Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Gate Key

The Gate KeyThe Gate Key

There was once a couple who were quite happy. They would go out together, sometimes late at night, and need the gate key to get back in. One evening they went to a play and were locked out of the city, but they knew of another gate that was open, so they went there with a crowd of people, singing all the way. It was a great time, but this was before they knew of the key’s power.

The wife always said her husband was born under the sign of the wheelbarrow, for he had to be pushed into everything. If there was a decision to be made, someone else had to have some input into it, otherwise, it would never be done.

The key the man possessed did have a trick. He determined that if he lay the key on his finger, each beat of his heart would cause it to move. Each tick to one side could be a letter of the alphabet. In this way entire sentences could come from his key. He also knew how to make the key tick to the other side to say “no” and also how to change the answer in his favor.

After some years, a friend asked the couple to be benefactors to his daughter. Her name was Lotte-Lene. The man asked the key if he should become her benefactor and the key told him yes. So it began the relationship between Lotte-Lene, the man, and his wife. The wife did not believe in the power of the gate key. She thought it was purely another way for her husband to be pushed into doing something.

Time passed on and Lotte-Lene became well-read and acted in a play. She had a debut and became an actress.

The man’s wife died and he was alone, this was some years since. Lotte-Lene came back home and didn’t know what to do with herself, because she was done being an actress. They asked the key what to do. The key said that the man should marry Lotte-Lene. To the man, the key had been good luck and victory this entire time, but it also got him Lotte-Lene.


Divination–fortune-telling–that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a “yes” or “no” form of fortune-telling. You ask a question and you get a “yes” or a “no,” but you could also certainly ask a non-yes/no question and use the yes/no(s) to mean letters of the alphabet. Does the first name start with an “A”? It gets a bit more complicated, but it could potentially work that way.

Is it real? Well, that all depends on if you believe in the idea of fortune-telling, the wife obviously didn’t. Does the planchet on the Ouija board move on its own or is someone pushing it? How you answer that question determines where you stand on fortune-telling.

The entire idea of fortune-telling is to find an answer you don’t know. Most of us would just use Google, but we can’t necessarily Google, “Who will I marry?” and get a correct answer, but maybe Google could give you the search results of the person you will marry; I don’t know, anything’s possible.


Whether or not you believe in the idea of fortune-telling or not is not really the point of this story. The point was that the man put the burden of choice on something else besides himself, but depending on what you believe, he could have been making the decisions himself the entire time. Why couldn’t he have made these decisions on his own? Why did he have to ask a key if he should be a benefactor to a young woman? Why couldn’t he have just said to himself, “This is a very charitable thing to do; I’ll do it”?

Some people are indecisive to the max. I’ve had my own experiences with being a bit indecisive. I’ve gotten better over the years, but decision-making can be difficult. There are pros and cons to each decision that we make and there are consequences for each decision that we make. How far do those consequences reach? Will we know all the consequences before we make the decision? What if the consequences are bad? These questions can hobble us in our tracks when making decisions. This is why some people may want to opt out entirely of the decision-making process. They may even try to shift any decisions they have made in the past to someone else. “I didn’t pick this; you did.”

In the case of this story, the man relied on a key to make his choices, but according to how the wife described him, he relied on others to make all of his choices. Maybe he was scared to make his decisions, or maybe he was just lazy, who knows? He’s a fictional character so we can’t know for sure. This man’s life turned out alright even with his letting other people make his decisions, but one has to wonder if maybe his life would have been better if he had made his own choices all the time? Isn’t a choice better when you make it yourself?

Anxious people say, “No,” on that one, by the way.


Can you imagine ordering pizza with this guy?

Weigh In

Do you think using methods of divination can cripple a person’s ability to choose for themselves?

Do you think there are those who would be entirely happy putting all their decisions in someone else’s hands?


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