Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn

Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn is a fantasy novel by British author Robert Holdstock. It was originally published in the United States in 1997 (and in the United Kingdom under the title Gate of Ivory in 1998.) The story is a prequel to Mythago Wood and explores Christian Huxley's quest into Ryhope Wood and the apparent suicide of his mother, Jennifer Huxley. The title of the book refers to the gates of horn and ivory described in both Homer's Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.

Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn
Gate of Ivory US
First edition cover
AuthorRobert Holdstock
Cover artistRon Walotsky
CountryUnited States
SeriesMythago Wood series
PublisherRoc Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback)
823/.914 21
LC ClassPR6058.O442 G37 1997
Preceded byThe Hollowing (1993) 
Followed byAvilion (2009) 


The tale The Cattle Raid of Cooley was an inspiration according to the author.[1] David Langford, an author, editor and literary critic, points out that the multitude of impossible tasks placed before one of the main characters is based on the Mabinogion's incomplete tale of Culhwch and Olwen.[2]

Plot summary

Gate of Ivory
Original UK cover by Larry Rostant

Christian Huxley enters Ryhope wood on a search for the compelling mythago Guiwenneth and for a better understanding of his mother's suicide. Inside the wood he joins a small group of mythago companions who, in turn, join a vast army of mythagos, numbering in the thousands. This army includes many mythic archetypes including shaman, shapeshifters, and warriors. Among these mythagos are those whose creation is influenced by King Arthur and the Welsh tales of the Mabinogion, specifically the tale of Culhwch and Olwen. Echoing the tales of Culhwch and Olwen, Christian is assigned with completing many impossible tasks. Holdstock uses the story within a story device to have Kylhuk retell a tale involving himself, Olwen and Pwyll, among others.

This army, known as a legion, is pursued by the angry dead on its search for the gates to the underworld. As Christian nears the end of his quest in the wood, he has an opportunity to enter the underworld (like Orpheus) and grapple with the suicide of his mother which has two very different manifestations, one true and one false. While in the underworld he is also faced with a difficult choice of rescuing only one of two loved ones from death.[3]

Human Characters

Christian Huxley 
Main character of the story and older brother of Stephen Huxley.
George Huxley  
Father of Stephen and Christian and husband to Jennifer. George is a tall man lean man who is a scientist in the field of psychology who has studied with Carl Jung. He has also researched archaeology and obsesses over myths. Over the course of his studies of Ryhope wood, George produces a scientific journal in six volumes, a personal diary and a detailed map of Ryhope wood.
Jennifer Huxley 
Wife of George and mother of Stephen and Christian. Her suicide is a central issue in Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn.
Stephen Huxley 
Christian's younger brother.


A male Saracen who is brought back to life and is a member of Legion's advanced scouting group, "Forlorn Hope."
The oldest warrior son of Kyrdu. Eletherion is Kylhuk's foe.
A boatman who is a mythical combination of Bran and Charon, this 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) man takes the dead through the twin gates to the land of the dead. The boatman has the ability to travel through space and time and bring the dead back to life, but only before they pass through the twin gates.
Guiwenneth of the Green (also Gwyneth) 
This female mythago (usually evoked as an older teenager) hearkens from the Bronze Age and appears in various incarnations throughout time, including protomyth, a girl from Roman Britain, a manifestation of the Earth goddess, young Celtic warrior princess and Guinevere.[4] Each of Gwyneth's incarnations has a varied personality, some dangerous and other alluring, and differing relations with the members of the Huxley family.
The leader Forlorn Hope. Elidyr brings Gwyr back to life from the ashes. Gwyr is an interpreter of languages and sounder of the war horn.
A female member of Forlorn hope who is a Sorceress and Shapeshifter who served as an apprentice to Merlin. Issabeau has fair skin and long black hair. She shares the same primary myth as Someone.
A male member of Forlorn Hope who is gray-haired Mesolithic hunter.
Kylhuk (Kilhwch) 
The heavy-set leader of the 4000-person army known as Legion.
A man who is bound to guard the entrance to the underworld. Mabon has the power to show true memory to others.
A tall man with white hair who is Guiwenneth's guardian.
The woman whose hand in marriage is sought by Kylhuk.
Someone son of Somebody is a Celt also known as Ironjacket. His father died before naming him so he has no name. Someone wears an iron studded leather jacket and has an orange moustache. He shares the same primary myth as Issabeau.


Gate of Ivory was a nominee for the British Fantasy Society's Best Novel award in 1998.

Chronology of works in the Mythago Wood cycle

The order in which the Mythago cycle works were written/published does not necessarily correspond to the order of events within the realm of the Mythago Wood cycle. For example, Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn and the novella The Bone Forest are prequels to Mythago Wood even though they were published at a later date. The novel Merlin's Wood (1994) and short stories in The Bone Forest and Merlin's Wood have little bearing on the events in the Ryhope wood. See the table below for a chronology of events within Ryhope wood.

Preceded by: Chronology of Events in Ryhope Wood:
Followed by:
The Bone Forest Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn Mythago Wood


  1. ^ Holdstock, Robert Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn, (New York, NY: Roc Books, 1997), Acknowledgements page.
  2. ^ Langford, David Supernatural Fiction Writers, Second Edition, Volume 1, ed. Richard Bleiler (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), page 450.
  3. ^ Langford, David Supernatural Fiction Writers, Second Edition, Volume 1, ed. Richard Bleiler (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), page 449.
  4. ^ Pringle, David Modern fantasy: the hundred best novels: an English language selection, 1946-1987, (New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1989), page 241.


  • Langford, David (2003). Supernatural Fiction Writers (2nd ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 978-0-684-31251-4.
  • Morse, Donald E.; Matolcsy, Kalman (2011). The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction (1st ed.). London: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4942-2.

External links


Avilion is a fantasy novel by British author Robert Holdstock. It was published in the United Kingdom on July 16, 2009. It is his first Ryhope wood novel since Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn was published in 1997. Avilion is Tennyson's term for Avalon in Idylls of the King. Avilion is described by Tennyson as an island valley with ideal weather and fertile land.

The novel Mythago Wood introduces tropes, terminology and a backstory that are built upon in Avilion.

British Fantasy Award

The British Fantasy Awards are awarded annually by the British Fantasy Society (BFS), first in 1976. Prior to that they were known as The August Derleth Fantasy Awards (see August Derleth Award). First awarded in 1972 (The Knight of Swords by Michael Moorcock) only for novels, the number of award categories increased and in 1976 the BFS renamed them collectively the British Fantasy Awards. The current award categories are Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award), Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award), Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Independent Press, Best Artist, Best Anthology, Best Collection, Best Comic/Graphic Novel, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award), while the Karl Edward Wagner Award for "important contribution to the genre or the Society" is given at the discretion of the BFS committee. The membership of the BFS vote to determine the shortlists of the awards, the winners being decided by juries.

Gates of horn and ivory

The gates of horn and ivory are a literary image used to distinguish true dreams (corresponding to factual occurrences) from false. The phrase originated in the Greek language, in which the word for "horn" is similar to that for "fulfil" and the word for "ivory" is similar to that for "deceive". On the basis of that play on words, true dreams are spoken of as coming through the gates of horn, false dreams as coming through those of ivory.


Lavondyss also titled Lavondyss: Journey to an Unknown Region is a fantasy novel by British writer Robert Holdstock, the second book in his Mythago Wood series. Lavondyss was originally published in 1988. The name of the novel hints at the real and mythological locales of Avon, Lyonesse, Avalon and Dis; within the novel Lavondyss is the name of the remote, ice-age heart of Ryhope wood.Despite having a new primary character, Lavondyss is a sequel to Mythago Wood because several characters provide links between the novels; the events in Mythago Wood set into motion events that drive the protagonists' actions in Lavondyss.

Lavondyss has won, or been nominated to, several fantasy literature awards.

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Merlin's Wood

Merlin's Wood; or, The Vision of Magic is a short novel by British writer Robert Holdstock, first published in the United Kingdom in 1994. The novel is considered part of the Mythago Wood cycle, but takes place in Brittany, France instead of Herefordshire, England. The work has all new characters and focuses on the mythical birthplace and burial site of Merlin, the magical wood Brocéliande. Brocéliande is a smaller version of Ryhope wood where British myth predominates.In addition to the short novel, Merlin's Wood, the 1994 edition features two tales, "Earth and Stone" and "The Silvering". The 2009 edition contains the tales "Scarrowfell, "Thorn", "Earth and Stone", and the novella "The Bone Forest".

Mythago Wood

Mythago Wood is a fantasy novel by British writer Robert Holdstock, published in the United Kingdom in 1984. It won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1985. It served as the first in a series of novels known as the Mythago Wood or Ryhope Wood cycle. It belongs to a type of fantasy literature known as mythic fiction. It has received critical acclaim for the quality of its prose, its forest setting, and its exploration of philosophical, spiritual and psychological themes.

Philip R. Craig

Philip R. Craig (December 10, 1933 – May 8, 2007) was a writer known for his Martha's Vineyard mysteries.

Robert Holdstock

Robert Paul Holdstock (2 August 1948 – 29 November 2009) was an English novelist and author best known for his works of Celtic, Nordic, Gothic and Pictish fantasy literature, predominantly in the fantasy subgenre of mythic fiction.

Holdstock broke into print in 1968. His science fiction and fantasy works explore philosophical, psychological, anthropological, spiritual and woodland themes. He received three BSFA awards and won the World Fantasy Award in the category of Best Novel of 1985.

Robert Holdstock bibliography

This is a bibliography of fantasy author Robert Holdstock.

The Bone Forest

The Bone Forest is a collection of fantasy short stories by British writer Robert Holdstock, published in 1991 (UK) and 1992 (US). It opens with a novella of the same name, followed by seven short stories. The novella is a prequel to the entire Mythago Wood cycle. According to the author it was written "to fill in the background and back-story to Mythago Wood" at the request of a screenwriter who was working on a planned movie version of Mythago Wood.The 1991 and 1992 editions of the book contain seven short stories in addition to the novella The Bone Forest., after which the volume takes its name. The additional stories in The Bone Forest bear little relation with either time or events in the Mythago Wood cycle, yet the short stories are largely influenced by the fantasy realm created as part of the Mythago Wood cycle.The Bone Forest has both won and been nominated for fantasy literature awards.

The Hollowing

The Hollowing is a fantasy novel by British writer Robert Holdstock, the third in the Mythago Wood series written . It was originally published in 1993. The title refers to a magical pathway, or hollowing, an archaic English term for a sunken lane or hollow-way. The Hollowing was inspired by the story Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.Despite primarily featuring new characters, The Hollowing is a sequel to Lavondyss because a handful of characters provide a link between the two novels. The events in the previous novel set into motion the events that drive the actions of the protagonist in The Hollowing.

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