The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 10 February 2024
  • Updates planned: 1

Gate of the Dead Men

The southern opening of the Paths of the Dead

Map of the Gate of the Dead Men

A high, arched gateway in the southern White Mountains, leading out from the Paths of the Dead and opening into the Morthond Vale. The river Morthond had its springs within the caverns beneath the mountains, and ran out through the Gate of the Dead Men. The stream flowed on beside a road1 that ran out of the gate and through a narrow shadowed ravine before emerging at the head of the vale. Through the Third Age, when the Dead Men occupied the Paths of the Dead, they would pass at times through this southern gate and assemble on the Hill of Erech, filling the upper Morthond Vale with fear.

During the War of the Ring, Aragorn and his companions passed through the Paths of the Dead, entering through their northern Gate beneath the Dwimorberg. Giving the Dead a means to fulfil their ancient oath and break the curse that held them, Aragorn led them out through the southern Gate of the Dead Men and up onto the Hill of Erech, where he swore to release them in return for their aid. He then marched away to war in the east, and the Dead followed, never to return. The Paths of the Dead were left deserted after this time, and the Gate of the Dead Men led only into empty darkness beneath the mountains.


The canonicity of the name 'Gate of the Dead Men' is slightly tenuous. Though the southern gateway of the Paths of the Dead is described in a certain amount of detail in The Lord of the Rings, it is not given a name in that book. The name 'Gate of the Dead Men' appears only in Christopher Tolkien's index to Unfinished Tales, and it may be his coinage rather than his father's. This gate is not to be confused with the 'Gate of the Dead' (or 'Door of the Dead') that led into the Paths of the Dead from the other, northern, side of the White Mountains.

It might also be noted that the identity of the gate is not absolutely clear. The specific wording used by Christopher Tolkien in his index, discussing the Morthond Vale, is that '...through it passed the road from the Gate of the Dead Men,...'. In the body of this entry, we've taken this to mean that the 'Gate of the Dead Men' was the gate that opened directly onto the road (that is, the southern gate of the Paths of the Dead). An alternative reading here, however, might be that the gate in question was actually the northern Gate of the Dead. On balance, this seems rather less likely (omitting as it does the entire Paths of the Dead running beneath the White Mountains) but it is not perhaps inconceivable. On this alternative reading, the 'Gate of the Dead Men' would simply be an alternative name for the more fully attested 'Gate of the Dead' that led into the Paths of the Dead from their northen side.


Notes

1

It is not explained how or when this road was made, or by whom. The people of the Blackroot Vale were terrified of the Dead, and would hardly have constructed a road into their domain. Of the Door of the Dead on the northern side of the White Mountains, we're specifically told that it was made by the Dead themselves, so presumably they also created this route from the southern gate. They were said to gather at times on the Hill of Erech beyond the gateway, so we can probably take it that they made the road from the gate to the hill, and also the arched gate itself.

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 10 February 2024
  • Updates planned: 1

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 2023-2024. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Your Free Personality Test, the free personality test online
Are you ready for Your Free Personality Test? Take the ten-minute test online today and see your own eye-opening personality report.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Menu
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry