Through the Gates of the Silver Key

"Through the Gates of the Silver Key" is a short story co-written by American writers H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price between October 1932 and April 1933. A sequel to Lovecraft's "The Silver Key", and part of a sequence of stories focusing on Randolph Carter, it was first published in the July 1934 issue of Weird Tales.

Weird Tales July 1934
Cover of Weird Tales issue of July 1934, the first publication of the short story.

Plot

At a gathering to decide the fate of Randolph Carter's estate (which has been held in trust since his disappearance) the mysterious Swami Chandraputra, who wears curious mittens and enveloping robes, tells Carter's acquaintances of his ultimate fate. He explains that the key took Carter to a type of higher dimension. There, Carter, on an ill-defined mission (or out of sheer curiosity), travelled strange sections of the cosmos by first meeting with 'Umr at-Tawil, a dangerous being warned of in the Necronomicon, saying those who deal with it never return. 'Umr at-Tawil offers Carter a chance to plunge deeper into the cosmos; Carter thus perceives the true nature of the universe before passing through the "Ultimate Gate."

After passing through the Ultimate Gate, Carter (now reduced to a disembodied facet of himself) encounters an Entity, implied to be Yog-Sothoth itself. This being explains that all conscious beings are facets of much greater beings, which exist outside the traditional model of three dimensions. Carter himself is a facet of this particular being, the Supreme Archetype, made up of the greatest thinkers of the universe. The Entity, appearing to be proud of Carter's accomplishments, offers to grant him a wish relating to the many facets of which it is a part. Carter explains that he would love to know more about the facets of a particular long-extinct race on a distant planet, Yaddith, which is constantly threatened by the monstrous Dholes. He has been having persistent dreams about Yaddith in the last few months. The Supreme Archetype accomplishes this by transferring Carter's consciousness into the body of one of his facets among that race, that of Zkauba the wizard, though not before warning Carter to have memorized all his symbols and rites. Carter arrogantly believes that the Silver Key alone will accomplish this claim, but it soon transpires Carter's wish was a mistake; he cannot escape, and is trapped in Zkauba's body. The two beings find each other repugnant, but are now trapped in the same body, periodically changing dominance.

After a vast amount of time trapped on Yaddith, Carter finds a means of suppressing the alien mind with drugs, and then uses their technology, along with the Silver Key to return both to the present and to Earth, where Carter can retrieve his manuscript with the symbols he needs to work on regaining his original body. Once there, the Swami reports, Carter did find the manuscript and promptly contacted Swami Chandraputra, instructing him to go to the meeting to say he would soon be along to reclaim his estate and to continue to hold it in trust. After the Swami finishes the tale, one in the party, the lawyer Aspinwall (who is Carter's cousin), accuses Swami Chandraputra of telling a false tale in an attempt to steal the estate, claiming that he is some kind of conman in a disguise. As Aspinwall tears at the Swami's masklike face and beard, it is revealed that the Swami is not human at all, but Carter, still trapped in Zkauba's hideous body. The other witnesses don't see Carter/Zkauba's true face, but Aspinwall suffers a fatal heart attack. The crisis causes Zkauba's mind to reassert itself, and the alien wizard enters a curious, coffin-shaped clock (implied to be Carter/Zkauba's means of transport to Earth) and disappears.

The tale ends with a vague postscript, speculating that the Swami was merely a common criminal who hypnotized the others to escape. However, the postscript notes, some of the story's details seem eerily accurate.

Inspiration

The story has its origins in Price's enthusiasm for an earlier Lovecraft tale. "One of my favorite HPL stories was, and still is, 'The Silver Key'," Price wrote in a 1944 memoir. "In telling him of the pleasure I had had in rereading it, I suggested a sequel to account for [protagonist] Randolph Carter's doings after his disappearance."[1] After convincing an apparently reluctant Lovecraft to agree to collaborate on such a sequel, Price wrote a 6,000-word draft in August 1932; in April 1933, Lovecraft produced a 14,000-word version that left unchanged, by Price's estimate, "fewer than fifty of my original words,"[2] though An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia reports that Lovecraft "kept as many of Price's conceptions as possible, as well as some of his language." Thus many of the central ideas of the story like 'Umr at-Tawil, the talk of mathematical planes and multiple facets of Randolph Carter throughout Time and Space come from Price, who was well read in neoplatonic thought, theosophy and the occult. Even the quote from the Necronomicon is mainly by Price in outline though put in more Lovecraftian language [3] The sub-plot about Yaddith was entirely Lovecraft's idea however. Hoffman Price's tales were oriental, and 'Umr at-Tawil was merely an Arab who had preternaturally long life in his draft.

In any case, Price was pleased with the result, writing that Lovecraft "was right of course in discarding all but the basic outline. I could only marvel that he had made so much of my inadequate and bungling start."[4] The story appeared under both authors' bylines in the July 1934 issue of Weird Tales; Price's draft was published as "The Lord of Illusion" in Crypt of Cthulhu No. 10 in 1982.

Reception

Lovecraft scholar Will Murray says of "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", "As a Dunsanian fantasy, the Price/Lovecraft collaboration is a failure; as a Mythos story, it is rich with ideas, but curiously diluted."[5] In A Thousand Plateaus (1980), Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari called the story one of Lovecraft's masterpieces.[6]

References

  1. ^ E. Hoffman Price, The Acolyte, 1944; cited in Carter, p. 93.
  2. ^ Carter, p. 93.
  3. ^ Joshi and Schultz, p. 213.
  4. ^ Carter, p. 94.
  5. ^ Will Murray, "Tentacles in Dreamland: Cthulhu Mythos Elements in the Dunsanian Stories", Black Forbidden Things, p. 32.
  6. ^ Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix (translated by Brian Massumi). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, p. 240, 539

Sources

  • S. T. Joshi and David Schultz, An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia.
  • Robert M. Price, editor, Black Forbidden Things.

External links

At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels

At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels is a collection of stories by American author H. P. Lovecraft. It was originally published in 1964 by Arkham House in an edition of 3,552 copies. The true first edition has no head- or tailbands and features a green dustjacket (as depicted right). (Later states of the dustjacket are red and orange).

The collection was revised in 1986 by S. T. Joshi, replacing the introduction by August Derleth for one by Joshi and another by James Turner. It was published in an edition of 3,990 copies and designated a "corrected 5th printing".

Dhole (Cthulhu Mythos)

Dholes, also called bholes, are fictitious creatures described in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft.

Below him the ground was festering with gigantic Dholes, and even as he looked, one reared up several hundred feet and leveled a bleached, viscous end at him.

—H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key".

Dholes are huge, slimy worm-like creatures, at least several hundred feet long. Because they avoid daylight and are covered in viscous goo, their features are nearly impossible to discern. Similar creatures called bholes exist in the Vale of Pnath in the Dreamlands.

Now Carter knew from a certain source that he was in the vale of Pnath, where crawl and burrow the enormous bholes; but he did not know what to expect, because no one has ever seen a bhole, or even guessed what such a thing may be like. Bholes are known only by dim rumour from the rustling they make amongst mountains of bones and the slimy touch they have when they wriggle past one. They cannot be seen because they creep only in the dark.

—H. P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

In The White People by Arthur Machen, whom Lovecraft admired, there is mention of "Dôls", but no description is given. In The Illuminatus! Trilogy, both the Dôls of Machen and Dholes of Lovecraft are mentioned as being references to mythical creatures associated with the Illuminati.

In addition, a Dhol appears in T. E. D. Klein's novel The Ceremonies in the form of a small, scurrying creature which possesses the bodies of various characters and animals. Klein makes reference to Machen's The White People throughout his novel.

Dholes appear to be related to (or perhaps identical with) Cthulhu-mythos author Brian Lumley's chthonians and their vermiform god, Shudde M'ell. Like dholes, chthonians are huge, worm-like creatures covered in viscous slime who live deep underground.

Dream Cycle

The Dream Cycle is a series of short stories and novellas by author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937). Written between 1918 and 1932, they concern themselves with the "Dreamlands", a vast, alternate dimension that can only be entered via dreams.

E. Hoffmann Price

Edgar Hoffmann Price (July 3, 1898 – June 18, 1988) was an American writer of popular fiction (he was a self-titled 'fictioneer') for the pulp magazine marketplace. He collaborated with H. P. Lovecraft on "Through the Gates of the Silver Key".

Extraterrestrial places in the Cthulhu Mythos

The following fictional celestial bodies figure prominently in the Cthulhu Mythos stories of H. P. Lovecraft and other writers. Many of these astronomical bodies have parallels in the real universe, but are often renamed in the mythos and given fictitious characteristics. In addition to the celestial places created by Lovecraft, the mythos draws from a number of other sources, including the works of August Derleth, Ramsey Campbell, Lin Carter, Brian Lumley, and Clark Ashton Smith.

Overview:

Name. The name of the celestial body appears first.

Description. A brief description follows.

Fire vampire

Fire vampires are fictional characters in the Cthulhu Mythos. The term refers to two distinct types of beings: the Flame Creatures of Cthugha, created by August Derleth, and the Fire Vampires of Fthaggua, created by Donald Wandrei.

Harley Warren

Harley Warren is a fictional character created by H. P. Lovecraft, based on his friend Samuel Loveman (1887–1976). Lovecraft had a dream about Loveman, which inspired him to write the short story "The Statement of Randolph Carter" in 1919. In the story, Warren is a mysterious occultist and friend of Carter (Lovecraft's alter ego), who suffers a gruesome but undefined fate while exploring a crypt in Big Cypress Swamp.

Lovecraft mentions Warren in two other short stories. In "The Silver Key", which he wrote in 1926, he describes Harley Warren as "a man in the south, who was shunned and feared for the blaspemous [sic] things he read in prehistoric books and clay tablets smuggled from India and Arabia". The story's sequel, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", presents Warren as an expert linguist who has mastered the primal Naacal language of the Himalayas. Lovecraft cowrote this latter work with E. Hoffmann Price; they collaborated on the piece from October 1932 to April 1933.

What singles out Warren from Lovecraft's many other doomed characters is his self-sacrificial, gentle nature (he pleads with Carter to put back the crypt's slab and flee while he still has a chance to get away), combined with a sinister element that is more in keeping with Lovecraft's other ambiguous anti-heroes such as Richard Upton Pickman and Herbert West (Carter describes Warren's expression as "disquieting" when he talks about his occult theories).

In a letter to Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft proposes that Warren may have been destroyed by a "begetting entity" in Smith's tale "The Nameless Offspring".

A character who bears a resemblance to Warren is Clark Ashton Smith's antehuman sorcerer Haon-Dor (from "The Seven Geases"), another seeker after forbidden lore. Warren is also mentioned in Brian Lumley's Titus Crow series as a member of a Bostonian group of psychics.

Lomar

Lomar is a fictional land in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, first mentioned in his short story "Polaris" (1918).

Out of the Aeons

"Out of the Aeons" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald, a writer from Somerville, Massachusetts. First published in the April 1935 issue of Weird Tales magazine, it was one of five stories Lovecraft revised for Heald. It focuses on a Boston museum that displays an ancient mummy recovered from a sunken island.

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.

R'lyeh

R'lyeh is a fictional lost city that first appeared in the H. P. Lovecraft short story "The Call of Cthulhu", first published in Weird Tales in June 1928. In the story, R'lyeh is a sunken city in the South Pacific and the prison of the entity called Cthulhu.

The nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh…was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults.

Randolph Carter

Randolph Carter is a recurring fictional character in H. P. Lovecraft's fiction and is, presumably, an alter ego of Lovecraft himself. The character first appears in "The Statement of Randolph Carter", a short story Lovecraft wrote in 1919 based on one of his dreams. An American magazine called The Vagrant published the story in May 1920.

Carter shares many of Lovecraft's personal traits: He is an uncelebrated author, whose writings are seldom noticed. A melancholy figure, Carter is a quiet contemplative dreamer with a sensitive disposition, prone to fainting during times of emotional stress. But he can also be courageous, with enough strength of mind and character to face and foil the horrific creatures of the Dreamlands, as described in the stories of the Dream Cycle.

Supernatural Horror in Literature

"Supernatural Horror in Literature" is a long essay by American writer H. P. Lovecraft, surveying the topic of horror fiction. It was written between November 1925 and May 1927 and revised during 1933–1934. It was first published in 1927 in the one-issue magazine The Recluse. More recently, it was included in the collection Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1965).

Lovecraft examines the beginnings of weird fiction in the gothic novel (relying greatly on Edith Birkhead's 1921 survey The Tale of Terror) and traces its development through such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe (who merits his own chapter). Lovecraft names as the four "modern masters" of horror: Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, M. R. James, and Arthur Machen.

An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia terms the work "HPL's most significant literary essay and one of the finest historical analyses of horror literature." Upon reading the essay, M. R. James proclaimed Lovecraft's style "most offensive". However,

Edmund Wilson, who was not an admirer of Lovecraft's fiction, praised the essay as a "really able piece of

work...he had read comprehensively in this field—he was strong on the Gothic novelists—and

writes about it with much intelligence". David G. Hartwell has called "Supernatural Horror in Literature", "the most important essay on horror literature".

Tartary

Tartary (Latin: Tartaria) or Great Tartary (Latin: Tartaria Magna) was a historical region in northern and central Asia stretching eastwards from the Caspian Sea and from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, inhabited mostly by Turkic peoples.

The vast region spanned much of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, Volga-Urals, the Caucasus, Siberia, Central Asia, Mongolia, and Manchuria.

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

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 Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories

The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories is Penguin Classics' third omnibus edition of works by 20th-century American author H. P. Lovecraft. It was released in September 2004 and is still in print.

This edition is the third in Penguin Classics' series of paperback collections. It collects the "definitive" editions of Lovecraft's popular stories as edited by S. T. Joshi.

Its companion volumes from Penguin Classics are The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (2001), and The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (2001).

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.

Whipple Van Buren Phillips

Whipple Van Buren Phillips (November 22, 1833 – March 28, 1904) was an American businessman from Providence, Rhode Island who also had mining interests in Idaho. He was most notable as the grandfather of H. P. Lovecraft, whom he raised with his daughters and encouraged to have an appreciation of literature, especially classical literature and English poetry.

Yog-Sothoth

Yog-Sothoth is a cosmic entity in the fictional Cthulhu Mythos and Dream Cycle of American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Yog-Sothoth's name was first mentioned in Lovecraft's novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (written 1927, first published 1941). The being is said to take the form of a conglomeration of glowing spheres.

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