The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
Created: February 2017 | Updated:

This article uses material from the The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath article on the Lovecraft wiki at Fandom and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is a novella by H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937). Begun probably in the autumn of 1926, it was completed on January 22, 1927 and was unpublished in his lifetime.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.

Plot summary

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 none 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.


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 like 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.

An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia cites Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Marble Faun and "The Great Stone Face" as influences.


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 1948, Arthur C. Clarke sent Lord Dunsany a copy of The Arkham Sampler containing part of The Dream-Quest. Dunsany responded: "I see Lovecraft borrowed my style, & I don't grudge it to him".


In 1988, a videogame adaptation for ZX-Spectrum titled The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath was released.[1]

In 1995, the German prog rock band Payne's Gray released a concept CD based on Dream-Quest, Kadath Decoded.[2][3]

From 1997-1999, a five-issue comic book adaptation was drawn by Jason Thompson.

The art of Thompson's comic was used as the basis for an animated feature film adaptation of the novel, directed by Edward Martin III, with Thompson's involvement in drawing additional art and help from volunteers and Lovecraft fans from around the world. The film premiered on October 11, 2003 at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and was later released on DVD. [4][5] In 2004, the film's composer Cyoakha Grace O'Manion released a concept album featuring the film's original soundtrack with extended tracks and additional music, called Unknown Music from Dream Quest of Kadath. [6] In November 2011, Thompson successfully raised money on Kickstarter for the graphic novel The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and Other Stories, containing a reprint of his 122-page Kadath story, and three additional stories from the Dreamlands series. The book began shipping in March 2012.[7]

In 2007 a concept album titled Kadath - The Dream Quest was released by XCross.[8]

In 2012, issue one of a comic adaptation titled The Dream Quest of Randolph Carter drawn by Oxford artist Charles Cutting was released.[9][10] In 2015 Sloth Comics released the completed adaptation [11]

In November 2014, a graphic novel adaptation by I.N.J. Culbard was released by the independent publishing house Self Made Hero.[12]