The myth of the Gated Land is one of the oldest and most enduring myths in the story world. It pre-dates the Catechism and exists in some form in almost every culture on the planet. We’re going to start with the current form of the myth that exists in Catechism scripture:
“When time began and the world was new, God created us fifty-score and ten. With nowhere to live and nowhere to rest, God looked ’round and created again. The world sprang from God’s own heart, a home for those he’d made to love. And in that world he laid a wall, a mile thick, a hundred tall. Encircling the land of love, the Gated Land kept evil out, in the west, the edge of the world. In this land of purity, he placed us there to live and rest, and gave unto us the world in whole. But haste he bade us not to have, patience a virtue pure. For the world outside the Gated Land was rough, impure, evil.
To oversee, to watch, to guide, God set us angels, clean and high. And then he went out to the the world, for creation he’d yet to finish in whole. And as god worked, we humans sat, we ran and learned, we loved and held, we climbed and lived. And God was gone, though he loved us still, we began to long, to wonder and long. We wanted to know, we wanted to see, we wished to leave, we wished to grow.
And a split arose among the fifty-score and ten, some willing the patience God had given, some casting it aside and gate. And the gate of the land opened for us, the world wide and free, and those impatient few, they ran free and strong, and build the world eastward, they spread and lived.
And the angels in heaven, the reported to God, saying ‘the humans you love have dashed patience in two, have disobeyed, have left the land. God, give the order, we will chase them and teach them, we will kill them so those who remain know your love has limits.’
And God said ‘No, I will not punish, curiosity and freedom are human truths, and though I weep for their impatience, I will wait the day when they return, and the Gated Land will welcome them again.’
And this was evil in the sight of the angels, and so, in defiance, they left, to chase, to harry the humans, those who’d left, to be their foil, and thus they fell, losing their grace, and became demons, all the evil in the world.
And God wept for his loss for he needed angels, to watch over and guide, to love and help, for humans to be led on the right path back to the Land. And he turned to those who waited, his creations still in the Gated Land, and he made of them angels, their reward for patience. And now they watch, they guide and lead, and fight the demons who harry us. And as humans spread the world across, the angels kept us in God’s grace and defended us from evil.
And in his Gated Land, God sits and waits, alone and calm, for he knows that one day it will be time, it will be the end, the end of time, and then the impatient ones, God’s beloved humans, they will return, and they will live with him in the Gated Land forever and ever.”
For the modern Catechism, the most important part of the story is the fact that humans are living under the supervision of angels and that God is waiting for them to come back to the holiest land at the end of time (I’ll have another Myths and Legends post someday talking about myths concerning the end of the world too). At the time the scriptural version of the myth was recorded, the division between angels and demons was the most critical element, because it cast demons as an entirely separate order of entity from humans, one based in jealousy and hatred and nothing else. In the canonical order of sacred texts, the next story that appears is one featuring the demons’ election of the devil to help them harry the human race.
The first three paragraphs of the myth existed in a slightly different form before the founding of the Catechism. The same general sense was there, although the gods were plural rather than singular, and the disobedience in the act of leaving was stressed far more and used as reasoning for why humans must be subject to their gods. The humans who stayed in the Gated Land, in that version of the story, are still there, living in peace and harmony, and will be the rulers of the earth someday.
Interestingly, the gods themselves had a version of that mythology, in which they were born in the Gated Land, but were trapped there by evil powers who ruled the rest of the cosmos, and in an act of heroism, the gods broke free from the Gated Land, fought the evil creatures and vanquished them–trapping them in the Gated Land for eternity. The understood the Gated Land not as a place on their planet, but as an alternate realm, accessed through the tower that was at the centre of their self-understanding. Whether they intentionally told humans a version of the Gated Land myth or whether the humans just heard it and took it up for themselves is unknown.
In any case, the modern Catechism often tells the scriptural story with a lot of embellishment, adding a lot of detail about human return to the Gated Land at the end of the world, drawing on other existing stories in their canon. Their eschatological myth ends with humans returning to the Gated Land to live with God and the saints and angels and martyrs forever and ever, so it’s a critical part of the orientation of their world. That said, the Gated Land isn’t heaven, that’s a separate thing that is conceptualized as a holding area for people who will exist in the Gated Land at the end of time. Until time ends, God is the only one in there.
The number fifty score and ten is a bit confusing for scriptural interpreters. The ten could be just ten, or it could mean ten score, the Dynese is unclear. Certainly this isn’t something of the utmost importance, but whether it’s 1010 people or 1200 people has been subject of a lot of debate over the years. The Catechism formally recognizes twelve hundred saints, which they say is because that’s how many people were in the Gated Land to begin with. Interestingly, the number wasn’t part of the pre-Catechism version of the story, but it was in the gods’ version.
In Kyaine there’s a minor difference in the telling of the myth in liturgy, which is that they insist that every human who lived in the Gated Land was a child no older than twelve. The formal Catechism doesn’t have an official stance on this, but their art and the way that priests have talked about it make clear that they feel the first humans were full adults when they made their decision. Kyainese Catechism emphasizes the fact that the decision to leave was made by people who weren’t equipped to make such a decision, which is why humans don’t deserve to be punished, whereas Dolovin Catechism insists that humans do deserve punishment but God’s grace keeps it from us. This is one of a growing number of seemingly minor doctrinal differences between Kyaine and Dolovai.
The Gated Land myth is present as well in areas where the Catechism isn’t very prominent. The most obvious place on Menechit is Ech’kent, where missionaries were very surprised to find knowledge of the Gated Land when they arrived, and then very appalled when they realized that the people there understood themselves as the descendants of the people who had stayed in the Gated Land and been patient. Although efforts have been made to stamp out native Ech’kent religion for several hundred years, there are still people in the plateau who believe this. The myth there further articulates that the gods will never let those who left come back, that they are damned for all time for their impatience.
In much of Aergyre the same myth exists and the belief generally is that the Gated Land must be somewhere on their continent, but hidden until it is time to return there. There are several versions of the myth in Enjon, but probably the most popular one is that the Gated Land is actually on the moon, and only through the favour of various deities is it possible to return there. In the small countries east of Dolovai and Kyaine, something very similar to the Kyainese version of the myth exists. They also believe that the Gated Land is in their territory in an impenetrably deep wood. Islanders living between Menechit and Aergyre believe that the Gated Land is a sunken island that will someday rise from the sea.
Mermaids, speaking broadly, believe that the Gated Land is all land, which will someday be covered by the sea again. Dragons tell their young a version of the story remarkably similar to the old gods’ version, though with the added detail that the monstrous creatures who they defeated outside the Gated Land were their very own gods, who had created and placed them in the Gated Land as pets. Before they went extinct on Menechit, elves told a version of the story that had the Gated Land as their afterlife. Faeries by and large say that this is where the elves went. Centaurs and werewolves are two major groups that don’t have a Gated Land mythology (the others being a few recently-colonized peoples in eastern Aergyre and a small, militaristic and difficult to assail nation-state in the south of the Aergyre continent called Roak), though werewolves do believe that they came from the moon.
The global existence of Gated Land mythology lends weight to the idea that some part of it must be true, though of course it’s also possible that it’s just a story that has existed for a long time and permeated every culture it’s come into. Either way, the story of the Gated Land is known in some form by almost everyone who lives on the planet, either as a creation story or as a story about what happens after life ends, or after the world ends.
From “The Definitive Atlas of the World, Vol. 6: Mythologies and Beliefs,” by Pascal Tiberius Naoton Quimbell Haeverine anNatalie, published in White Cape in DN 1997.
8 thoughts on “Friday Lore Post: Myths and Legends of Menechit, Part 1: The Gated Land”
Given the whole “eldritch horrors in another realm of existence breaking into the world of gods die” thing, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the gods have the closest version to the truth.
That’s not to say that the other versions don’t have grains of truth to them that may or may not be absent from the gods’ version, but I get the impression that that’s more due to other culturally resonant myths and symbolism being amalgamated with the original story. For instance, the dragons’ version looks a lot like the experimentation on them at the hands of demons as viewed through the lens of the Gated Land mythos.
I’m also getting Final Fantasy VII vibes from this—the Promised Land is similarly ambiguous, with many different characters having different ideas of what it is, how to get there, and why it’s desirable.
I think that’s a fair assumption. I mean, if the Gated Land is/was a real place or the myth has some basis in something that happened, the gods would be the closest people to it historically, and so their version of the story would be the most likely to have retained details pertinent to what “really” happened (inasmuch as anything in a myth full of symbols really happened). Though even by the time they had it, it was already a myth, so if it was some historical event, it was in the very distant past. 🙂
And of course like any story, new cultures add in bits that are relevant to their own experience, so yes, other versions may be getting at something important (and different) than the gods’ version of it because they may have added other information, or have cultural access to other information about that same story that comes down from other sources (I only really talked about Gated Land mythology as pertains to the creation of the world, but it shows up as a concept in a lot of other myths). I think you’re right that to point out that the dragons seem to have amalgamated something that happened to their species in fairly recent (for them) history into the myth. There are definitely shades of that happening there. It would be interesting to see what the story looked like for them prior to the Catechism War, I expect.
I’ve never actually played much of Final Fantasy VII, but that’s really interesting to hear! I should play the rest of it. I always like myths that resonate but not in the same way for everyone who hears them. Super interesting!
Huh. Wonder what they’d make of the story of Eden?
I feel like they’d think of it as another iteration of their same myth. I mean it’s got the creation of the world, a land with a gate, evil and danger outside, human disobedience. Most of the same foundational material is there.
Probably they’d find it weird that there were only two people, though. Even in the period of time where “fifty score and ten” wasn’t part of the myth, the Gated Land has always been understood to have been home to a lot of people.
Hypothesis: All the stories are wrong. The Gated Land is in fact the Sacred Realm, where three golden goddesses left behind the Triforce, and the gods’ story of evil being sealed there comes from when Ganon gatecrashed the place and turned it into the Dark World. This has been a Legend of Zelda fanfic the entire time.
Hey, don’t give away the big plot twists! I work really hard to keep that stuff a secret until the very end!
So….. That tower. It’s the one in Let’s You and I Walk to the End of the World, yes? The one Aaron and Seth walked to (and presumably fucked up, given that the Web collapsed basically immediately?). Definitely seems like the Gods had the closest thing to the truth.
Okay, so I read about a tower in a mythology blog post and connected it to a specific story,complete with character names and what went down immediately after in the time line. Maybe I need a life.
Also, need to see Sully or Bartholomew talk to Pax about theology, especially this myth, because they likely grew up with the pre-Catechism one with multiple gods and I doubt it’s even generally known that that version ever existed by modern times. Also, some parts of it HAVE to have changed, if only because of translation, because nothing fucks with your meter and rhyme like changing languages.
Yep, that’s the tower! That tower was extremely important to the old gods, which was why its destruction was a big enough deal for them to declare all-out war over. 🙂
I mean maybe we both need a life, but at the same time, you correctly got at what I was aiming for with mentioning that, so good work! It made me smile to read it.
I definitely think this is one of the many things that Sully and/or Bartholomew need to spill the beans on, and talking to Pax would be a good way to do that. Because you’re right, most people have no idea that this story existed before the Catechism (except for the general assumption that it’s true, to some degree). And yes, you’re right–some of it has definitely been changed and been lost/added to in translation! Especially since, its modern iteration, the text has been translated at least twice. It’s rather notable that it was translated into something resembling a good metre and something that mostly rhymes despite all that, which may say something about the accuracy of the translation.
Thanks for this, it was very interesting to read!