Dreamlands

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The Dreamlands is a fictional location in the Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft, as inspired by Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron Dunsany. It is also the setting for a number of pastiches written by other authors. For the Call of Cthulhu Role-Playing Game setting, see H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands.

The Dreamlands is a vast, alternate dimension that can be entered through dreams, similar to astral projection. Experienced dreamers are among the most powerful inhabitants of the Dreamlands and may become its permanent residents after their physical deaths.

Dunsany's Cosmology

Dunsany's Dreamlands are sometimes referred to in his stories as The Fields of Dream, The Fields We Know Not, and.

Dunsany's Dreamer protagonist typically enters the Dreamlands through a green door in the back of a tiny shop on the obscure "Go-By Street" in London. In Dunsany's cosmology, the Dreamlands and the Fields We Know (the "Daylands" or waking world) are effectively two sides of the same coin, each as much a dream as the other, with Dreamlands poets dreaming of London, even as the poets of London dream of the Fields We Know Not - the Dreamlands: it seems that Dreamlanders are able to travel to the waking world as easily as London's dreamers can travel to the Dreamlands.

The green door in the back of the shop on Go-By Street opens upon an enchanted field in which stand's a cottage inhabited by a witch and her talking Cat, with the field in turn bordering on the River Yann, from which Dunsany's dreamer can hire a boat and explore many cities of Dream and other places of wonder accessible from the banks and tributaries of the River Yann.

For more details on the geography of Dunsany's Dreamlands, see the main article: River Yann

Gods of Dunsany's Dreamlands

See Gods of Pegana for a detailed description of a few of the countless small gods of Dunsany's Dreamlands.


Lovecraft's Cosmology

To reach the Lovecraftian Dreamlands, a sleeper must find an unusual stairway in a conventional dream and walk down the Seventy Steps of Light Slumber to face the judgment of powerful gatekeepers named Nasht and Kaman-Tha. If judged worthy (i.e., able to survive the dangers of the Dreamlands), the dreamer is allowed to descend the Seven Hundred Steps of Deeper Slumber and emerges in the Enchanted Wood. When a person enters the Dreamlands in this way, he leaves his physical body safely in the waking world. Should he be killed during his travels, his corporeal body will only suffer a shock. Sometimes, however, this can be fatal; "dream death" of this kind makes return to the Dreamlands impossible. Waking up causes a person's "dream self" to disappear, and the individual may have difficulty recalling anything learned or experienced during his time asleep (similar to conventional dreaming).

The Dreamlands can be entered in other ways, including physically. This usually requires passing through very dangerous areas of both the waking world and the Dreamlands. Consequently, "real" death becomes a risk. However, the visitor does receive the prolonged lifespan of a native of the Dreamlands, and the traveller's time there is no longer limited to the duration of a night's sleep on earth.

Though the term "Dreamlands" typically refers to the dimension accessible by human dreamers, other inhabited planets apparently have their own dreamlands. Reaching these other realms from the terrestrial Dreamlands is possible, but difficult.

Time flows at a different rate in the Dreamlands; each hour on earth represents a week or more there. Consequently, a traveller can spend months in the Dreamlands during a single night's sleep on earth. Fortunately for dreamers, inhabitants of the Dreamlands are either long-lived or immortal, provided they avoid injury or disease.

Despite its accelerated time, the Dreamlands rarely experiences change. Its geography, politics, and population remain fairly static. Dreamers, however, can exert great change over the topography, such as by creating entire cities with accompanying populations.

The Dreamlands has its own pantheon known as the Great Ones, but they resemble powerful immortals rather than true gods because ordinary humans can wound, deceive, and seduce them. Their dominion is protected, however, from mortal challengers by the dread Other Gods and their messenger Nyarlathotep (who treats the Other Gods and the Great Ones alike with evident contempt). Otherwise, the rest of the deities of the mythos, who figure prominently in Lovecraft's other writings (such as the Great Old Ones and the Outer Gods), have little interest in or influence over the Dreamlands.

Geography of Lovecraft's Dreamlands

The Dreamlands is divided into four continental regions, each named for its cardinal direction.

  • The West is the most well-known region of the Dreamlands and is probably the most peopled as well. It is where dreamers emerge from the Steps of Deeper Slumber. The port of Dylath-Leen, the largest city of the Dreamlands, lies on its coast. The town of Ulthar, where no man may kill a cat, is also located here. Other important cities are Hlanith (a coastal jungle city) and Ilarnek (a desert trade capital). The land of Mnar and the ruins of Sarnath are found at the southern border. The Enchanted Wood of the Zoogs is also found here. It joins the South.
  • The South is the southern coastal region of the continent shared by the West along with the islands of the Southern Sea, including the isle of Oriab, the largest. The South's land-locked regions and its coastal areas are known as the Fantastic Realms, because they contain nightmarish and sometimes incomprehensible zones. Otherwise, the islands of the Southern Sea are fairly normal.
  • The East is a continent that is largely uninhabited, except for Ooth-Nargai. The city of Celephaïs is the capital of Ooth-Nargai and was created from whole cloth by its monarch King Kuranes, the greatest of all recorded dreamers. Beyond Ooth-Nargai are The Forbidden Lands, dangerous realms into which travel is interdicted.
  • The North is a cold, mountainous continent notorious for its Plateau of Leng, a violent region shared by man-eating spiders and satyr-like beings known as the "Men of Leng". The North also has a number of friendlier places, such as the city of Inganok, famous for its onyx quarries. The deepest reaches of the North are said to hold Unknown Kadath, the home of the Great Ones.

In addition to these regions, the Dreamlands has a few other locales that defy conventional description.

  • The Underworld is a subterranean region that runs beneath the whole of the Dreamlands. Its principle inhabitants are ghouls, who can physically enter the waking world through crypts. The Underworld is also home to the Gugs, monstrous giants banished from the surface for untold blasphemies. The Underworld's deepest realm is the Vale of Pnath, a dangerous lightless chasm inhabited by enormous unseen beasts called bholes. Bholes are likely the ancestors of the dholes of Yaddith.
  • The Moon has a parallel in the Dreamlands and is inhabited by the dreaded moon-beasts, amorphous frog-like creatures allied with Nyarlathotep. Interestingly, it is possible for a ship to sail off the edge of the Dreamlands and travel through space to the moon.

The Great Ones of Lovecraft's Dreamlands

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The Great Ones are the "weak gods of earth" that reign in the Dreamlands. They are protected by Nyarlathotep.


The Daylands

"Life is but a dream...."
- from an anonymous nursery rhyme

Also known as the Waking World, The Fields We Know (Dunsany), the "real"/"material"/"natural" world, the Terrestrial Plane (as opposed to the Astral Plane), "Life", etc.

The "waking" or "real world" counterpart to the Dreamlands, the real world can be thought of as being as unreal, dreamlike, and changeable by powerful dreamers (e.g. Cthulhu or Randolph Carter) as the Dreamlands are. It might be in this way that it is possible for such strange and eldritch and seemingly "imaginary" locations as the towns and cities of Lovecraft Country to coincide with what seems otherwise to be the "real world".

See Daylands for more detail.

References

Lovecraft literature

The following Lovecraft stories either take place in or make reference to the Dreamlands:

A Bibliography of Dunsany's Dream and Pegana sories:


Other references

Original Wiki source: Wikipedia