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  • Updated 22 June 2010
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Seven Gates of Gondolin

The guarded way into Hidden City

Map of the Seven Gates
Schematic map of the Seven Gates of Gondolin (not to scale)1

For most of its history, a hidden way existed into Gondolin from the valley of the River Sirion. The course of the Dry River that Turgon had originally used to find his way through the Crissaegrim still led into a tunnel and a narrow ravine through the mountains, the Orfalch Echor. After the establishment of Gondolin, this way was guarded by seven famous gates, the Gates of Wood, Stone, Bronze, Writhen Iron, Silver, Gold and, finally, the Great Gate, the Gate of Steel.

Turgon's armies passed through the Seven Gates on their way to the great battle that became known as the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. That battle turned to disaster, and though Turgon himself survived, after that time the danger of Morgoth discovering Gondolin became imminent. So Turgon blocked the way into the mountains from the Dry River, and the way into the Hidden City was blocked forever.

I Gate of Wood After passing up the hidden Dry River, and through the darkness of the guarded caverns beneath the Echoriath, a traveller would come to the First Gate. There a carved wooden portcullis barred the way out of the caves, guarding a pillared arch of stone that led out into the Orfalch Echor, the narrow ravine that led through the Mountains to Gondolin.
II Gate of Stone Half a league after the First Gate stood the Second, the Gate of Stone. This was held within a great stone wall that blocked the Orfalch, with a tower on either side. The gate itself was formed from a huge single block of dark stone, mounted on a central pivot; pushed at the right point, the stone would swing out of the wall, allowing travellers to pass through. Behind the gate was a courtyard guarded by warriors liveried in grey.
III Gate of Bronze The Third Gate stood not far along the ravine after the Second, and was held within a wall mounted with three towers plated with copper. The gate itself was plated with bronze, and hung with figured shields. The entire edifice was lit by lamplight that made it shine golden-red, and its courtyard was guarded by bronze-clad Sindar of Nevrast, armed with the traditional axes of that people.
IV Gate of Writhen Iron At the end of a long upward climb from the Third Gate stood the Fourth, the Gate of Writhen Iron. It was guarded by four towers, and between them a great iron statue of Thorondor the Lord of Eagles. The Gate itself was comprised of three grills, which together gave the appearance of the tangled trunks of a forest of iron trees.
V Gate of Silver The Gate of Silver was of a circular form, made of silver and pearl to resemble the Moon, and set in a wall of white marble. On the marble wall stood five marble globes, and on the central globe stood a silver representation of Telperion, the White Tree of Valinor. The gate was guarded by archers clad in silver mail, each of whose helmets carried a white crest.
VI Golden Gate The last of the ancient Gates of Gondolin, the Sixth Gate was dedicated to the Golden Tree Laurelin, of which a sculpture of gold and precious stones stood upon a pyramid above the wall of the Gate. That wall was made of yellow marble surmounted by six globes of red gold, and the Gate itself was set with many golden discs, each representing the Sun. Behind the Golden Gate stood its guard: three hundred archers each with a scarlet shield and a helmet mounted with a golden crest.
VII Gate of Steel The Orfalch Echor had originally been guarded by six gates, but after the disaster of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, even though the entrance to the Orfalch was blocked, a seventh gate was added at the point where the ravine led out into the plain of Tumladen. Constructed by Maeglin himself, the Gate of Steel (also called the Great Gate) was made from seven pillars of steel, crossed by seven bars, and crested by the royal helm of Turgon. It stood between two tall towers that held a host of riders under the command of Ecthelion of the Fountain.

Notes

1

Though the order of the gates is well established, we have very little specific information about the distances between them. We do know that the First and Second Gates were half a league apart (that's about one and a half miles, or 2.4 km), and that the entire Orfalch Echor ran on for several leagues through the Mountains. Beyond that, references to distances are in relative terms (for instance '...the way was short to the Seventh Gate', from Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin in Unfinished Tales). The diagram above reflects comments like these as far as possible, though it is necessarily inexact.

The diagram's north-south scale is disproportionately exaggerated for clarity: the Orfalch Echor, though noted as being a ravine of extraordinary dimensions, would nonetheless have been much narrower in reality than shown here.

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