The Doom that Came to Sarnath

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"The Doom that Came to Sarnath"
Author H.P. Lovecraft
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Fantasy short story
Published in The Scot
Publication date 1920

"The Doom that Came to Sarnath" (1920) is an early short story by H. P. Lovecraft. It is written in a mythic/fairy tale style and is associated with his Dream Cycle. It was first published in The Scot, a Scottish amateur fiction magazine, in June 1920.

The Doom That Came to Sarnath and Other Stories is also the title for a collection of short stories by Lovecraft, first published in February 1971.


The influence of Lord Dunsany on the story can be seen in the reference to a throne "wrought of one piece of ivory, though no man lives who knows whence so vast a piece could have come", which evokes the gate "carved out of one solid piece" of ivory in Dunsany's "Idle Days on the Yann".[1]

Though Sarnath is a historical city in India—the place where the Buddha first taught—Lovecraft said that he thought he invented the name independently.[2]

The message of doom written on the altar and the destruction of Sarnath during an impious feast are related to the story of Belshazzar's feast in Daniel, Chapter 5. Indeed, the description of Sarnath echoes many accounts of the glory and fate of ancient Babylon, particularly in the Bible.[citation needed][according to whom?]

The Doom that Came to Sarnath Ancient reference to Babylon
"... and the precious metals from the earth were exchanged for other metals and rare cloths and jewels and books and tools for artificers and all things of luxury..." "The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen...", etc.

Revelation 18:12-13

"Of polished desert-quarried marble were its walls, in height three hundred cubits and in breadth seventy-five, so that chariots might pass each other as men drove them along the top." "The wall is 385 stadia in circumference, and 32 feet in thickness... The roadway upon the walls will allow chariots with four horses when they meet to pass each other with ease."

Strabo, Geography XVI, 1, 5

"Within his banquet-hall reclined Nargis-Hei, the king, drunken with ancient wine from the vaults of conquered Pnoth, and surrounded by feasting nobles and hurrying slaves." "Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein."

Daniel 5:1-2

"... and caravans sought that accursed city and its precious metals no more. It was long ere any travelers went thither..." "The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing", "... and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee."

Revelation 18:15, 22


According to the tale, more than 10,000 years ago, a race of shepherd people colonized the banks of the river Ai in a land called Mnar, forming the cities of Thraa, Ilarnek, and Kadatheron (not to be confused with Kadath), which rose to great intellectual and mercantile prowess. Craving more land, a group of these hardy people migrated to the shores of a lonely and vast lake at the heart of Mnar, founding the metropolis of Sarnath.

But the settlers were not alone. At the other side of the lake was the ancient, grey-stone city of Ib, inhabited by a queer race who had descended from the moon. Lovecraft described them as "in hue as green as the lake and the mists that rise above it.... They had bulging eyes, pouting, flabby lips, and curious ears, and were without voice."[3]

These beings worshipped a strange god known as Bokrug, the Great Water Lizard, although it was more their physical form that caused the people of Sarnath to despise them.

The people of Sarnath killed the creatures inhabiting Ib and took their idol as a trophy. The next night, the idol vanished under peculiar circumstances, and Taran-Ish, the high-priest of Sarnath, was found dead. Before dying, he had scrawled a single sign on the altar: "DOOM".

Ten centuries later, Sarnath was at the zenith of its power and decadence. Nobles from distant cities were invited to the feast in honour of Ib's destruction. That night, however, the revelry was disrupted by strange lights over the lake and heavy greenish mists, and that the tidal marker, the granite pillar Akurion, was mostly submerged. Not too much later, many of the city's inhabitants fled, maddened by fear, as the king and the people in the feast had been transformed into the original creatures from Ib.

After this some of the survivors reported seeing the long-dead inhabitants of Ib peering from the windows of the city's towers, while others refused to say exactly what they had seen. Those that returned saw nothing of those unlucky enough to be left behind, only ruins, many water lizards, and most disturbingly, the missing idol. Ever since then, Bokrug remained the chief god in the land of Mnar.

Connections to other works by Lovecraft[edit]

In the story "The Quest of Iranon", the title character says, "I...have gazed on the marsh where Sarnath once stood." When the narrator of "The Nameless City" sees the eponymous ruins, he says he "thought of Sarnath the Doomed, that stood in the land of Mnar when mankind was young, and of Ib, that was carven of grey stone before mankind existed." In At the Mountains of Madness, the city of the Elder Things is described as "a megalopolis ranking with such whispered prehuman blasphemies as Valusia, R'lyeh, Ib in the land of Mnar, and the Nameless City of Arabian Desert."

The inhabitants of Ib are known in the works of author Lin Carter as the Thuum'ha.

References in other media[edit]

The story is reflected in several tracks by Swedish death metal band Demiurg: "City of Ib", "Sarnath", and "Opus Morbidity".

Mike Mignola's Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham[4] is an Elseworlds story which combines the character Batman with various elements of the Cthulhu mythos, and takes its name from "The Doom that Came to Sarnath".


  1. ^ Joshi and Schultz, p. 70.
  2. ^ Joshi and Schultz, p. 69.
  3. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, "The Doom that Came to Sarnath".
  4. ^ Mignola, Mike and Pace, Richard (2000) Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, DC Comics


  • Lovecraft, Howard P. (1986) [1920]. "The Doom That Came to Sarnath". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-039-4.  Definitive version.

External links[edit]