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"So, this is the Stand that brings calamity! The one they call... Tower of Gray!"

An old trope that can be either physical or metaphorical in its appearance within a story. In Tarot reading, The Tower is considered a sign of ill omen or adversity, but can also stand for civilization, higher learning, or lone, defensive strength when regarding a specific character.

Usually, The Tower is a structure of solitude or homage to a character whose vision is farseeing and above those "bound to earth". It can also be a prison to where a main character is left to die, or a representation of a villain's Pride, as they rise higher towards heaven while surrounded by their empire. See the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel.

This has a certain historical basis: medieval castles were typically built around a central tower, called the keep or donjon, which couldn't really be targeted by siege weapons and would continue to resist after the rest of the castle fell. The donjon was the most secure part of the castle, and so the lord and lady lived there, treasure was stored there, and prisoners (typically held for ransom) were kept there — thus the modern English meaning of "dungeon."

A character that represents the Tower is another story, they can be a tall figure, or even a dwarf with a great amount of presence. They usually have great fortitude both mental and/or physical, sometimes coming off as stubborn or gruff. They're also portrayed many a time as loners unless with others who share a similarity with him, or need him for a time.

The phrase ivory tower refers metaphorically to professors and scholars cloistered in an academic campus. This brings together the connotations of isolation and pride in intellectualism. There are warnings in stories that immersing yourself too deeply in academic research and arcane theories can make you lose touch with real life in the outside world.

In many fantasy settings, towers are usually the homes, laboratories and/or schools of magic users. This probably goes back to the Middle Ages, when astronomers lived in towers to more conveniently observe the stars, and when not all astronomers were magicians but virtually all magicians were astronomers; a famous, possibly Trope Codifier example in modern fiction is Saruman's tower Orthanc, the keep of Isengard.

Most works of fiction ignore the stairs issues when working in settings prior to the invention of elevators, but in real life, high towers would be not be the prime location to live or work unless you never descended, or if you wanted the isolation and protection (the high ground is defensively strong) that being atop a high staircase brings.

For cases when man's Pride sends him too far in the other direction, see Dug Too Deep.

The Tower is Card XVI in the tarot deck, although mostly symbolic. In the Rider-Waite deck, it's a tower being shattered by lightning. Generally speaking, it represents either a truth unearthing something not pleasant, a tale of Pride not unlike the Tower of Babel, or both. Related tropes to the tarot card are Heroic BSoD, Break the Haughty, and Go Mad from the Revelation.

In fiction, the Tower may appear as:

The Mobile Maze or Dungeon is the inverse trope: a more expansive version of the Ominous Castle or Megastructure, with more stuff below than above. See also Big Labyrinthine Building, which may or may not be a Babel-like megastructure. Compare with Building of Adventure.

Subtropes and related tropes:

Also, see Tarot Motifs.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kami's Watch Tower from Dragon Ball
  • FLCL: Medica Mechanica is a gigantic building shaped like a steam iron that looms over Naota's hometown and occasionally vents huge clouds of steam.
  • The Tower of Retribution from Berserk.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has the stand Super Fly, which is an electrical transmission tower.
    • The previous part included stands based on all the major arcana of the tarot. The one based on the tower is a flying beetle-like creature called "Tower of Gray". True to its motif, Tower of Gray proves to be the first major setback the heroes face on their trip to Egypt, turning what was supposed to be a quick flight to beat DIO into a weeks' long slog across south and central Asia while being harassed by DIO's agents at every turn.
  • The Lunatic Eclipse Building in Tokyo Ghoul :Re. Not only does Matsuri refer to it as Daedalus's Tower, but it proves to be the site of a Bloodier and Gorier arc where Anyone Can Die. It concludes with Shuu Tsukiyama being thrown from the roof and Kanae leaping off to save him, dying in the process.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman: Lexcorp
  • The tower that connects the levels of the afterlife from Spawn.
  • Watchmen: Veidt Enterprises

     Fan Works 
  • Two intensely significant towers in The Keys Stand Alone: the White Tower, where the good Pyar gods are imprisoned. It will collapse in a year if the other tower, the Black Tower, isn't breached and its inhabitants defeated.

    Films — Animated 
  • Shrek: In accordance to fairy tale tradition, Princess Fiona is imprisoned in the "highest room of the tallest tower."
  • The Secret of Kells: The abbey is a central tower that manages to survive the resultant assault and protect its occupants while the fortifications and the other structures are reduced to rubble.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The "New Tower of Babel" in the silent movie Metropolis.
  • The "wizards live in towers" idea is used in A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthurs Court.
  • I, Robot: The headquarters of US Robotics is the tallest building by far in Chicago. Guess where the Evil AI is situated? If you said "the basement", shame on you.
  • The Evil Skyscraper from Freejack is not just the tallest building in Manhattan (strike one) and the office of Anthony Hopkins' character (strike two); it contains the souls of paying customers who are artificially implanted into the eponymous freejack's bodies.
  • The big pyramid from Blade Runner
  • A mushroom-shaped EUR water tower serves as a landmark of a Roman neighbourhood in L'eclisse.
  • In The War Lord, it's the only kind of "fortress" a 11th century medieval swamp village has. Its new lord, Chrysagon de la Cruex, alienates the villagers despite doing his best to rule as a fair lord by claiming his Droit du Seigneur on a beautiful local bride, which causes the villagers to seek Frisian raiders to besiege the tower.

  • In Rapunzel, the eponymous heroine is depicted to be trapped in a tower till the prince comes to rescue her from imprisonment.
  • "Sleeping Beauty" is sometimes told with the spinning wheel that dooms her to eternal sleep being at the top of the tallest tower of the castle she inhabits.

  • "Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower came..." is a line from an old ballad quoted in King Lear, retold in the English fairy tale "Childe Rowland", and used as the basis of a famous poem by Robert Browning.
  • The Lord of the Rings has a striking number of significant towers — most importantly Sauron's fortress Barad-dûr (meaning "Dark Tower"), Saruman's Orthanc, and the fortresses of Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul, both of which are centered around a tower.
    • Volume two even has the title The Two Towers.
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower is based entirely around this motif.
    • One of King's other books, The Eye of the Dragon, has Peter imprisoned in a cell at the top of a tower for most of the second half of the book.
  • The Ministries in 1984
  • Frankenstein, Dracula, and countless others.
  • Ulysses: The first episode of the novel is set in the Martello tower at Sandycove.
  • Throughout Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Professor Trelawney can be seen going around mumbling about predictions, which no one heeds- particularly about how she keeps dealing the card of 'The Lightning Struck-Tower' foretelling great danger and upheaval. Then comes the chapter by the same name, which takes place in the actual astronomy tower, the highest part of Hogwarts. It's there that Snape kills Dumbledore, fulfilling the prophecy both literally and metaphorically.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has Harrenhal — and its very ostentatious five towers of ominousness. Yup, It made up for not having the tallest of the tall by going for bulk. Built by the Ironborn under Harren the Black as an impenetrable, siege-proof fortress with which he could subjugate the Riverlands and (attempt to) impress the Iron Isles. But... just as it was fully completed, Aegon Targeryen arrived in Westeros with his dragons, and burned it to the ruin it is now from the air. With Harren and his family still in it. Harrenhal has passed down along many Houses since, almost all of whom have been driven to ruin, much as its builder, House Hoare, was. It's so huge and damaged, it cannot be defended, maintained or repaired easily on a regional lord's income, and that's without suddenly coming into an important title going to people's heads in very predictable ways. Also, the castle is apparently cursed, with everyone who holds Harrenhal undergoing tragedy, often unrelated to running the place.
    • An even better example is the impressive lighthouse that is the Hightower of Oldtown, from which the ruling family derives the name and motto of their house. It's the tallest structure in all of Westeros, currently surpassing even the Wall in the North in height. Note "currently" — the Hightower has fallen several times, only to be rebuilt stronger, brighter and better each time. Also, although they don't live in the Hightower itself, the wizard-like Maesters are based in the nearby Citadel, so the sigil of the Hightower is associated with them as the emblem of Oldtown. In addition, before the Faith of the Seven relocated their administrative HQ to the Great Sept in King's Landing, it was under the shadow of the Hightower — and, arguably, Oldtown still is their spiritual home base. They all light the way, each in their own ways.
  • The eponymous factory of "The Red Tower" is an omen of industry and evolution that persists in solitary (and spiteful) defiance of the natural order of entropy and the purity of the void.

    Live-Action TV 

  • The entire point, setting and Series Goal of Tower of God. The Tower is a semi-sentient, self-contained Place of Power built god knows when, housing billions of people and creatures on 134 conquered and even more wild floors, each the size of North America and several kilometers high. It has been said that everything and anything people have ever wished for can be found at the top of the Tower. Therefore, many people wish to climb it, giving up everything they have to obtain their one desire or having only their desires and dreams left. The lucky ones that get chosen to climb, the Regulars, must pass cruel, hard and strongly varying tests, which used to be held by the Guardians, but ever since King Jahad conquered the greatest part of the Tower, the inhabitants of the place took the Guardians' place. The Tower is a fantastical realm, as it contains a force known as Shinsu, which can be breathed instead of air and enables those who know how wield it properly to do the impossible.

  • Vocaloid: Hatsune Miku's song, Tower of Sunz, features a tower that might or might not be symbolic.
  • The first song off the first album by 1970s glam-rock band Angel: a medieval fantasy epic titled "Tower."

    Religious Literature 
  • The Bible: The Tower of Babel is probably one of the more infamous examples of the trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech has the Mercer Building, built by Clan Steel Viper, and is the tallest structure in Clan Space, standing about 1000 meters. It fell along with Steel Vipers when they were annihilated in the Wars of Reaving.
  • Hausser, the capital of the imperial principalitynote  of Ilmora, in Anima: Beyond Fantasy is described to be a city full of towers, some of them so high -up to hundreds of meters, and because of the aristocrats who live there competing to see who builds the highest one- that are in the danger of collapsing if they continue to be heightened. Overlap with Mage Tower, since some of them are said to hold forbidden stuff.

  • The Master Builder. The main character loses his life when falling from a high tower structure. Which he initially feared to climb.

    Video Games 
  • The Combine Citadel from Half-Life 2 certainly qualifies.
  • The Tattered Spire in Fable II.
  • The tower from Super Mario RPG was pretty evil... or is that more of a castle?
  • In Persona 3, the tower is not only represented by a monk character who smokes and drinks at a local night club, but is also present in the form of Dark Hour version of the School.
    • The Tower Social Link in Persona 4 is represented by Shu Nakujima, a Child Prodigy whose proud mother pushes him to overachieve even further, leading to his becoming socially isolated and discontent.
    • The Tower Social Link in Persona 5 is represented by Shinya Oda, a middle school boy whose skill in arcade games leads him to be extremely competitive, causing problems with his classmates.
  • The Tower Of Babil from Final Fantasy IV cumulates evilness with impossible height: It starts in the underworld (which itself has enough height for airships to fly in) and even above ground, is still several times higher than mountains! The Tower of Zot, however, while it has the evilness, lacks the prestige because its exterior is never seen, anywhere.
  • Doom: The Tower of Babel is the name of the level where the Cyberdemon, perhaps the most famous monster from the most popular video game of all time, is first encountered. It is the final level in episode 2. The level title is apt, as the Cyberdemon itself is the ultimate tower of strength in the game, unmatched in brute force (except perhaps by the Spider Mastermind), resistance to injury, plus sheer physical height.
  • The last dungeon of Mother 3 which is, intended or not, somewhat relevant to the Tarot Motif.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Shinra Building
  • Shadows of the Empire: Xizors skyhook
  • Ganondorf's tower from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, game that also has the Tower Of The Gods; Eagle's Tower in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and the Stone Tower in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask; and Agathnim's and Ganon's towers in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
  • The gigantic supercomputer from Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers is the Ominous Megastructure type. It destroyed the planet's weather and zombified its residents with an army of cyborgs (don't they all?)
  • The entire plot of The Final Fantasy Legend revolves around one, with the doors on each floor leading to entirely new worlds.
  • In Hellsinker from stage 4 and onward the main characters spend the remaining of the stages to climb up the huge Cardinal Shaft.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, the majority of the game takes place in a massive demonic tower named Temen-ni-gru, which suddenly rose up in the middle of a city. In addition, the challenge levels take place in an ever-ascending version of the same tower. In a bit of a discussion regarding the tower's etymology, Arkham also explains that Temen-ni-gru means "The foundation that brought out fear".
  • The Tower of Babel from Xenogears, several kilometers high. It's actually part of the hull of the starship Eldridge which somehow managed to land perfectly vertically and remained stable after it broke up in orbit.
  • Wild ARMs has Ka Dingel, a tower with a transporter on it's top that sends people to an orbital colony, technically making it a space elevator.
  • Dormin's tower in Shadow of the Colossus is by far the largest structure in the Forbidden Land, and can be seen even from distant corners of the land. Right from the start of the game, it is shown to be a place of magic that has the potential to bring people Back from the Dead, and it soon becomes apparent that understanding the tower is the key to understanding the plot of the game.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Ferelden has two of these. The Mage Tower, Kinloch Hold, is a relatively healthy example of the Circle of Magi. The other tower, Fort Drakon, is the equivalent of the Tower of London and was built by the Tevinter Imperium during its reign. A city formed around it after the Tevinters' defeat, and it's now used to house prisoners.
  • There's one at the end of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn that the heroes have to fight their way to the top of.
  • Antichamber: The primary endpoint for successful puzzle completion, and a good indicator of progress. As would be expected, the act of navigating this tower doesn't necessarily involve going up and down, and it's easy to find the various levels of it out-of-order. You start the main game in the middle of level 1. On the other hand, once you have the Yellow gun, enter the tower at level 1 and grab the light blue cube, and it will teleport you to a seemingly random place. However, complete the puzzle where you get dropped off, and you find level 2 of the tower, and so on until you reach the top.
  • The big tower (or towers?) of Rod Land, where your mom has been kidnapped.
  • Seen in any of the Dark Parables which feature a Girl in the Tower, including Curse of Briar Rose and Ballad of Rapunzel.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • In the series lore, "Towers" are metaphysical structures built atop the "joint-points" of reality as it was constructed by the et'Ada who took part in creation. The Towers are said to "define reality in [their] Aurbic vicinity". One such tower, the Adamantine Tower (or "Ada-Mantia") on Balfiera Island in Iliac Bay, was constructed by the surviving et'Ada (now Aedra) to hold "Convention," during which they decided to punish Lorkhan for his treachery during creation. It is also said to be where linear time first began, before spreading throughout the rest of creation. The Adamantine Tower remains on Balfiera, and though the exterior is weathered, the interior remains almost exactly the same - a single great, seamless, impregnable spire of ageless metal which is at least half-embedded in the ground. It is entirely smooth, except for one point known as the "Argent Aperture" which is thought to be a door. This door has a lock of thirteen slowly counter-rotating rings and, despite the best efforts of mages and scholars throughout history, has never been opened. It is powered by the "Zeroth-Stone", which is said to be the Convention itself, and is said to cultivate "creatia" indirectly to alter the "terrestrial domain" around the Tower. During the earliest days following creation, the ancient Aldmer (ancestors of all of the modern races of Mer/Elves) discovered a means to construct their own towers at these "joint-points." By building their own Tower, each group could create their own narrative, distinct but equal to those around it. Details on these constructed Towers:
      • The Chimer (later Dunmer/Dark Elves) would claim Red Mountain in Morrowind where Lorkhan's heart fell as the second tower, dubbing it the Red Tower. After the Dwemer discovered the Heart beneath the mountain and disappeared mysteriously while attempting to use its power, three Chimer would successfully use it to become the Physical Gods known as the Tribunal. Unbeknownst to them, their former ally, Voryn Dagoth, also used the Heart before he was slain and coalesced in the millennia the Tribunal ruled. He returned and cut them off from the Heart, preventing them from recharging their divinity. Following the events of Morrowind, the Dwemer enchantments on the Heart would be severed, killing Dagoth and stripping the Tribunal of their divinity permanently. This also stripped Red Tower of its "Stone," depriving it forever of its reality altering powers. (Later events would see Red Mountain violently erupt, erasing it almost entirely from the world.)
      • The Altmer (High Elves) would construct the Crystal Tower ("Crystal-Like-Law") in the Summerset Isles in direct emulation of the Adamantine Tower. Little is known of the "Stone" of the Crystal Tower, but it is said that it was once a person, and may (as of The Elder Scrolls Online) be in the form of "Transparent Law". During the Oblivion Crisis, the forces of the Daedra managed to destroy the Crystal Tower. At least, in Mundus (the mortal plane). Per the Altmer, the Crystal Tower continues to exist in planes other than Mundus.
      • Speaking of the Dwemer (Deep Elves or Dwarves), they attempted to use the Heart of Lorkhan to construct their own Tower, as well as to become a new god - Anumidium (or "Walk-Brass"), a Humongous Mecha of Reality Warping proportions. They intended to use it to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, but something went awry. Interrupted by an attack from the Chimer (who considered this act blasphemous), Kagrenac, the Dwemer High Craftsman, attempted to tap into the Heart but instead caused the entire Dwemer race to disappear from all known planes of existence in a single instant. The Tribunal would then claim the machine, now know as Numidium, and would later trade it to the Emperor Tiber Septim in exchange for special privileges when Morrowind joined Septim's Empire as a Voluntary Vassal. Septim would use it to complete his conquest of all of Tamriel, famously using it to capture the Altmeri captial city of Alinor in less than an hour of fighting. However, as a result of the events of Daggerfall, the Numidium would be destroyed along with its makeshift Stone, the Mantella (an immensely powerful soul gem said to contain the soul of a Shezarrine).
      • The Ayleids (Wild Elves) of Cyrodiil would construct the White-Gold Tower on an island in the heart of their country, using the "Chim-el-Adabal" (said to have been created from the crystallized blood of Lorkhan, collected as it traveled across Tamriel to its resting place in Morrowind) as their "Stone." Following the Alessian Revolt (a revolt of their human slaves), the tower would be taken by the Nedes (ancestors to most of the modern races of Men in Tamriel). After capturing the Tower, Alessia, leader of the Nedes, would forge a pact with Akatosh, the Top God of the Aedra and Dragon God of Time. Akatosh gave to Alessia and her descendants the Amulet of Kings (whose centerpiece was the Chim-el Adabal), as well as the Dragonfires of the Imperial City. So long as the Empire maintained its worship of Akatosh and his kin, and so long as Alessia's heirs bore the Amulet of Kings, Akatosh and his divine kin would maintain a strong barrier protecting Mundus. This, of course, came to an end during the Oblivion Crisis when Martin Septim, last in Alessia's metaphysical line, shattered the Amulet of Kings and sacrificed himself to end the Crisis. Like Red Tower before it, White-Gold was left without its stone.
      • The Bosmer (Wood Elves) grew a tower rather than construct one, known as the Green-Sap, grown from the Perchance Acorn (their Stone). According to the Bosmer, every story of the Green-Sap is true, with none "truer" than any other. The Green-Sap had the ability to "walk" throughout their forest homeland of Valenwood. However, the mage Anumaril used a "fangled" magic staff created in emulation of each Tower to turn the Perchance Acorn into a Definite Acorn, giving the Green-Sap a "true ending" and freezing it in place, never to "walk" again. So, while the ending to the story of Green-Sap is determined, that ending still remains a mystery. The Green-Sap still stands in Valenwood's Elden Grove.
      • "Snow Throat" (aka the Throat of the World) is the Tower of Skyrim, and is also the tallest mountain in all of Tamriel. Its stone is said to be "a cave," but beyond that, little is known. It originally attracted the Falmer (Snow Elves) to Skyrim but it would fall into the hands of the Nords after their ancestors (the Atmorans) nearly drove the Falmer to extinction. Despite already being the tallest mountain on Tamriel, Snow Throat's apex is said to only be "half there." Atop the mountain sits High Hrothgar, the monastery home of the Greybeards, who study the Thu'um, the Language of Magic of the dragons. It is also home to the "Time Wound," created when ancient Nord heroes used the power of an Elder Scroll to banish Alduin in an age long past.
      • The eighth Tower, Orichalc, also has the least known about it. It is believed to have been in Yokuda, the ancient homeland of the ancestors to the Redguards to the west of Tamriel, and its Stone, fittingly for the homeland of the Redguards, was said to be a sword. There, the ancient Yokudans fought a devastating war against the Sinestral Mer (Left-Handed Elves), who were driven to extinction. With Yokuda believed to have been sank beneath the sea, the Orichalc tower is believed to have sank with it.
      • The Elder Scrolls Online also adds the Doomcrag, an ancient Ayleid tower in the province of High Rock, that was also built with the express purpose of mimicking the Adamantine Tower, much like the Crystal Tower, and was built as a replacement for the White-Gold Tower, after the Ayleids were banished from Cyrodiil. However, for some reason or another, the Doomcrag was regarded as nothing more than a failed imitation, and never became a "true" Tower. It is theorised that the Light of Life was intended to be its stone, before it was corrupted into the Lightless Remnant, but whether or not its connection to the stone was broken when it was corrupted, it was most certainly broken at the end of the relevant questline, where the Remnant itself was destroyed.
    • There is also the Ceporah Tower on the island of Artaeum, home of Psijic Order, a powerful Magical Society and the oldest monastic order on Tamriel. The Ceporah Tower is older than any of the other metaphysical towers save for the Adamant Tower itself, said to have been built by an unknown civilization predating the Aldmeri arrival in the Summerset Isles. The ancient and magically powerful Tower is used by the Psijics in certain rites and rituals. It is under the Ceporah Tower where Galerion confronted Mannimarco about his practice of The Dark Arts, leading to the founding of both the Mages Guild and the Order of the Black Worm.
  • RiME has a large tower as the focus of all play areas, and the boy's quest through the first four sections of the game is to unlock its floors and ascend it. The fifth and final section shows that the boy was actually Dead All Along. It reveals that the tower is nothing mystical, but simply a lighthouse visible from the boy's bedroom, and the father turned it into a symbol in the story he told himself to deal with his grief.
  • Manifold Garden: Many areas are structured around one (or multiple) of these, or variants thereof.
  • Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes: The setting of Chapter 5, the Academy (located in the Silver Cities, Nadia's homeland). It's a tall regal building that has falled under decay since the dawn of the war. Nadia has to make her way out of the underground dungeons and make her way across the spiral road that takes her to the throne at the top and confront her father, who is revealed to has been possessed by Lord Bloodcrown.

  • The Falling Tower in Latchkey Kingdom. Long ago, the city of Hilla was the capitol of the largest empire in the world. They built automata called Shadow to do manual labor for them. Long after the empire fell and the secret to controlling them was lost, the Shadow started building a tower and didn't stop. They stole material from across the city to build it, and murdered anyone who tried to stop them. Whenever the tower gets too tall, it topples over and the Shadow start again. The destruction forced the city to be abandoned.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The Demiurge Mammon bears the word TOWER of the seven names of God, and is a giant dragon who has locked himself inside his literal tower in the Infinite Bank of Yre, which no-one has seen the inside of in centuries. True to the Tarot Motif, the third book, which involves breaking into the Infinite Bank's vault, ends with ruin: The Demiurge Mottom attacks the Infinite Bank and cracks open the vault by force, causing all of Mammon's wealth to spill from the vault and ruining his life's work.

    Western Animation