Nyarlathotep (short story)

"Nyarlathotep" is a prose poem[1] by H. P. Lovecraft. It was written in 1920 and first saw publication in that year's November issue of The United Amateur.[2] The poem itself is a bleak view of human civilization in decline, and it explores the mixed sensations of desperation and defiance in a dying society.[3]

AuthorH. P. Lovecraft
CountryUnited States
Published inThe United Amateur
Publication typePeriodical
Media typePrint (magazine)
Publication dateNovember 1920


"Nyarlathotep" was based on one of Lovecraft's dreams.[4] The first body paragraph of the poem was written "while he was still half-asleep".[5] The poem, which stands as the first appearance of the titular Cthulhu Mythos entity Nyarlathotep,[6] was described by Lovecraft as "a nightmare".[7] In the inspiring dream, Lovecraft read a letter from his friend Samuel Loveman that contained an invitation, which is as follows:


The story is written in first person and begins by describing a strange and inexplicable sense of foreboding experienced by humanity in general, in anticipation of a great unknown evil.

The story proceeds to describe the appearance of Nyarlathotep as a "man" of the race of the Pharaohs, who claims to have been dormant for the past twenty-seven centuries, and his subsequent travels from city to city demonstrating his supernatural powers. Wherever Nyarlathotep went, the story relates, the inhabitants' sleep would be plagued by vivid nightmares.

The story describes Nyarlathotep's arrival in the narrator's city, and the narrator's attendance at one of Nyarlathotep's demonstrations, in which he defiantly dismisses Nyarlathotep's displays of power as mere tricks. The party of observers is driven away by an infuriated Nyarlathotep, and wanders off into at least three columnal groups: One disappears around a corner, from which is then heard a moaning sound; another disappears into a subway station with the sound of mad laughter; and the third group, which contains the narrator, travels outward from the city toward the country.

The story ends by describing horrific, surreal vistas experienced by the party, in which they realize horror and doom have come to the world.

Other Media

  • Nyarlathotep and elements from the short story of the same name feature prominently in Lovecraftian: The Shipwright Circle by Steven Philip Jones. The Lovecraftian series reimagines the weird tales of H. P. Lovecraft into one single universal modern epic.


  1. Lovecraft, H. P. (February 16, 2010). Writings in the United Amateur, 1915–1922. Project Gutenberg. p. 128. ASIN B0039GL2GI. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  2. Joshi, S. T. (2001). A Dreamer and a Visionary: H. P. Lovecraft in His Time. Liverpool University Press. p. 140. ISBN 0-85323-946-0.
  3. Joshi, S. T. (1996). A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft. Rockville, Maryland: Wildside Press. p. 68. ISBN 1-880448-61-0.
  4. Joshi, S. T.; Schultz, David E. (2001). An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 191. ISBN 0-313-31578-7.
  5. Ramos, Octavio. "Lovecraftian Beasties: The Many Forms of Nyarlathotep". AXS. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  6. Burleson, Donald R. (1983). H. P. Lovecraft, a Critical Study. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 73. ISBN 0-313-23255-5.
  7. Emrys, Ruthanna; Pillsworth, Anne M. "Deities in Brief: "Azathoth" and "Nyarlathotep"". Tor.com. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  8. Khazeni, Dorna. "Church of Monsters". The Believer. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
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