Walk Into Mordor

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The Evil Land or Supervillain Lair or Hidden Elf Village will be impossible for the heroes to get into except on foot, (or some other similarly inconvenient method), due to impossibly high mountains that have no passes and no goat-trails, a completely militarized frontier, mist-like magical barriers, cyclopean battlements, stormy reefs, and gigantic Black Gates. Both the good guys and the bad guys will maintain this policy because of these natural and man made defenses. As a result, the protagonist cannot simply hop a wagon train or fake a passport; they must climb impossibly sheer cliffs, traverse enormous deserts, and, because of the sheer visitor-unfriendliness of these places:

The rulers of these places are often well-provisioned. Asking 'how' could lead to Fridge Logic. The incredulous hero, having crawled over thousands of miles of impassible terrain to get there, would have fairly expected to find an outpost on the verge of starvation. Instead, the isolated center of the stronghold turns out to be the most lavishly appointed place in the entire country, despite the land's hostility and the dangerous locals making few people want to go there.

Corollary: security is always more and more lax the further you go into the forbidden realm... to the point where one can sneak into the lavishly appointed ballroom and mooch food off the ruler's table. To be fair, assuming reasonably competent gatekeepers, guarding anything further is overkill.

Cue an improbable conversation with the Benevolent Ruler, who may even have a glass of wine and explain that the hero was always expected to get this far. Instead of shipping him back to a prison cell safely located on the outskirts, the hero will be deemed more useful alive, or he will be held in a poorly guarded jail cell to await sentencing.

The seasoned marksmen who swarm the hills are always much more likely to capture our heroes if they attempt to avoid bushwhack away from the enemy camp, whereas the ones back on base are too busy drinking to notice heroes walking past the main gate or possibly scaling the battlements. All ways in are guarded, so naturally the hero will try the one that seems most suicidal.

Pedestrian access may not be necessary, if more grueling methods of transportation are available: Access might be limited to slingshot, climbing with daggers, or motocross. Alternate routes may be blocked off by insurmountable obstacles.

Contrast with River of Insanity, a.k.a. Doomed Expedition, which is the opposite sort of journey: wherein the voyage may be dramatic and increasingly perilous, but is also the most pragmatic means of getting there (you don't make it).

Examples of Walk Into Mordor include:

Anime & Manga

  • In Bleach, Seireitei has a really high wall around it, so the heroes have to be shot into it by cannon. (they're all in the same cannonball).
    • The wall isn't the only thing protecting the Seireitei. There's also a forcefield of sorts protecting it from above (there is likely a proper term for it but it escapes me); the reason it has to be a cannonball as opposed to, say, a paradrop, is because they have to punch through the forcefield in addition to clearing the wall.
      • The shield is created by Sekki Sekki (name given as Lethal presence rock, or something like that) which creates a barrier all around itself that diffuses and destroys spiritual energy coming into contact with it.
    • Later, the Mordor to not walk into becomes Hueco Mundo, a place where Shinigami wouldn't caught dead in, without a really good reason. They even apparently refuse to accompany Ichigo & co there. Equipped with its own castle in the center (Las Noches) and "the all seeing eye" of Szayel's laboratory security cameras.


  • The Last Crusade: If simply driving in to the Enemy Stronghold through a back road is absolutely necessary, at least do it with a motorcycle or something similarly stylish. (tanks [dead link] will draw unwanted attention)...
  • James Bond ...or one must resort to climbing, free climbing, skiing, or scuba-diving at some point.
  • In Escape from New York, Snake must para-glide onto the roof of the World Trade Center in order to infiltrate Manhattan without detection. Apparently there are no tunnels for use by guards...
  • In The Wizard of Oz you get a twofer! Not only do the heroes have to sneak into the Wicked Witches domain, but then, after Dorothy is captured, the Tin Man, The Scarecrow, and The Cowardly Lion employ Dressing as the Enemy to get into the castle. Especially fun is the Lion trying to hide his tail under his uniform.
  • Arguably Shipwreck Cove in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Though it is just a fortress, it is apparently both "impenetrable" and "supplied indefinitely", apparently immune to blockades. How do they pull that off?
    • Not for nothing it's called Shipwreck Island, wherein lies the town of Shipwreck!
      • It's never said to be indefinitely supplied. Just well supplied.
  • Skynet Central in Terminator Salvation. In the novelized version, a bird is blown to pieces for invading the place's airspace.
  • The Forbidden Zone in Cherry 2000. The ridiculous checkpoints in the Forbidden Zone that Trackers routinely manage to sneak through. There's only one way to enter the Zone, really: get picked up by the crazed desert militia's magnetic wrecking crane, get carried over the remains of the Hoover Dam and get deposited over the spillway; then shoot your captors while suspended in midair, deactivate the wrecking crane and safely land in the spillway, cut your car loose from the flimsy rope... works every time. This is apparently the "usual way" to get in. May cause engine trouble to your Mustang after repeated journeys through the spillway.


  • Lone Wolf's sole modus operandi is to take a ship to the vague borders of Evil Land and walk the rest of the way. Across Arctic tundra, across Hell, across anything.


  • Mordor is the Trope Namer (though you may notice that "simply walk into Mordor" is kind of exactly what the Fellowship ends up doing), but there are numerous other examples in JRR Tolkien's books, such as Lorien, Valinor, and Doriath. Angband (stronghold of First Age Big Bad Morgoth) is surprisingly easy to get into for the pair of heroes, however. Although in that case they did have the help of magical disguises.
    • In the end, Frodo, Sam and Gollum end up circling Mordor, climbing up a huge mountain, going through a cave or falling off a ledge, in Gollum's case and THEN walking into Mordor.
    • A parody summary of one of the LotR movies summed this up by saying that the Ring can only be destroyed by walking very slowly across all of New Zealand in real time.
    • The worst offender is the kingdom of Gondolin in The Silmarillion, located in a caldera. The secret tunnel into the valley is guarded by not one but "seven gates, all constantly guarded; the first of wood, then stone, bronze, iron, silver, gold, and steel."
      • Gondolin is eventually captured...when Morgoth's armies come in through the back.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, has a segment which the movie is based on where the travelers try to get to the Witches castle to destroy her.
  • In Shannara, the Skull Kingdom is surrounded by impassible barriers on four sides: to the east, a vast toxic swamp which drains into a river running, improbably, along the southern edge of impassible mountains, before evaporating in a desert wreathed in toxic vapors deadly enough to kill birds in mid air. By comparison, the northern boundary looks passable, a range of low mountains, but they are infested by poisonous spiders. The Big Bad's armies get out through a single five mile wide gap in the natural defenses, very well guarded.
  • In Stephen King's The Stand (which he wrote as an "American Lord of the Rings"), the last remaining heroes must Walk Into Las Vegas Because Destiny Says So.

Video Games

  • In Final Fantasy XII, you have to walk/dungeon-crawl into Archadia starting the slums (Not as bad as Mordor, not quite as nice as it sounds). The game does a fair-ish job of justifying this, but only if it is reasonable that you cannot just fly anywhere by passenger-airship or your airship because of your wanted status and the imperial patrols until you slog there on foot first. Which it isn't.
  • The ability of player characters to teleport in the Mega Man series seems to short out right before the Death Course. Of course, other story-important characters seem more than capable of coming in and out. Enjoy Skull Castle (that means you too, X and Zero, assuming any part of Mega Man X 5 makes sense)!
  • The Halo novel First Strike mentions that anything larger than a piece of dirt is catalogued and vaporized within a certain proximity to the Covenant capital High Charity. Ships are also required to transmit the proper security codes constantly, failure to do so resulting in their instant annihilation by hundreds of their fellow ships. This may have been exaggerated, however. Either way, the Prophets didn't count on someone teleporting directly inside (Master Chief via Delta Halo's teleportation grid, In Amber Clad via slipspace, with possible assistance from the same grid)
  • Inverted in Final Fantasy X - the only way into Sin's interior is by airship, because it's about a mile off the ground.
    • Justified for the pilgrimage to Zanarkand beforehand because of the weight of tradition - if the summoner wanted, she could theoretically take a chocobo cart the entire way, but where's the effort?
      • The pilgrimage has another purpose as well: to create the bond between the summoner and guardian necessary for the guardian to become the final aeon.
    • Additionally, the summoner wants to take in as much as he/she can of Spira, because this is the last trip they'll be making EVER.
    • Another inversion: In Final Fantasy IX, neither Terra nor Memoria is accessible by foot.
  • Every Dragon Quest ever has the Sinster Continent Completely Surrounded By Mountains And Reefs that the regular Boat can't get you too. Sometimes even the Global Airship can't get on, and it requires teleportation or traveling the deadly Dungeon beneath the mountains.
  • In Elder Scrolls IV, the Oblivion Gates are closed by walking through bleak hellish landscape, ruins and dungeons, into the central tower to get the sigil stone. Levitation spells, prevalent in the previous games in the series, were removed from existence.
    • Also subverted in that breaching the castle of each major city is a painfully simple task—the castles aren't locked, and getting into the bedroom of the count or countess is as simple as picking a few door locks and avoiding some seemingly blind guards.
  • Glint's home is located within a single grain of sand, somewhere within a massive desert.
  • In Dawn of War, controlling a particular territory grants your forces a Global Airship that can drop them in any other, with the exception that each faction's home base can only be invaded from an adjacent territory.
  • Inverted in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, where all the high mountains, black gates and evil armies make it so that, quite logically, Icecrown is one of the few places where you can't just walk - you have to fly, which is the most convenient method of transport (short of teleportation), though obtaining the ability may be a chore.
    • Also inverted with Mulgore after the Cataclysm; there was only one way to get in or out on land, and with the renewed tension between the factions, the Horde erected a gate to keep the Alliance out.[1] With the new ability to use flying mounts in Kalimdor, apparently one does not simply walk into Mulgore.
  • Inverted in Touhou 7: Perfect Cherry Blossom. The only way to enter Hakugyokurou is by flying there. The other option is to die a virtuous death.
  • The Collector Base from Mass Effect 2, located in the galatic core, is only accessable through the Omega 4 Mass Relay, which is considered impossible to travel safely through by anyone but the collectors.
  • Usually the last world in a Super Mario game, whether it involves strolling through volcanoes or running straight through blockades of tanks and airships.
  • In My World, My Way, Chaos World is one of the continents bordering the princess' castle. She can't access it until close to the end of the game, but she has no problem waltzing in and out of Chaos World at her leisure.

Web Comics

Aragorn: I'm entering a country. You can't put a door on a country.

Western Animation

  • In The Incredibles, owing to the fact that Syndrome's base is on an island volcano, the heroes end up having to dog paddle to get there. Vehicular access seems to be a big no-no, there is no ferry, and only monorails are allowed on the island (accessibility on foot is not necessary for this trope to apply, if more grueling methods of transportation are available).
    • To be fair, they were going in a plane until it got, y'know, shot down by missles. Except for the villain's private jet, no one else is allowed in, and there's no landing strip.
    • Dog paddle? Elasti-Girl turned herself into a rubber raft, and Dash acted as a propeller. Way cool!


New Media

Boromir: Maybe some ninjas... and wizards... Ninja Wizards! Maybe some bears, too... bears that shoot Frickin' Laser Beams out of their eyes! Oh, man, that would be so awesome.

What about a catapult? Why not hurl the Ring into Mordor?
later: Something this small is really hard to trajectorize.

  • One does not simply tank cat into Mordor!!! Heck, Encyclopedia Dramatica has an article about it.

Real Life

  • The Great Wall of China was built for this purpose in order to keep the Mongols out of China.
  • Thermopylae Pass.
  • If one is an American citizen, one does not simply fly into Cuba. One must go to Mexico to avoid those pesky embargoes.
    • Or pay cash, fly from Canada, and bribe the customs official from making any passport stamps
  • The "Turkish Republic of North Cyprus" is only recognized as a state by Turkey. As such, the only way to get there is to fly from Turkey. Until recently, this applied even if you lived 50 yards away in Cyprus proper (the border has become a little more permeable of late, although long-term entry would be... complicated).
  • And during the Cold War, we of course had the Iron Curtain stopping passage between the east and west.
    • Sort of a subversion, getting into the east wasn't hard, but for their people to get out... two words "Berlin Wall"
  • North Korea. Full stop.
    • Notable in that in spring 2009, two American reporters (just two!) tried walking into North Korea in a relatively uninhabited sector of the border, investigating illegal trafficking of young women. It may as well have been the Black Gate as far as they were concerned; one of the reporters (after being released) remarked that they were set upon by a North Korean border patrol within "thirty seconds" of crossing the border.
    • It is possible to fly into Mor...errr, North Korea. As a tourist, if you know who to bribe and otherwise play your cards right. In return, you'll get a guide who is watching your every, every move and taking you to very, very carefully chosen and monitored places where real interaction with average North Koreans is difficult to impossible. You will be informed of all the ways the Dear Leader is a god amongst men and told of the evil American imperialists. And then you will be shown the door, having spent as much as the North Koreans can gouge out of you in return for not much.
    • You don't have to bribe. There are tour groups that will take you there. And while you do see what North Koreans want you to see, it is not hard to glimpse into real life from the cracks. And the best way to learn about things is not to listen to what the guides say but how they say.
      • Note: if you're an American, and going on a US passport, going to North Korea is probably a very bad idea... if you can pass yourself off as Korean or Chinese, and can travel on a non-US passport, that's your best bet.
  • The "travel guide" to The Worlds Most Dangerous Places by Robert Young Pelton features many entertaining story excerpts (the rest is a country-by-country guide). The author, an ex-Special Forces "travel writer", attempts to sneak into the most dangerous places he can and report on the accommodations, including Afghanistan in 2001 (Rating: Five skulls).
  • They are building a wall on the US-Mexican border. To sneak in, illegal immigrants must walk across the desert (they already do).
    • For other Latinos they have to first cross Mexico before the wall.
  • Along the Sino-Russian border, there are many places where the river that marks the boundary is narrow enough to swim. During the Soviet era, this provided a particularly tragic bit of Schmuck Bait, as the Russian side was significantly prettier and led some Chinese youths to swim across. They'd of course be set upon by Soviet soldiers and sent to the Gulag. Unfortunately, this let their friend to conclude that it must be paradise over there, since their friends never came back...
  1. There's a gap around the gate Alliance players can sneak through.