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Walk into Mordor

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 (although, for the case of the Trope Namer, see below). 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.

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). See also Border Crossing.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach
    • Seireitei has a really high wall around it, so the heroes have to be shot into it by cannon. This wall isn't the only thing protecting the Seireitei. There's also a forcefield of sorts protecting it from above. 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 be 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, it is a vast barren desert inhabited by The Heartless and an all-round dangerous place to be.
  • In the anime adaptation of Sword Art Online, Kirito tries twice to reach the top of the World Tree in the game "Alfheim Online" to save Asuna, trapped above. The lore says that the first race to reach the top of the World Tree and go to the city in the sky will become Alfs (Alves?), and be granted the power of infinite flight. The insanely powerful boss monsters that the players would have to pass/defeat have a rapid spawn rate, and easily kill his avatar on the first attempt. On a second effort (with LOTS of backup) he reaches the door, but encounters a surprise; the door does not open without an administrator passkey. This is due to Nobuyuki Sugou and his team using the tree to hold and experiment on the 300 minds they captured from SAO. Luckily, Asuna stole a passkey and threw it off the tree when she sensed Kirito was near.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Indiana Jones and 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 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.
  • 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. Not for nothing it's called Shipwreck Island, wherein lies the town of Shipwreck!
  • 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.

    Gamebooks 
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • 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 J. R. R. Tolkien's books, such as Lórien, 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.
    • It's worth noting the logic of the Justification provided: the borders of Mordor consisted mainly of a series of large mountain ranges, with a few, well guarded routes through; it's not quite so much that Mordor was isolated, as that traffic was tightly regulated by people who greatly desired the ring, so the only way in was going by one of the less hospitable routes. Further, it was only Mordor's northwest quarter that was inhospitable... but that was the quarter with both Mount Doom and Sauron's headquarters in it, as well as being the part that was closest to Gondor and the main route of access to the rest of Mordor, so everything of relevance to the main story is there.
    • 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.
    • And the only reason they succeeded was because Aragorn decided to aggro all of Mordor by letting Sauron know of the Return of the King, before rallying an army to lay siege to the Black Gates, drawing Sauron's forces away from Sam and Frodo.
    • 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.
  • In The Heroes of Olympus book The Son of Neptune, the heroes can't just fly to Alaska because Zeus would kill Percy if he tried it.
  • 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.
  • Inverted in A Song of Ice and Fire; the only way for the wildlings to enter the Seven Kingdoms is to scale a giant wall made of (implied to be magical) ice.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: Inverted with Malfeas, the Demon City. The most reliablenote  way to get there is by walking through Cecelyne the Endless Desert. It takes exactly five days to cross her. The other way is by learning Sorcery and open a portal there, something the Yozis don't like.
    • A third way was later introduced, but since this consisted of having a very angry Solar Exalt punch you there, and this power explicitly works off hostility, it's usually safer to go with A or B.

    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 Sinister Continent Completely Surrounded By Mountains And Reefs that the regular Boat can't get you to. Sometimes even the Global Airship can't get in, and it requires teleportation or traveling the deadly dungeon beneath the mountains.
    • Every one but the first, of course - no airships, no boats, no horse-drawn carts; one must simply walk into everywhere.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, 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. Once you have that and the territory that gives you two moves a turn the game is basically over.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Inverted in 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 very 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.note  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.
    • There are many missions where your shuttle or the Normandy can't drop you close enough to the objective to claim it immediately, so you need to walk, and probably fight your way through a ton of enemies, in order to seize the objective. Especially notable in Priority: Tuchanka in 3, since the tanks you were planning to take can't reach the target zone due to the road being utterly annihilated, so you need to first walk through an ancient krogan ruin, then fight your way through another part of an ancient krogan ruin, and finally activate the maw hammers at the end of that ancient krogan ruin while arse deep in Brutes.
  • 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.
  • In Dark Souls, one doesn't simply walk into The Abyss. One must first drain the flooded New Londo and equip a certain ring before jumping into it. One must also be considerate of the inhabitants one might find on the way.
  • Walking is pretty much the only way one can travel in the Deep Roads in Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II. Come to think of it, it seems like people walk everywhere in these games.
  • In Fallout 3, the various districts of Washington DC are isolated by insurmountable piles of rubble (and in fact are separate cells from the main Capital Wasteland), so the only way to reach them is through the labyrinth of underground subway and utility tunnels. Reaching the game's true Mordor, The Pitt from the DLC of the same name, takes a 200+ mile railroad journey.
    • Fallout: New Vegas The gate to the Divide of Lonesome Road is a short walk from Primm, but the Sierra Madre Villa of Dead Money is unreachable on foot, at least in gameplay, and the only way into the Big Empty(Old World Blues) is by teleportation. Zion Canyon from Honest Hearts is reached through two weeks of hiking through slot canyons. In the main game, Legate Lanius's camp is completely surrounded by mountains and is only reachable by crossing the Hoover Dam, which you can only do during the final battle after the Point of No Return.
  • Quite literally in Lego The Lord of the Rings, as walking (or galloping if you picked up a horse) is the only way you can enter the place unless you travel by map. Becomes a Crowning Moment of Awesome because you get a Trophy/Achievement for it titled "One does not simply", with the description being "Walk into Mordor" (the icon is even a Lego version of the original meme!).

    Web Comics 
  • Parodied in DM of the Rings when the party is informed of the Black Gate of Mordor.
    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 swim to get there after their plane gets shot down. 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).

    Music 
  • One YouTuber has turned "One Does Not Simply ROCK into Mordor" into an actual rock song.
    • Another YouTuber referenced this with another meme for "[[www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8fnd X_7PqQ Leo Strut]]".
  • Halgor in the Dark Secret Saga, is apparently a giant, mountain-like citadel surrounded by rocky wastelands and swamps infested by carnivorous snakes. This is one of the reasons why the heroes have to walk there, the other being the presence of the Black Order's soldiers and demons around, forcing them to keep a low profile. Subverted with the abandoned dark fortress of Har Kuun, which can be reached by horse.

    New Media 
  • The animation quoted up top. "Nuh-uh! You need, like... an army and stuff."
    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.
  • Along the same lines is this vid
    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.
  • Even Google has gotten in on the act. Go to their directions page, enter "The Shire" as the start point and "Mordor" as the destination and choose "Walking" as your tramsportation method and Google will warn you "Use caution – One does not simply walk into Mordor."

     Real Life 
  • The Great Wall of China was built for this purpose in order to keep the Mongols'...horses out of China. The Mongols were perfectly capable of using ladders or steps to get up the wall if they really wanted to, but horses were too tricky to get through, and horses were as important to the Mongols in ancient and middle-ages Asia as fighter jets are to airforces today.
  • 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 that hard for some people from the west, but for their people to get out... two words, "Berlin Wall".
      • Which again was a subversion, as in the 1970s and 1980s it was easier for West Germans and West Berliners to pass through the Wall between East and West Berlin than to get into the G.D.R. proper.
    • During the Cold War there was an actual law passed that legally prevented people who held a security clearance above a certain point from entering Eastern Bloc countries except as part of an official delegation. The law was never repealed, so technically it's still illegal for people who possess security clearances to go into (for example) Hungary or Romania. Of course, no one is really bothering to enforce this law anymore, but it's still on the books.
  • North Korea is the closest thing to Mordor that the present world has. One does not simply walk over their border.
    • 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. 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. Matt Harding got in there just fine.
    Matt Harding: I look forward to answering the "how did you get into North Korea?" question about a million times once the video is done. The answer, by the way, is "with baffling ease." You go to a site called google.com. You type in "North Korea tour," and you click on the first thing that pops up. You fill out some forms, you pay some money, and you're in. It's amazing all the things we assume we can't do.
  • 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. And Mexico - rather than deport illegal immigrants as the United States does - tends to straight-up imprison them. They have trudge the country through its searing heat, poisonous scorpions, and the occasional Chupacabra.
    • They're actually building it inside the border, because it's easier, which means it cuts through farms and other properties, and isolates US citizens on the Mexican side. One does not simply walk into Mordor even if you live in Mordor.
    • The design used is a complete joke though. Anyone with tin snips can go straight through the wall in less than a minute.
  • In January 1925, when a diphtheria epidemic struck the children of Nome, Alaska, weather conditions made it impossible to fly in the nearest supply of antitoxin. Instead, twenty sled-dog teams relayed it across 674 miles of brutal Arctic wilderness — in five and a half days. The feat has never been duplicated despite a decades-running annual race on the same route commemorating the event.


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