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 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.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an American writer who achieved posthumous fame for his works of weird fiction. Although largely ignored by critics during his lifetime and published mainly in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, Lovecraft is now regarded as an important early 20th-century American writer.
A novella is a text of written, fictional, narrative prose normally longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, somewhere between 17,500 and 40,000 words.
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.
From Sumerian and Akkadian GAL-LU also in Assyrian Aramaic ܓܘܼܠܵܐ /gu'la/.. then ghoul, is a demon or monster originating in pre-Islamic Arabian religion associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh. In modern fiction, the term has often been used for a certain kind of undead monster.
After a moment something about the size of a small horse hopped out into the grey twilight, and Carter turned sick at the aspect of that scabrous and unwholesome beast, whose face is so curiously human despite the absence of a nose, a forehead, and other important particulars.
—H. P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
The ghasts are a race of fearsome humanoids that live in the vaults of Zin. They are much larger than a man and have a vaguely human face, albeit missing a nose. Their skin is rough and knotty. Their senses are unusually acute; they can see in the dark and have a strong sense of smell. They hop about on a pair of hooved, kangaroo-like legs, and are swift, strong, and agile. They have also been described as lacking a forehead. Ghasts prefer to dwell in complete darkness and have no tolerance for natural light — sunlight will kill them instantly. Otherwise, the dim, pale glow of the underworld seems to cause them little harm.
The kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae. In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, especially those of the genus Macropus: the red kangaroo, antilopine kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, and western grey kangaroo. Kangaroos are indigenous to Australia. The Australian government estimates that 34.3 million kangaroos lived within the commercial harvest areas of Australia in 2011, up from 25.1 million one year earlier.
The ghasts are aggressive carnivores and often hunt in packs, though they are quick to turn cannibalistic when no game is readily available. They prey mostly on the gugs, but have no qualms about eating other denizens of the underworld. Their method of attack is particularly savage and gruesome, rending and tearing apart their victims with their muzzles, paws, and hoofed feet.
A carnivore, meaning "meat eater", is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging. Animals that depend solely on animal flesh for their nutrient requirements are called obligate carnivores while those that also consume non-animal food are called facultative carnivores. Omnivores also consume both animal and non-animal food, and, apart from the more general definition, there is no clearly defined ratio of plant to animal material that would distinguish a facultative carnivore from an omnivore. A carnivore at the top of the food chain, not preyed upon by other animals, is termed an apex predator.
It was a paw, fully two feet and a half across, and equipped with formidable talons. After it came another paw, and after that a great black-furred arm to which both of the paws were attached by short forearms. Then two pink eyes shone, and the head of the awakened gug sentry, large as a barrel, wabbled into view. The eyes jutted two inches from each side, shaded by bony protuberances overgrown with coarse hairs. But the head was chiefly terrible because of the mouth. That mouth had great yellow fangs and ran from the top to the bottom of the head, opening vertically instead of horizontally.
—H. P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
Gugs are a race of horrifying giants. They are speechless, communicating only by facial expressions.
The gugs were banished to the underworld by the earth's gods, the Great Ones, for an unnamed blasphemy. Now they reside in a terrifying, underground city, dwelling in lofty, round, cyclopean towers. Nearby, colossal monoliths mark the cemetery of the gugs.
A monolith is a geological feature consisting of a single massive stone or rock, such as some mountains, or a single large piece of rock placed as, or within, a monument or building. Erosion usually exposes the geological formations, which are often made of very hard and solid igneous or metamorphic rock.
A cemetery or graveyard is a place where the remains of dead people are buried or otherwise interred. The word cemetery implies that the land is specifically designated as a burial ground and originally applied to the Roman catacombs. The term graveyard is often used interchangeably with cemetery, but a graveyard primarily refers to a burial ground within a churchyard.
In the midst of the gug city, the Tower of Koth contains a stairway that leads to the Enchanted Wood in the upper Dreamlands. There it is sealed by a huge stone trapdoor with a large iron ring. Because of a curse of the gods, no gug may open that door, though no such restriction prevents a gug from climbing to the very top of the tower.
Gugs prey on the ghasts that live in the Vaults of Zin (though prior to their banishment, they had been known to devour wayward dreamers). When in sufficient numbers, ghasts may likewise prey on the gugs. Though gugs would seem to have the advantage, they nonetheless superstitiously fear ghouls. The gugs often indulge in great feasts and, once engorged, retire to their great towers to sleep.
Nightgaunts are black humanoids with bat-like wings, rubbery bodies, inward pointing horns, barbed tails, and faceless heads. They guard the entrances to the Underworld from dreamers. They inhabit the entrances on the mountain, Ngranek, and are the reason people fear to climb too high on that mountain. They also guard the entrance to the Underworld at Sarkomand and the tops of the mountains that separate the plateau of Leng from Inganok and the Giant's Quarry. They attack at night and are said to "tickle" their prey into submission. The Nightgaunts have been known to take the dreamers who are close to the entrances of the underworld and leave them in the Vale of Pnath, at the mercy of the dholes that dwell there but are never seen. Nightgaunts are very dangerous and are capable of easily taking down Moon Beasts and stealing off dreamers unawares in their travels. It is said that you are more likely to be attacked by a Nightgaunt if you think about them often.
The Night-Gaunts and the Ghouls have a relationship in which the Nightgaunts may act as steeds for the Ghouls and servants. They also serve the Outer God, Nodens. The Shantak-bird has a remarkable fear of Nightgaunts.
The City of the Gugs is a colossal, horrifying cityscape of soaring, cyclopean towers. It is the dwelling place of the gugs, banished to the underworld by a covenant of the gods. Its most prominent landmark is the Tower of Koth, which contains a legendary stairway that leads to the surface.
Close by the city is the cemetery of the gugs, its graves marked by huge stone monoliths. Ghouls often dine here; a deceased gug feeds them for almost a year.
The Crag of the Ghouls is a rugged cliff in the Peaks of Thok, from which the ghouls of deeper dreamland pitch the leftover bones of their sepulchral feasts. Uncounted miles below the crag is the bone-filled "Vale of Pnath."
The Great Abyss is a realm that lies below the ruins of Sarkomand, and is possibly a massive cavern that joins with all parts of the underworld. It connects with the upper Dreamlands by a stairway in Sarkomand.
The Abyss is ruled by the god Nodens, who is served by the night-gaunts. Nodens' influence seems very languid in the underworld and does not appear to extend much beyond the Abyss itself; except perhaps to Ngranek on the isle of Oriab, whose upper slopes are guarded by his night-gaunts.
The Peaks of Thok (or Throk) is a frightening range of towering granite mountains in the underworld.
The vale of Pnath (or Pnoth) is a vast pit in the underworld. It is flanked by the Peaks of Thok and is mostly lightless. The vale is filled with a mountain-sized heap of bones and is "the spot into which all the ghouls of the waking world cast the refuse of their feastings" (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Lovecraft). Enormous worm-like creatures, known as dholes, burrow through the vale. Night-gaunts often carry helpless victims to the vale, where they are left to die.
The Vaults of Zin is a huge cavern in the underworld. It lies near the cemetery of the gugs and opens onto a large cave that "is the mouth of vaults of Zin, and the vindictive ghasts are always on watch there for those denizens of the upper abyss" (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Lovecraft). The ghasts who dwell in the Vaults of Zin prey on ghouls and gugs, and sometimes even one another.
It is possible that a well in the monastery of the High Priest Not to Be Described in the Plateau of Leng connects with the Vaults of Zin.
The Pnakotic Manuscripts 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.
Nightgaunts 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.
The High Priest Not to Be Described is a fictional character in H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle. He first appeared in the Lovecraft short story "Celephaïs" (1920).
Lomar is a fictional land in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, first mentioned in his short story "Polaris" (1918).
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.
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.
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).
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.
"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).
The Cerenerian Sea is a fictional place in H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories. It is mentioned in Lovecraft's short story "Celephaïs" and his novella The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
Oriab is a fictional location in H. P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands. It is a large island in the Southern Sea and is lush and fertile. Its most prominent landmark is the tall, snow-capped mountain Ngranek. It is home to the magah birds that nest in its resin trees.
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".
Nodens is a fictional character in the Cthulhu Mythos. Based on the Celtic deity, Nodens, he is the creation of H. P. Lovecraft and first appeared in his short story "The Strange High House in the Mist" (1926).
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).
The Men of Leng are a fictional race in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft.
Robert Harrison Blake is a fictional character in the Cthulhu Mythos. The character is the creation of H. P. Lovecraft and appears in his short story "The Haunter of the Dark" (1935).
The Enchanted Woods is a fictional place in H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, in Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath novella. Its main inhabitants are the zoogs. Located in the Dreamlands, it contains a unique, haunted tree whose seed originally came from the moon. This tree's sap can be fermented to create a potent drink. A stone trapdoor in these woods leads to the top of the Tower of Koth and from there into the kingdom of the Gugs in the Underworld. However, because of a curse of the Great Ones, no Gug may exit through this portal.
Sarkomand is a fictional city in H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories, first mentioned in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft: Commemorative Edition is a select collection of horror short stories, novellas and novels written by H. P. Lovecraft. The book was published in 2008 by Gollancz and is edited by Stephen Jones.