 short film about kidnapped vampire and a 2015 film that said it was based on Stevenson's story, but really went far afield.