The H.P. Lovecraft Wiki

This subject contains information from the "Lovecraft Circle" Myth Cycles, and while guided by HPL are not based on his work alone. Nephren-Ka, "The Black Pharaoh" (also called Nophru-Ka) is a fictional pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, invented by H. P. Lovecraft, who depicted him as a worshipper of the Outer God Nyarlathotep. Later versions of the Cthulhu Mythos presented him as an avatar of Nyarlathotep himself.

In Lovecraft's Fiction[]

Lovecraft first mentioned Nephren-Ka in the short story "The Outsider" (written in March-August 1921, and published in April 1926), whose narrator says near the story's close:

Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb, nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid....

Nephren-Ka is alluded to briefly in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927/1941), in which necromancer Edward Hutchinson signs one of his letters, "Nephren-Ka nai Hadoth, Edw. H." This seems to be some sort of invocation; his colleague Simon Orne signed a letter "Yogg-Sothoth Neblod Zin, Simon O." The most extensive treatment of the character in Lovecraft comes in "The Haunter of the Dark" (1935/1936), where he forms part of the history of the Shining Trapezohedron:

The Pharaoh Nephren-Ka built around it a temple with a windowless crypt, and did that which caused his name to be stricken from all monuments and records. Then it slept in the ruins of that evil fane which the priests and the new Pharaoh destroyed, till the delver’s spade once more brought it forth to curse mankind.


Then down the wide lane betwixt the two columns a lone figure strode; a tall, slim figure with the young face of an antique Pharaoh, gay with prismatic robes and crowned with a golden pshent that glowed with inherent light.
~ HPL: Fragment of "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath".


Nyarlathotep is worshiped in this avatar by the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh.


Nephren-Ka was supposedly the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty of Egypt. He was the one who introduced the cult of the animal-headed gods to that nation and always stood out as a sorcerer. Nyarlathotep was not long in taking an interest in him and, summoning him to the city of Irem, proposed a bloody pact: Nephren-Ka would sacrifice thousands of victims in his honor and Nyarlathotep would give him the gift of prophecy. This was done and Nyarlathotep granted him the power to see the future. He secured the Shining Trapezohedron for Egypt, but after being convinced by the resident Haunter of the Dark, he had a lightless temple created to hold the stone and the deity within. That temple became a center of abominable happenings, and the rites carried out there were so monstrous the temple was destroyed.

According to legend, when Nephren-Ka felt that his life was coming to an end, he took refuge in his own crypt and there he spent what little time he had left writing down on its walls everything that the future of the world held. It is said that the Black Pharaoh was buried in the Bent Pyramid of Dhasur, but the truth is that no remains have been found at the site. It seems that this is because, when he passed away, Nephren-Ka merged with Nyarlathotep and became one of his avatars. It is also said that, years later, Queen Nitocris had a son whom she named Nephren-Ka. According to some rumors, this could be the reincarnation of the Black Pharaoh and would therefore be Nyarlathotep himself in a new human avatar.

Long after his death, Nephren-Ka once appeared to Pharaoh Akhenaten to propose that he resume the cult of Nyarlathotep, but Akhenaten refused and, in addition to this, had Nephren-Ka's name struck out from all records and monuments to let no one remember the atrocities he had committed. For this, Nyarlathotep cursed Akhenaten, causing the collapse of his empire.

Creation and use in the Cthulhu Mythos[]

According to Lin Carter, his mention in The Haunter of the Dark (written in November 1935, and published in the December 1936 edition of Weird Tales) is a reference from Lovecraft to one of Robert Bloch's best stories, "Fane of the Black Pharaoh" (published only in 1938, but whose manuscript had been read by Howard Phillips Lovecraft).(EXP: Lovecraft: a look behind the Cthulhu Mythos)


  • This avatar is especially active in the Dreamlands, where he acts as the guardian of the city of Kadath.
  • In the "Trepanations" story, it is said that the Black Pharaoh received the name of Nimrod Thotep. It is possible that this is due either to the fact that Nephren-Ka used this name as a pseudonym, or to the fact that there was a second Black Pharaoh.
  • For the "Fungi From Yuggoth" RPG campaign, Keith Herber introduced "Nephru-Ka" as the leader of the Brother of the the Black Pharaoh. It is believed to have been a typo corrected in future writings with Herber using "Nephren-Ka" as the former leader of this cult.
  • In the comic "Fall of Cthulhu", Nyarlathotep takes the form of the Black Pharaoh.
  • In the short story. "Andrew Doran and the Curse of Nephren-Ka" by Matthew Davenport, the Pharaoh is briefly resurrected to menace the titular character.


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