"Dream-Quest" and "Mountains of Madness": Parallels

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#1
I've felt since my early readings of these two (The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and At the Mountains of Madness) that knowledge of the first aids in experiencing various levels of the second; but for some odd reason, this morning I woke up with a set of what may be seen as parallels between the two, and thought I'd bring that in for discussion (should anyone be interested). These are mostly idle thoughts, and I may be dead wrong with some of them, but nonetheless the following list could get the ball rolling:

Both involve quests -- the first for a city of his dreams, the second to expand knowledge; both end in enlightenment -- the first more happily than the second (a very rare instance in Lovecraft of a protagonist emerging whole from such an enlightenment... albeit by the skin of his teeth, as it were; and most likely reflecting Lovecraft's own emotional state following his return to Providence from his "exile" in New York)

The Old Ones as parallel to the inhabitants of Inganok: both are almost semi-mythical, viewed with fear and awe; both are presented sympathetically in the end

Both present an unknown mountain range supposedly the highest in the world, only to be surpassed by a yet higher range and/or a single mountain ("Everest out of the running", as it is put in At the Mountains of Madness); the later tale also specifically mentions Kadath and the myths surrounding it, as well

Both, of course, hold many Dunsanian referents -- the earlier tale is even written in a pseudo-Dunsanian style, deals with many of the sorts of things one encounters in Dunsany's early work; while the latter makes references to Dunsany's dream tales and the like

Danforth's final vision in Mountains as parallel to Carter's chaotic ride on the shantak and the visions there; in both cases while leaving the site of their "enlightenment"

And a rather strange and very questionable one: the shoggoth as Nyarlathotep -- that is, filling something of the same role (not to mention both being chaotic in shape); the shoggoth recalling to Danforth and Dyer "the familiar stations of the Boston-Cambridge tunnel that burrowed through our peaceful native soil thousands of miles away in New England", while Nyarlathotep recalls to Carter his childhood in New England as the reality behind his marvellous sunset city of dreams -- and both instances forming and solidifying the enlightenment of their quests

Well, there it is. I would imagine there are other similarities -- and, of course, more differences than similarities -- but that's what I had in my head on waking this morning, and is enough to get the discusssion going (I hope).

Any thoughts, additions, amplifications, disagreements....?
 

Fried Egg

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#2
Hmmm...having only recently read "Dream Quest", I read "Mountains of Madness" a year or so ago, I must admit that parallels between the two did not occur to me at the time. I think one would have to agree that the parellels you point out do indeed exist but...some of them are not particularly significant I wouldn't have thought:
Both involve quests -- the first for a city of his dreams, the second to expand knowledge; both end in enlightenment...
Well yes but isn't there a large proportion of his stories that you might accurately describe as a quest for knowledge (and indeed end in enlightenment)? And:
Both, of course, hold many Dunsanian referents -- the earlier tale is even written in a pseudo-Dunsanian style, deals with many of the sorts of things one encounters in Dunsany's early work; while the latter makes references to Dunsany's dream tales and the like
Again I think that these two tales are hardly unique in either being written in a pseudo-Dunsamian prose style or in making references to Dunsany's dream tales. I couldn't immediately give you examples of the latter, I would have to re-examine the stories I have read, but that is the impression I have.

I would say the most compelling parallel is use of impossibly high mountain ranges at the end of the respective quests.
 
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#3
Hmmm...having only recently read "Dream Quest", I read "Mountains of Madness" a year or so ago, I must admit that parallels between the two did not occur to me at the time. I think one would have to agree that the parellels you point out do indeed exist but...some of them are not particularly significant I wouldn't have thought[...]
You may be right, at least on some of the points I raised. That's one of the reasons I brought it in for discussion: to see if others had noted such, or disagreed with what I was seeing. For example:

Well yes but isn't there a large proportion of his stories that you might accurately describe as a quest for knowledge (and indeed end in enlightenment)?
Yes, I suppose you could say there are: Charles Dexter Ward certainly has that as one of its major themes (though the enlightenment there, also, is not happy in outcome), as does "The Shadow Out of Time". I think, too, that this has much to do with a lot of Lovecraft's stories having something of the detective tale about them -- that is, the piecing together of "dissociated knowledge" or apparently dissociated facts until an entire picture emerges, usually with dire results for the investigator.

But, in this case, I was thinking more of a quest which takes the protagonist into "far-flung places" in search of his (or their) goal, and the fact that, in each, it is the poles of the respective worlds at which this enlightenment occurs. I think, also, it helps to note the parallels Lovecraft draws between the Antarctic plateau (especially that whereon lies the city of the Old Ones) and the Plateau of Leng, from the first chapter on, even going to far as to say:

I felt, too, another wave of uneasy consciousness of Archaean mythical resemblances; of how disturbingly this lethal realm corresponded to the evilly famed plateau of Leng in the primal writings. Mythologists have placed Leng in Central Asia; but the racial memory of man -- or of his predecessors -- is long, and it may well be that certain tales have come down from lands and mountains and temples of horror earlier than Asia and earlier than any human world we know.
-- Chapter III​

Which brings me to another point of importance, connected with the idea of Dunsanian dream-realms:

In "Polaris", what we have would seem to be not a dream-realm, strictly, but a former life recalled in dreams; an "ancestral memory" brought back to the protagonist by the position of the Pole Star which had lulled his earlier incarnation to "treacherous slumber" twenty-six thousand years before. In other words, Lovecraft seems to be positing an unknown prehistoric world sometimes accessible through the world of dreams (at least to certain "deep dreamers"), but which nonetheless had a real, objective existence. In some ways, this world seems almost to exist parallel to our own waking world -- a view of time as everything occurring simultaneously and it only being our point of view which makes it appear consecutive which is hinted at elsewhere (e.g., "Through the Gates of the Silver Key". Yet there are differences here, as well, especially with Dream-Quest, where it is obvious that Carter's dream-city (as with Kuranes' Celephaïs) is formed from his own dreams -- in this case, dreams based on the love he bears for his native New England.

At any rate, I would argue that Lovecraft developed the theme of this dream-realm (or realm revealed in dreams) and that of the primal continent of the Antarctic, being closely related, influencing our "collective unconscious" and therefore the development of our myths and dreams. He makes it quite plain that the two are not identical, but that this weird realm discovered by the Miskatonic expedition may indeed be the basis for all such -- a theme similar to what he used with "The Call of Cthulhu", where the beliefs of many occult societies are variations or distortions of the primal truth concerning the dreamer in R'lyeh and the Old Ones (different, of course, from the Old Ones of At the Mountains of Madness), and that this is reflected in the fact that this is a realm where those boundaries break down, something he mentions more than once, and which seems symbolically reflected in the blurring of the separation of earth and sky:

Distant mountains floated in the sky as enchanted cities, and often the whole white world would dissolve into a gold, silver, and scarlet land of Dunsanian dreams and adventurous expectancy under the magic of the low midnight sun. On cloudy days e had considerable trouble in flying, owing to the tendency of snowy earth and sky to merge into one mystical opalescent void with no visible horizon to mark the junction of the two.
-- Chapter I​

This, it seems to me, is a foreshadowing of the later blurring of the boundaries between past and present, waking and dream, and reality and myth.

Some of these, of course, are obviously more in the nature of development of certain themes or motifs common to Lovecraft, rather than true parallels; but their use in each of these, and the peculiar way in which he makes connections between the two realms (subsuming all his Dunsanian tales in Dream-Quest, then subsuming it -- at least by inference -- in At the Mountains of Madness), seems to me something fruitful of investigation.

I'd like to hear your thoughts about these ideas, and any contrary theories of your own....
 

Fried Egg

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#4
I see what you're saying about it being a quest to a far flung place in "Mountains", afterall you could not get more far flung than the antarctic while still being on earth. And also about the dream like imagery in "Mountains" when exploring these new regions.

That said, while both stories end up in impossibly high mountains, their reasons for being there are quite different. In "Dream-quest" Carter is desperate to get to this place so that he may talk to the gods. In "Mountains", they are just explorers, charting unexplorered regions of antarctica who happen to stumble upon this place and underground city.

I don't know, were I to re-read "Mountains" with your theory in mind I'm sure I might notice more parallels (and I do intend to re-read it at some point).
 

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