Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.
— A Walking Song, JRR Tolkien
Whether large or small, gates delineate spaces and communicate boundaries. They may deny entrance or stand ajar, welcoming the wanderers and explorers into the spaces they protect. They may conceal hidden things of great significance and value, as in The Secret Garden, or in their fall, put an entire city at risk, as in Lord of the Rings. To pass through a gate is to leave one realm and enter the next, therefore a sense of transition (for good or ill) accompanies the passage.
In centuries past, gates often served as the sole means of entrance into a walled city or castle dwelling. They might be purely functional or display the grandeur of a civilization in their towering splendor. Grand gates might stand in front of cities or palaces, but in private dwellings and more modern times, gates are often simpler, marking the limits of homes and gardens and dividing private realms from public.
When it comes to worlds real or fantastic, the security of a people and confidence in their welfare may dictate the kind of gates they use–practical or ornamental. A culture might shun the use of gates altogether, believing all spaces must be open and shared. Or perhaps gates convey levels and hierarchies in certain cities, boundaries that only those of certain status may cross.
Whether or not gates play a role in your storyworld or the books you enjoy, I hope you find some inspiration in these examples of gates in our world:
Image credit: muffet1
Image credit: true2source
Image source: Adrian Midgley
Image credit: Pat Dalton
Image credit: bjearwick
Am I the only one who finds gates (and the promise of what’s behind them) intriguing? Do gates have a role to play in the stories you write or books you’ve enjoyed?