The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is a novella by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Begun probably in the autumn of 1926, the draft was completed on January 22, 1927 and it remained unrevised and unpublished in his lifetime. It is both the longest of the stories that make up his Dream Cycle and the longest Lovecraft work to feature protagonist Randolph Carter. Along with his 1927 novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, it can be considered one of the significant achievements of that period of Lovecraft's writing. The Dream-Quest combines elements of horror and fantasy into an epic tale that illustrates the scope and wonder of humankind's ability to dream.
The story was published posthumously by Arkham House in 1943. Currently, it is published by Ballantine Books in an anthology that also includes "The Silver Key" and "Through the Gates of the Silver Key." The definitive version, with corrected text by S. T. Joshi, is published by Arkham House in At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels and by Penguin Classics in The Dreams in the Witch-House and Other Weird Stories.
|The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath|
Ballantine Books edition cover
|Author||H. P. Lovecraft|
|Text||The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath at Wikisource|
Randolph Carter dreams three times of a majestic sunset city, but each time he is abruptly snatched away before he can see it up close. When he prays to the gods of dream to reveal the whereabouts of the phantasmal city, they do not answer, and his dreams of the city stop altogether. Undaunted, Carter resolves to go to Kadath, where the gods live, to beseech them in person. However, no one has ever been to Kadath and no one even knows how to get there. In dream, Randolph Carter descends "seventy steps" and speaks of his plan to the priests Nasht and Kaman-Thah, whose temple - the Cavern of Flame - borders the Dreamlands. The priests warn Carter of the great danger of his quest and suggest that the gods withdrew his vision of the city on purpose.
Carter enters the Enchanted Wood and meets the zoogs, a race of predatory and sentient rodents. For a novice, such an encounter could prove calamitous, but Carter is an experienced dreamer and so is knowledgeable of their language and customs. When Carter asks the zoogs about Kadath, they don't know where it is; instead, they suggest that Carter go to the town of Ulthar to find a wizened priest named Atal who is learned in the ways of the gods.
In the cat-laden city of Ulthar, Carter visits Atal, who mentions a huge carving wrought on Ngranek's hidden side that shows the features of the gods. Carter realizes that if he can go to Ngranek, examine the carving, and then find a place where mortals share those features and are thus related to the gods, he must be near Kadath.
Carter goes to Dylath-Leen to secure passage to Oriab. Dylath-Leen is infamous for the black galleys that frequent its harbors. These galleys are steered by oarsmen who are never seen and crewed by turbaned men that trade curious-looking rubies for slaves and gold.
Randolph Carter's quest is interrupted when he is captured by the turbaned men and flown to the moon on one of their notorious black galleys. Once there, he learns that the turbaned men are slaves to the terrifying moon-beasts. A procession of moon-beasts and their slaves escort Carter across the moon to deliver him to the Crawling Chaos Nyarlathotep (one of the Outer Gods who rule space, in contrast to the Great Ones, the gods of earth). He is saved by the cats of Ulthar, who slay his captors and return Carter to earth's Dreamlands in the port of Dylath-Leen.
Carter boards a ship sailing to Baharna, a great seaport on the isle of Oriab. On the way to Oriab and while he travels across the island riding a zebra, Carter hears dark whispers about the night-gaunts, though they are never properly described. Carter makes a treacherous climb across Ngranek and discovers the gigantic carving of the gods on its far side. He is surprised to see that the features match those of sailors who trade at the port of Celephaïs, but before he can act on this knowledge, he is snatched away by the night-gaunts and left to die in the Vale of Pnath in the underworld.
Carter is rescued by friendly ghouls, amongst them Richard Pickman, a friend of Carter's, the protagonist of another of Lovecraft's stories, Pickman's Model and who is now also a ghoul, who agree to return him to the upper Dreamlands. They make their way to the terrible city of the gugs to reach the Tower of Koth, wherein a winding stairway leads to the surface. Finding the city asleep, Carter and the ghouls attempt to sneak past the snoring gugs. The ghasts, the gugs' traditional enemies, begin an attack, but the group manages to ascend the stairway and open the great trapdoor to the Enchanted Wood.
Here Carter comes upon a gathering of zoogs and finds that they plan to make war on the cats of Ulthar. Not wanting to see his friends harmed, Carter warns the cats, enabling them to launch a surprise attack on the zoogs. After a brief skirmish, the zoogs are defeated. To abate further hostilities, the zoogs agree to a new treaty with the cats of Ulthar.
Carter reaches the city of Thran and buys passage on a galleon to Celephaïs. While en route, Carter asks the sailors about the men who trade in Celephaïs—the ones he believes to be kin to the gods. He learns that they are from the cold, dark land of Inquanok or Inganok and that few people dare to travel there. Even more ominous, there are no cats there. The plateau of Leng with its inhuman treacheries is too near.
In Celephaïs, Carter meets his old friend Kuranes, the king of the city. Kuranes is an old dreamer whom Carter knew in the waking world, but when he died, he became a permanent resident of the Dreamlands. Longing for home, he has dreamed parts of his kingdom to resemble his native Cornwall. Kuranes knows the pitfalls of the Dreamlands all too well and tries to dissuade Carter from his dangerous quest. Carter, however, will not be deterred.
Under the pretense of wishing to work in its quarries, Carter boards a ship bound for Inganok, a nation built of onyx. The trip to Inganok takes three weeks, but as they draw near, Carter spots a strange granite island. When he inquires about the mysterious isle, the captain explains that it is the nameless rock, and it is best to not speak of it. That night, Carter hears strange howls from the nameless island.
When Carter arrives at Inganok, he purchases a yak and heads northward, in the hope that past the onyx quarries he will find Kadath. Carter ascends a steep ridge beyond which nothing is visible but sky. At the summit, he looks out and gets a breathtaking view of a gargantuan quarry. Carter sets off toward this quarry, but his yak, spooked, abandons him.
Carter is captured by a slant-eyed man, whom he has met before among the merchants of Dylath-Leen. The slant-eyed man summons a shantak-bird, which both ride over the Plateau of Leng, a vast tableland populated by Pan-like beings. Arriving at a monastery wherein dwells the dreaded High Priest Not to Be Described, Carter now suspects that the slant-eyed man is yet another conspirator of the forces that seek to thwart his quest.
The slant-eyed man leads Carter through the monastery to a domed room with a circular well, which Carter speculates leads to the Vaults of Zin in the underworld. Herein, the high-priest, wearing a silken robe and a mask, is waiting. Carter learns that the Men of Leng are the same beings that conceal their horns under turbans and trade in Dylath-Leen. He also learns that the night-gaunts do not serve Nyarlathotep as is commonly supposed, but Nodens, and that even Earth's Gods are afraid of them. It is never revealed to the reader who the high-priest in the silken mask is, but Carter recoils from it in horror.
When the slant-eyed man is momentarily distracted, Carter pushes him into the well and escapes through the maze-like corridors. In pitch-black darkness, Carter wanders through the monastery, fearing he is being pursued by the High Priest Not to Be Described. At last reaching the outside, Carter realizes that he is in the ruins of ancient Sarkomand, which lies near the coast.
Soon he encounters the ghouls that helped him earlier once more. The Men of Leng have taken them hostage on their ship, and they are to be taken to the nameless rock, revealed to be a moon-beast outpost. Carter summons the rest of the ghouls from the underworld and they take control of the galley. After releasing their kin, they sail on to the nameless rock and fight a pitched battle against the moon-beasts. Emerging victorious, and fearing the arrival of reinforcements, Carter and the ghouls return to Sarkomand. Once there, Carter obtains the services of a flock of night-gaunts to transport himself and the ghouls to the gods' castle on Kadath.
After an exhilarating flight, Carter arrives at last at the abode of the gods, but finds it empty. Finally a great procession arrives with much fanfare, led by a pharaoh-like man who explains to Carter that the gods of earth have seen the city of Carter's dreams and decided to make it their home, and have thus abandoned Kadath. The gods walk no more in the ways of gods, and have become instead mere denizens of the jewelled city Carter had glimpsed in his dreams, which is nothing but childhood memories of his home city of Boston. "It is not over unknown seas," he says, "but back over well-known years that your quest must go; back to the bright strange things of infancy and the quick sun-drenched glimpses of magic that old scenes brought to wide young eyes. For know you, that your gold and marble city of wonder is only the sum of what you have seen and loved in youth... These things you saw, Randolph Carter, when your nurse first wheeled you out in the springtime, and they will be the last things you will ever see with eyes of memory and of love." This mysterious man then reveals his identity—he is Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, the emissary of the Other Gods who dwell in the blackness of space.
Nyarlathotep sends Carter on a great Inganok shantak-bird through space to the sunset city. Unfortunately, Carter realizes too late that the mocking Nyarlathotep has tricked him, and that instead he is being taken to the court of Azathoth at the center of the universe. At first believing he is doomed, Carter suddenly remembers that he is in a dream and saves himself by leaping from the great bird. As he falls, his thoughts turn toward New England, and he wakes to find that he is no longer in the Dreamlands but in his own room in the waking world of Boston, looking out upon its architectural graces, suffused in a splendid sunrise.
The final lines of the story find Nyarlathotep brooding over his defeat within the halls of Kadath, mocking in anger the "mild gods of earth" whom he has snatched back from the sunset city.
Like Lovecraft's novel fragment "Azathoth" (1922, published 1938), The Dream-Quest appears to have been influenced by Vathek, a 1786 novel by William Thomas Beckford that "is similarly an exotic fantasy written without chapter divisions". Critics such as Will Murray and David E. Schultz, in fact, have suggested that The Dream-Quest is in effect a second attempt at completing the abandoned novel Azathoth.
While the influence of the fantasies of Lord Dunsany on Lovecraft's Dream Cycle is often mentioned, Robert M. Price argues that a more direct model for The Dream-Quest is provided by the six Mars ("Barsoom") novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs that had been published by 1927. It's been noted, however, that there is little in common between John Carter, a classic action hero, outstanding warrior and rescuer of princesses, and Randolph Carter, a melancholy figure, quiet and contemplative, who never actually fights any of his enemies, is captured several times, and needs his friends to rescue him again and again. Elsewhere, Price maintains that L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) was also a significant influence on The Dream-Quest, pointing out that in both books the main character chooses in the end to return "home" as the best place to be.
The Dream-Quest has evoked a broad range of reactions, "some HPL enthusiasts finding it almost unreadable and others... comparing it to the Alice books and the fantasies of George MacDonald." Joanna Russ referred to The Dream-Quest as "charming... but alas, never rewritten or polished".
Lovecraft himself declared that "it isn't much good; but forms useful practice for later and more authentic attempts in the novel form." He expressed concern while writing it that "Randolph Carter's adventures may have reached the point of palling on the reader; or that the very plethora of weird imagery may have destroyed the power of any one image to produce the desired impression of strangeness."
In the sixth season of Northern Exposure (1995), the main character of Joel Fleischman goes on a quest to find Alaska's "Lost Jewel City of the North", only to realize that it is his beloved hometown of New York.
"Celephaïs" () is a fantasy story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in early November 1920 and first published in the May 1922 issue of the Rainbow. The title refers to a fictional city that later appears in Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, including his novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926).Dylath-Leen
Dylath-Leen is a fictional city in H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle and appears in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926) and Brian Lumley's short story Dylath-Leen.It is built mostly of basalt, and its streets are both dark and uninviting. It is one of the most mysterious cities in Lovecraft's Dreamlands. The citizens buy rubies from strange, turbaned men in sinister black galleys (whose rowers are never seen), though the famous dreamer Randolph Carter has advised against this practice. In the Lumley story this plot-line is continued, with a new dreamer discovering that the moon-beasts have finally taken over the city, despite Carter's warnings.Hunting Horror
A Hunting Horror is a fictional monster in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. The creature was first mentioned in Lovecraft's novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926).Jason Thompson (writer)
Jason Thompson (born October 13, 1974) is an American writer, journalist, comics artist, and editor. He has edited for Viz Media and is the author of Manga: The Complete Guide.Kuranes
Kuranes (also King Kuranes) is a fictional character in H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle. He was introduced in the short story "Celephaïs" (1922) and also appeared in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926).
Kuranes was a great dreamer and made frequent visits to the Dreamlands. In the waking world, he was of landed gentry in Cornwall, but as his fortunes declined he retreated into fantasy and drug use, eventually dying impoverished and homeless. In his dreams, he created the city of Celephaïs, the valley of Ooth-Nargai, in which Celephaïs was situated, and presumably the cloud city of Serannian, which was connected with Celephaïs. After he died he became the king and chief god of Celephaïs. He didn't care for the pomp and grandeur of Dreamland court life, and preferred to live most of the time in a nearby area he created to resemble the house and land in Cornwall where he had lived as a boy.
He is the only dreamer who has gone to the outermost void "where no dreams reach", that is the court of Azathoth, and survived with both life and sanity intact.
Kuranes has also appeared in Lovecraftian pastiches by authors such as Brian Lumley. Lumley's characters David Hero and Eldin the Wanderer eventually become agents for Kuranes.Men of Leng
The Men of Leng are a fictional race in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft.Leng are the primitive, satyr-like inhabitants of the Plateau of Leng in the Dreamlands. They are mentioned throughout Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, especially in the novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926).
The Men of Leng appear in The Clock of Dreams and Mad Moon of Dreams, by Brian Lumley.
The ruined city of Sarkomand was their former capital.
The Men of Leng are included in the Pathfinder RPG, where they are known as the Denizens of Leng, a race of creatures who sail across the planes of existence in great black ships, trading strange, flawless rubies and exotic goods from the Realm of Dreams for mortal slaves, to be taken back to Leng for unknown reasons.Moon-beast
Moon-beasts are creatures in H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle. They are “great greyish-white slippery things which could expand and contract at will, and whose principal shape — though it often changed — was that of a sort of toad without any eyes, but with a curious vibrating mass of short pink tentacles on the end of its blunt, vague snout” (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Lovecraft). They live on the dark side of the Dreamlands' moon which, unlike the moon of the waking world, has great forests and oily seas.
The moon-beasts sail black galleys between the moon and the Dreamlands, trading rubies for both slaves and gold, at the port of Dylath-Leen. When there, they employ the Men of Leng, disguised in turbans, as their go-between and stay hidden below deck, lest the merchants of Dylath-Leen learn the terrible secret of with whom they are dealing.Nightgaunt
Nightgaunts (also Night-Gaunt or night-gaunt) are a fictional race in the Cthulhu Mythos and is also part of H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle. The creatures appear in the poem "Night-Gaunts" and the novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, both by Lovecraft.Pnakotic Manuscripts
The Pnakotic Manuscripts (or Pnakotic Fragments) is a fictional manuscript in the Cthulhu Mythos. The tome was created by H. P. Lovecraft and first appeared in his short story "Polaris" (1918). They are mentioned in many of Lovecraft's stories, including "The Other Gods" (1933), The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926), The Whisperer in Darkness, At the Mountains of Madness (1936), "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", The Shadow Out of Time (1936) and "The Haunter of the Dark". The manuscripts are also referred to by other Mythos authors, such as Lin Carter and Brian Lumley.
The Pnakotic Manuscripts are noteworthy for being the first of Lovecraft's fictional arcane books. More Lovecraft stories mention the Pnakotic Manuscripts than any other fictitious "forbidden book" -- including the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, the Book of Eibon (a.k.a. Liber Ivonis), Comte d'Erlotte's Cultes des Goules and von Juntz's Unassprechenlichen Kulten -- except the fabled Necronomicon.Sarkomand
Sarkomand is a fictional city in H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories, first mentioned in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.A ruined city on the northern shore of the Cerenerian Sea in the Dreamlands, it is described as being inhabited by the Men of Leng and was supposedly the capital of this race's realm in the distant past before they were conquered by the moon-beasts. The most prominent feature of Sarkomand is the Winged Lions guarding the trapdoor beneath which a spiral staircase descends into the Dark Abyss of the Dreamlands' underworld.
The city's name may have been inspired by Samarkand.Shantak
A shantak is a fictional creature in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft. It is also part of the Cthulhu Mythos. The creature first appeared in Lovecraft's novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926).Thalarion
Thalarion is a fictional location appearing in several unrelated works.The Cats of Ulthar
"The Cats of Ulthar" is a short story written by American fantasy author H. P. Lovecraft in June 1920. In the tale, an unnamed narrator relates the story of how a law forbidding the killing of cats came to be in a town called Ulthar. As the narrative goes, the city is home to an old couple who enjoy capturing and killing the townspeople's cats. When a caravan of wanderers passes through the city, the kitten of an orphan (Menes) traveling with the band disappears. Upon hearing of the couple's violent acts towards cats, Menes invokes a prayer before leaving town that causes the local felines to swarm the cat-killers' house and devour them. Upon witnessing the result, the local politicians pass a law forbidding the killing of cats.
Influenced by Lord Dunsany, the tale was a personal favorite of Lovecraft's and has remained popular since his death. Considered one of the best short stories of Lovecraft's early period, aspects of The Cats of Ulthar would be referenced again in the author's works The Other Gods and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. It was first published in the literary journal Tryout in November 1920 and now resides in the public domain.The Doom that Came to Sarnath and Other Stories
The Doom That Came to Sarnath and Other Stories is a collection of fantasy and horror stories by H. P. Lovecraft, edited by Lin Carter. It was first published in paperback by Ballantine Books as the twenty-sixth volume of its Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in February 1971. It was the second collection of Lovecraft's works assembled by Carter for the series, the first being The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. The stories were written between 1919 and 1935, and originally published in various fantasy magazines, notably Weird Tales.
The book collects twenty tales from the author's two main series of short stories, the Dream Cycle of Dunsanian fantasies and the Cthulhu Mythos of science fictional horror, with a general introduction, notes, and a partial chronology of Lovecraft's works by the editor. The book is dedicated to Lovecraft's friend, correspondent and posthumous publisher August Derleth.The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a 2016 fantasy novella by Kij Johnson, revisiting H. P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath from the viewpoint of a woman. It was published by Tor.com.The Other Gods
"The Other Gods" is a fantasy short story written by American author H. P. Lovecraft, on August 14, 1921. It was first published in the November 1933 issue of The Fantasy Fan.The Silver Key
"The Silver Key" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1926, considered part of his Dreamlands series. It was first published in the January 1929 issue of Weird Tales. It is a continuation of "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", and was followed by a sequel, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", co-written with E. Hoffmann Price. The story and its sequel both feature Lovecraft's recurring character of Randolph Carter as the protagonist.Ulthar
Ulthar is both a fictional town and a fictional deity. The town of Ulthar is part of H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, appearing in such stories as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926), "The Cats of Ulthar" (1920) and "The Other Gods" (1933).
The town is also the starting point for The Dream Quest of Vellit Boe, a 2016 novel by Kij Johnson which makes significant use of Lovecraft's Dream Cycle.Underworld (Dreamlands)
The underworld is a fictional location in the Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft. It is described in detail in Lovecraft's novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926).
The underworld lies beneath the whole of the Dreamlands and has a few entrances to it in various places. It is dimly lit by a mysterious phosphorescence known as the "death-fire". The underworld is inhabited by a variety of horrors, the most common being the ghouls.