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.
Nightgaunts were inspired by Lovecraft's childhood nightmares. Lovecraft once wrote in a letter to a friend: "When I was 6 or 7 I used to be tormented constantly with a peculiar type of recurrent nightmare in which a monstrous race of entities (called by me 'night-gaunts'—I don't know where I got hold of the name) used to snatch me up [and] carry me off... Undoubtedly I derived the [creatures' appearance] from the jumbled memory of Doré drawings (largely the illustrations to 'Paradise Lost') which fascinated me in waking hours." S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz trace these nightmares to childhood anxiety over the death of his grandmother.
Nightgaunts have a vaguely human shape, but are thin, black, and faceless. Their skin is slick and rubbery. They sport a pair of inward-facing horns on their heads, a long barbed tail, and prehensile paws which are used to "tickle" their victims into submission. They can fly using a set of membranous wings. They make no sound.
Nightgaunts are associated with at least two of the Cthulhu Mythos' deities. Lovecraft's own writings, notably "The Strange High House in the Mist," list them as the servants of Nodens, "Lord of the Great Abyss" (a relatively benevolent, but still incredibly alien entity among Lovecraft's pantheon). Brian Lumley instead associated them with the creature Yibb-Tstll, noting that they "suckle" at the creature's "black breasts" - suggesting that they possess a mouth, which would seem to contradict Lovecraft's description of them as "faceless," although it is possible that the creature's mouths are somehow concealed, or that Lumley was speaking metaphorically.
Nightgaunts guard Ngranek, an infamous mountain on the isle of Oriab, in the Dreamlands. They sometimes capture unwary climbers, tickling them into submission with their claws and barbed tails, and carry them to the lower reaches of the Dreamlands. Nightgaunts are sometimes used as steeds by the ghouls of the deeper Dreamlands, but do not like to fly over bodies of water.
- Pearsall, "NIGHTS-GAUNTS", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 301.
- Joshi, S. T.; Schultz, David E. (2001). An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 203. ISBN 9780313315787.
- Lovecraft, Howard P. (1985) . "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath". In S.T. Joshi (ed.). At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels (7th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-038-6.
- Pearsall, Anthony B. (2005). The Lovecraft Lexicon (1st ed.). Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Pub. ISBN 1-56184-129-3.
Works related to The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath at Wikisource