The Keys to the Kingdom
The Keys to the Kingdom is a fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

An adventure is defined as an exciting or unusual experience; it may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome. The term is often used to refer to activities with some potential for physical danger, such as skydiving, mountain climbing and or participating in extreme sports...

 book series
Book series
A book series is a sequence of books having certain characteristics in common that are formally identified together as a group. Book series can be organized in different ways, such as written by the same author, or marketed as a group by their publisher....

 written by Garth Nix
Garth Nix
Garth Nix is an Australian author of young adult fantasy novels, most notably the Old Kingdom series, The Seventh Tower series, and The Keys to the Kingdom series. He has frequently been asked if his name is a pseudonym, to which he has responded, "I guess people ask me because it sounds like the...

, published in seven books between 2003 and 2010. The series chronicles the adventures of Arthur Penhaligon, an asthmatic 12-year-old boy who is chosen to become the Rightful Heir of the House, the epicenter of the universe. The core storyline involves Arthur attempting to defeat the Morrow Days, the criminal Trustees of the House. The series takes place over a span of three weeks (time moves at different speeds at different locations in the series).


The series' protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

 is an asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

tic 12-year-old boy, Arthur Penhaligon. The series begins on a Monday, with the main events starting a week later on the next Monday. Each book moves onto the next day of the week, over the course of about three weeks in Earth time, concluding on a Sunday. Each day features beings, collectively known as the Trustees, who each govern a portion of the House
The House (Keys to the Kingdom)
The House is a domain that serves as the center of the universe in the Keys to the Kingdom series by Australian author Garth Nix. Anything in creation not in the House, such as earth , is part of the Secondary Realms...

, which is the center of the Universe. The seven demesnes of the House are, in the order Arthur visits them: the Lower House, the Far Reaches, the Border Sea, the Great Maze, the Middle House, the Upper House, and the Incomparable Gardens.

In the beginning of the first book, Arthur lives a relatively normal life as an adopted child
Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents...

 in a large and caring family. An asthma attack on a Monday that should have killed him brings him into contact with Mister Monday, who rules the Lower House. He eventually finds his way to the Lower House himself, where he is to find the cure to a plague
A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or even worldwide. A widespread endemic disease that is stable in terms of how many people are getting sick from it is not a pandemic...

 brought to his world by dog faced 'Fetchers'. By convenience, he is declared Heir to the Kingdom and given the Lesser Half of the First Key, which is shaped like the minute hand of a clock. Because of this Key's magical properties, Arthur is relieved of his asthma while in contact with the Key or in the House, and proceeds to a strange and dangerous set of adventures.

As Arthur discovers, the Will of the Architect (creator of the House and the "Secondary Realms" that surround it) was not fulfilled as it should have been. Instead, it was broken into seven pieces by the Architect's Trustees, the self-named Morrow Days. The Will was forced to act on its own, and its First Part chooses Arthur to be the Heir to the Kingdom. It thus becomes Arthur's responsibility to recover each of the missing pieces of the Will, defeat each Trustee - each of whom has been afflicted with one of the seven deadly sins
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

 - claim their domains by taking each Key, and ultimately fulfill the Will.

Author Garth Nix's approach to the narrative has drawn heavily on Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

's Hero's Journey
Joseph Campbell's term monomyth, also referred to as the hero's journey, is a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives from around the world. This widely distributed pattern was described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces...

, with continuous references to archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

 and the number 7.


  • Arthur Penhaligon — The 12-year-old boy was chosen as the Rightful Heir of the House by the embodiment of the Architect's Last Will and Testament.
  • Suzy Turquoise Blue — A female Piper's Child who chooses to work with the Will and the Rightful Heir. Though she appears to be 12-years-old, Suzy has been in the House since the [Black Plague] on Earth and is centuries old. After [Mister Monday], she gains the title of Monday's Tierce, assistant to Monday's Noon.
  • Leaf — A 12-year-old human girl who befriends Arthur. She unexpectedly becomes involved with Arthur's adventures in the House.
  • Dr. Scamandros — An Upper House trained sorcerer, he set about looking for his lost test results in the Border Sea as a ship shaman before meeting and subsequently helping Arthur. He is made Dusk of Wednesday and is one of Arthur's most helpful allies.
  • Dame Primus — The personification of the Will of the Architect, who agrees to act as Arthur's steward in the House when he chooses to return to the Secondary Realms at the end of Mister Monday. While she supports Arthur as the Rightful Heir, her true intentions regarding the Will of the Architect appears to be ambiguous.
  • The Trustees — The seven Morrow Days (Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday) who were each entrusted with a Key to the Kingdom to keep safe and then hand over to the Rightful Heir. Instead, they broke the Architect's Will into seven pieces and locked it up, as they did not want to follow the will, which would entail the destruction of all reality.
    • Dawn, Noon and Dusk
Each Trustee was assigned three principal servants; however, technically there are only six of each as Grim Tuesday formed his attendants into seven beings, of lesser power than the original Dawn, Noon and Dusk, known as the Grim's Grotesques.
  • Dawn - A Dawn represents the hour of sunrise, and is usually dressed in bright colours and speaks loudly. She has a golden tongue.
  • Noon — A Noon represents the hour between 12 noon and 1 pm, and is recognisable for his red, yellow, and white colouring. Noon is the most powerful of the trio. He has a silver tongue.
  • Dusk - A Dusk represents the hour of sunset, and is known for dressing in dark colours and speaks softly. He has a black tongue.
    • The Mariner — Known as Tom Shelvocke, the second son of the Architect and usually an ally to Arthur. His character is implied to be based on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
      The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
      The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and was published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads. Modern editions use a later revised version printed in 1817 that featured a gloss...

      by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
      Samuel Taylor Coleridge
      Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

      . His harpoon is based on the spear used by the soldier who stabbed Jesus
      Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

      , one of the relics connected to the Holy Grail
      Holy Grail
      The Holy Grail is a sacred object figuring in literature and certain Christian traditions, most often identified with the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and said to possess miraculous powers...

    • The Piper — The third son of the Architect, who is able to take control of the Piper's Children he brought into the House with his pipes. He is the creator and leader of the New Nithlings, and intends to take control the House. The piper is based on the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
    • Pravuil — A sly spy trying to kill Arthur all the way through his campaign, serving under all seven of the trustees.

The House and The Morrow Days

The House is the second creation of the Architect and its purpose is to record and acknowledge the events of the Secondary Realms, essentially making it the epicentre of the Universe. The House is divided into seven parts, each ruled by a respective Trustee. Each is related to one of the seven deadly sins. These parts are:
  • The Lower House — Ruled by Mister Monday who's afflicted by Sloth
  • The Far Reaches — Ruled by Grim Tuesday who's afflicted by Greed
  • The Border Sea — Ruled by Drowned Wednesday who's afflicted by Gluttony
  • The Great Maze — Ruled by Sir Thursday who's afflicted by Wrath
  • The Middle House — Ruled by Lady Friday who's afflicted by Lust
  • The Upper House — Ruled by Superior Saturday who's afflicted by Envy
  • The Incomparable Gardens — Ruled by Lord Sunday who's afflicted by Pride

The Keys

The Keys to the Kingdom are seven objects of power given to the Trustees along with command over their demesne
In the feudal system the demesne was all the land, not necessarily all contiguous to the manor house, which was retained by a lord of the manor for his own use and support, under his own management, as distinguished from land sub-enfeoffed by him to others as sub-tenants...

s. It is unknown whether, but implied that, control of the Key is that which gives one control over a demesne and its namesake day in the Secondary Realms. The Key will bond to the rightful owner of a Key, and protect him or her from harm, somewhat from pain but not at all from discomfort. A rightful owner of a Key is an Heir, the Trustee to whom it was originally entrusted, or a Steward. Over time, the use of a Key will irreparably turn a mortal into a Denizen, though it is mentioned that after a few centuries, this process may reverse a little. Because the presence of a Denizen in the Secondary Realms is inimical to mortal life, Arthur attempted to use the Keys as little as possible, as he wishes to remain mortal and return to his family; however, he later realizes that without the keys he would not be alive, and used the powers to protect the Lower House and his home town.

The Keys hold sovereign power in their own demesne and their day. All other Keys are of equal power
Superpower (ability)
Superpower is a popular culture term for a fictional superhuman ability. When a character possesses multiple such abilities, the terms super powers or simply powers are used...

 when they are not in their realm. The exception to this is Sunday's Key, which is paramount over the others. They can do much of what is asked of them, such as opening, locking, manipulating, and freezing items. The full powers of the Keys are not known, as of Lady Friday. According to Arthur, the Keys have the ability to kill anything they wish, be it Denizen, mortal, or Nithling. Beings that are none of these, such as the Architect, her consort the Old One, their three sons, and possibly Arthur in later books, may be immune.
  • The First Key can be separated into two Keys, taking the forms of the minute and hour hands of a clock. The Hour Hand is more powerful than the Minute Hand, but the Minute Hand is quicker and can be used more often. When combined, they make the First Key and take the form of a sword
    A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

     which bears some resemblance to the clock hands, having a silver
    Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

     and gold
    Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

    en blade
    A blade is that portion of a tool, weapon, or machine with a cutting edge and/or a pointed tip that is designed to cut and/or puncture, stab, slash, chop, slice, thrust, or scrape animate or inanimate surfaces or materials...

    . It gives dominion over the Lower House and Monday.
  • The Second Key takes the form of two large silver gauntlet
    Gauntlet (gloves)
    Gauntlet is a name for several different styles of glove, particularly those with an extended cuff covering part of the forearm. Gauntlets exist in many forms, ranging from flexible fabric and leather gloves, to mail and fully articulated plate armour....

    s (gloves when Dame Primus wears it), laced with gold, which were used by Grim Tuesday to form objects and creatures from Nothing. It gives dominion over the Far Reaches and Tuesday.
  • The Third Key takes the form of a trident
    A trident , also called a trishul or leister or gig, is a three-pronged spear. It is used for spear fishing and was also a military weapon. Tridents are featured widely in mythical, historical and modern culture. The major Hindu god, Shiva the Destroyer and the sea god Poseidon or Neptune are...

     that is capable of increasing and decreasing its size. Drowned Wednesday once used it as a fork. Wednesday's use of the Key was limited keeping her from becoming any bigger than the massive 126 mile long Leviathan
    Leviathan , is a sea monster referred to in the Bible. In Demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper . The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature...

    esque whale
    Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. The term whale sometimes refers to all cetaceans, but more often it excludes dolphins and porpoises, which belong to suborder Odontoceti . This suborder also includes the sperm whale, killer whale, pilot whale, and beluga...

     she has become after her failed attempt to fulfill the Will and the subsequent betrayal by the Morrow Days (with the exception of Monday, who was incapacitated by his sloth
    Seven deadly sins
    The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

    ). It was used by the Will to control the borders of the Border Sea that were spilling out into the Secondary (mortal) Realms and in battle to remove the inherent water from others' bodies. It gives dominion over the Border Sea and Wednesday.
  • The Fourth Key takes the form of a Marshal
    Marshal , is a word used in several official titles of various branches of society. The word is an ancient loan word from Old French, cf...

    's baton, white and glowing green, and wrapped in gold laurel
    Bay Laurel
    The bay laurel , also known as sweet bay, bay tree, true laurel, Grecian laurel, laurel tree, or simply laurel, is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region. It is the source of the bay leaf used in cooking...

     leaves, but it can take on the form of any weapon depending on its wielder, notably a broadsword
    Broadsword may refer to:*Broadsword , a military sword used by heavy cavalry during the 17th to early 19th centuriesIn more modern times, it has also been used to refer to:...

     when used by Sir Thursday, and a rapier
    A rapier is a slender, sharply pointed sword, ideally used for thrusting attacks, used mainly in Early Modern Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.-Description:...

     for when Arthur fights. It gives dominion over the Great Maze, the Glorious Army of the Architect and Thursday.
  • The Fifth Key takes the form of a bright silver mirror
    A mirror is an object that reflects light or sound in a way that preserves much of its original quality prior to its contact with the mirror. Some mirrors also filter out some wavelengths, while preserving other wavelengths in the reflection...

    . Using it, one can travel to any reflective surface in existence, provided the owner of the Fifth Key has been there before by other means. So far, it is the only Key that has been used in a way other than to accomplish a mundane task; it is able to drain the experience
    Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event....

    s from mortals, which Friday can then absorb, enabling her to experience mortal emotions for a short time. Experiences can also be returned to mortals (as shown in Lady Friday, wherein Arthur does so), within a time limit, by one who can control the Key's power. It gives dominion over the Middle House and Friday.
  • The Sixth Key takes the form of a quill
    A quill pen is a writing implement made from a flight feather of a large bird. Quills were used for writing with ink before the invention of the dip pen, metal-nibbed pens, the fountain pen, and, eventually, the ballpoint pen...

     pen. It can be used to write extremely powerful spells that are capable of creating illusions and wiping out large numbers of the creatures of the Incomparable Gardens, among other things. Saturday is also seen combining the power of the Key with ordinary sorcery. It gives dominion over the Upper House and Saturday.
  • The Seventh Key takes the form of a small, golden key
    Key (lock)
    A key is an instrument that is used to operate a lock. A typical key consists of two parts: the blade, which slides into the keyway of the lock and distinguishes between different keys, and the bow, which is left protruding so that torque can be applied by the user. The blade is usually intended to...

    . Unlike the other Keys, this Key is paramount, retaining its full, sovereign power anywhere in the House or Secondary Realms. Among its powers seem to be the ability to suppress the powers of other keys, and confer a greater power upon the wielder. It gives dominion over the Incomparable Gardens and Sunday.


Nothing is the mythical substance used in the series. From it the entire Universe formed through a concentration
In chemistry, concentration is defined as the abundance of a constituent divided by the total volume of a mixture. Four types can be distinguished: mass concentration, molar concentration, number concentration, and volume concentration...

-based process. It appears as oily black smoke, or a black liquid, and contains the properties of being able to dissolve (with the exception of Immaterial objects) or create anything. When enough Nothing comes together, it can form a Nithling. Nithlings are creatures not created by the Architect, but self-made from uncontained or uncontrolled Nothing. The Nithlings have this autonomy
Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision...

 in common with both the Architect and the Old One, but apparently lack the power and creative impulses demonstrated by those elder beings. For more information on the various types of Nithling, see below.


Nithlings are animal-like entities formed from Nothing. They are feared by most of the House due to their ability to kill even an immortal Denizen with a festering bite.
Nithlings take a variety of shape
The shape of an object located in some space is a geometrical description of the part of that space occupied by the object, as determined by its external boundary – abstracting from location and orientation in space, size, and other properties such as colour, content, and material...

s and are incorporated into every book in some form. They appear to lack complex intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

, although some types can be used as servants (notably the Fetchers, sent to retrieve the Key in Book One). Most lower forms of Nithling can be dispatched with silver or salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

, though this has little effect on higher or more substantially Made Nithlings.

Nithlings dissolve into Nothing when killed. They are employed by many Denizens and the Morrow Days for menial tasks, especially when someone is needed to venture into the Secondary Realms. Nithling species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 usually are named; this implies that they are usually made in regular forms.
The Nithlings seen so far in the books are:
  • Fetchers (Mister Monday, Lady Friday) — resembling men with the faces of bloodhound
    The Bloodhound is a large breed of dog which, while originally bred to hunt deer and wild boar, was later bred specifically to track human beings. It is a scenthound, tracking by smell, as opposed to a sighthound, which tracks using vision. It is famed for its ability to discern human odors even...

    s, sent to retrieve objects. Fetchers cannot cross thresholds uninvited. They can be banished with salt, which causes them to dissolve, and are forbidden to wear wings or carry weapons.
  • Bibliophages (Mister Monday) — a snake
    Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...

    -like Nithling, expelling a venom
    Venom is the general term referring to any variety of toxins used by certain types of animals that inject it into their victims by the means of a bite or a sting...

     that reduces any kind of writing to Nothing. They are attracted to writing, which they then try to destroy.
  • Spirit-Eater (Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday) — a creature made by sorceries and a seed
    A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

     item belonging to the person whose physical form it assumes, being designed to imitate them. It requires a year of House Time to grow from Nothing. It can grow mentally conducive mold
    Molds are fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. Molds are not considered to be microbes but microscopic fungi that grow as single cells called yeasts...

     on people and can only be destroyed if its seed item is plunged into Nothing. The mold originates from the (fictional) planet called Avraxyn; its mutant form, present in Spirit-Eaters, is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact between and only between the Spirit-Eater and natural beings, wherein after it communicates knowledge of its model to the former. A Spirit-Eater's true form varies and can only be seen through a veil of raindrops on a sunny day. At all other times, it resembles its model. Its technical name is 'Cocigrue', which it shares with a legendary monster called Cocquigrue or Coquecigrue.
  • Scoucher (Grim Tuesday) — a Nithling originating from small, semi-enclosed space
    Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum...

    s. Can take any form, but always has long, sharp, ribbon-like tentacle
    A tentacle or bothrium is one of usually two or more elongated flexible organs present in animals, especially invertebrates. The term may also refer to the hairs of the leaves of some insectivorous plants. Usually, tentacles are used for feeding, feeling and grasping. Anatomically, they work like...

    s, with which it causes mortals or Denizens to bleed uncontrollably. It then obtains strength from their blood. Silver, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium and platinum can kill a Scoucher upon contact.
  • Feverfew's Cormorant
    The bird family Phalacrocoracidae is represented by some 40 species of cormorants and shags. Several different classifications of the family have been proposed recently, and the number of genera is disputed.- Names :...

    s (Drowned Wednesday) — heralds that communicate to the pirate Feverfew that his treasures have been breached.
  • Feverfew (Drowned Wednesday) — Part Nithling, part human, this cruel pirate sails on the Border Sea. He is eventually killed while fighting Lord Arthur.
  • Gore-Draken (Drowned Wednesday) — A rare type of Nithling created when certain lost items come into contact with Nothing.
  • Not-Horse (Sir Thursday, Lord Sunday) — A Near Creation made in the workshops of Grim Tuesday. Not-Horses are red-eyed equines having a metallic skin, three clawed toes on each foot, discerning intelligence, personalities suited for battle, and the ability to march in step with each other. They are used as beasts of burden by the Glorious Army of the Architect, particularly by the pseudo- Mongol division thereof known as the Horde. Other versions of Not-Horses include Winged Not-Horses as in Lord Sunday.
  • New Nithlings or Newniths (Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday,Lord Sunday) — Creatures created by the Piper in vast numbers to invade and conquer the Great Maze. The Piper made them as "new Denizens", incorporating as many mortal traits as he could. New Nithlings are much more docile then regular Nithlings. They possess creative impulses and the ability to adapt; without the Piper's leadership, he has said, they would probably prefer to become farmers.
  • Nightsweeper (Mister Monday) — A Nithling taking the from of a tiny horse whose sole purpose is to spend one night gathering any contamination that has emanated from the House into the Secondary Realms, with which it then becomes Nothing.
  • Soot, Grim Tuesday's Eyebrow (Grim Tuesday) — One of Tuesday's eyebrows, which was blown from its face when he was experimenting with Nothing. It was blasted into the Pit, where accumulation of Nothing upon it made it strong, mobile, and self-aware.
  • Grannow-Hoinch (Lady Friday) — a monstrous creature consisting of pure Nothing contained within a silver armature or framework. It resembles a combination of a wild boar and a Unicorn
    The unicorn is a legendary animal from European folklore that resembles a white horse with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead, and sometimes a goat's beard...

    , having a six-foot horn. It is black, and has no visible eyes or mouth. It is extremely aggressive, and will go to great lengths to defeat its opponent.
  • Elephant (Lord Sunday) — Arthur's stuffed elephant which, while Arthur was trying to break free from a clock face and thinking of the elephant, was animated by residual powers of the Fifth and Sixth Keys and grew to the size of a large dog with sharp tusks.

Note: There is some question on whether all of the above species classify as Nithlings, shown in Mister Monday, when the Atlas says (in reference to creating Fetchers) " is not the high treason of treating with the Nithlings, those self-willed things that occasionally emerge from Nothing". This seems to imply that species created by someone are not true Nithlings, as a true Nithling is self-made.

Religious, cultural, and literary references

The Keys to the Kingdom appears to contain many examples of religious symbolism and references, particularly in Judeo-Christian
Judeo-Christian is a term used in the United States since the 1940s to refer to standards of ethics said to be held in common by Judaism and Christianity, for example the Ten Commandments...

 tradition. One example is the title of the series, a reference to the words spoken by Jesus Christ to the Apostle Peter in the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 at Matthew 16:19 - "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven". Another example is the affliction of each Morrow Day with one of the seven deadly sins
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

 that results from their choice not to obey the Will.
  • Mister Monday: Sloth
    Sloth (deadly sin)
    In the Christian moral tradition, sloth is one of the seven capital sins, often called the seven deadly sins; these sins are called sins because they supposedly destroy the charity in a person's heart and thus may lead to eternal death.-Definition:Sloth is defined as spiritual or emotional...

  • Grim Tuesday: Greed
  • Drowned Wednesday: Gluttony
    Gluttony, derived from the Latin gluttire meaning to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, intoxicants or wealth items to the point of extravagance or waste...

  • Sir Thursday: Wrath
  • Lady Friday: Lust
    Lust is an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one's desire, usually in a sexual way.-Etymology:The word lust is phonetically similar to the ancient Roman lustrum, which literally meant "purification"...

  • Superior Saturday: Envy
    Envy is best defined as a resentful emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."...

  • Lord Sunday: Pride
    Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation, pride refers to an inflated sense of one's personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris...

Other religious references include the Old One, a Prometheus
In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of mankind, known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals...

-like character who held great power but was chained and punished by the Architect for his interference with Her creations. (alternatively seen as a Lucifer
Traditionally, Lucifer is a name that in English generally refers to the devil or Satan before being cast from Heaven, although this is not the original meaning of the term. In Latin, from which the English word is derived, Lucifer means "light-bearer"...

 character). However, the revelation in the final installment that the Old One was split from the entity of the Architect, and retained her powers, strongly suggest that he is a reference to God. The Drasil trees' name resembles that of the Norse "World Tree", Yggdrasil
In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is an immense tree that is central in Norse cosmology. It was said to be the world tree around which the nine worlds existed...

. There is even a range of literary and mythological reference in the series: Mister Monday's butler is compared to Nestor of The Adventures of Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin
The Adventures of Tintin is a series of classic comic books created by Belgian artist , who wrote under the pen name of Hergé...

; a character describes Monday's Noon as exactly how she imagined Jane Austen
Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics.Austen lived...

's Mr Darcy; the Piper is a re-creation of the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin, who with his music led a population of rats from a city, later to do the same to the town's children, whose parents had refused to pay him the promised fee. The Mariner is likely a reference to the title character of the ballad The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and was published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads. Modern editions use a later revised version printed in 1817 that featured a gloss...

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

. Both the mariner of the book and the one of the poem had shot a bird and suffered misery as a result, though Garth Nix
Garth Nix
Garth Nix is an Australian author of young adult fantasy novels, most notably the Old Kingdom series, The Seventh Tower series, and The Keys to the Kingdom series. He has frequently been asked if his name is a pseudonym, to which he has responded, "I guess people ask me because it sounds like the...

 does not specify what type of bird the mariner in his book had shot. In addition, the name "Artful Loungers", used for Superior Saturday's servants, may be a reference to "Artful Dodger", the name of a street thief in Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist
Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress is the second novel by English author Charles Dickens, published by Richard Bentley in 1838. The story is about an orphan Oliver Twist, who endures a miserable existence in a workhouse and then is placed with an undertaker. He escapes and travels to...

. References to Dickens and the society wherein he lived are also implied in the personalities of the Piper's Children and in the Denizens' clothes. In Drowned Wednesday, Arthur suggests that a passage may open 'through the wardrobe', which is most likely a reference to the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis. Published in 1950 and set circa 1940, it is the first-published book of The Chronicles of Narnia and is the best known book of the series. Although it was written and published first, it is second in the series'...

, through which the protagonist children enter Narnia. The same book also includes an "exchange of blows" wherein each fighter tries to kill each other by means of one strike only, similar to the challenge issued by the Green Knight
Green Knight
The Green Knight is a character in the 14th-century Arthurian poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the related work The Greene Knight. His true name is revealed to be Bercilak de Hautdesert in Sir Gawain, while The Greene Knight names him "Bredbeddle"...

. Also, the Incomparable Gardens may represent the Garden of Eden,and Saturday's Tower would be analogous to the Tower of Babel, an attempt to reach Heaven.
The character of Lord Sunday who claims that his only wish is to care for his garden may be a reference to Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

, who decides that "we must all tend to our gardens".
In addition, the three sons of the Architect and the Old One may reference the Holy Trinity, the Father (Lord Sunday), the Son (The Mariner), and the Holy Spirit (The Piper), as well as the three Greek gods Zeus (Lord Sunday), Poseidon (The Mariner), and Hades (Pied Piper; he was banished to the Void of Nothing)

Other literary references in the series, in this case to Dante's Inferno
Inferno (Dante)
Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through what is largely the medieval concept of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as...

, include the scene of slothful Mister Monday being attacked by Bibliophages, a Nithling that takes the form of a snake, while fighting Arthur, in that the punishment in Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 for sloth is to be eaten by snakes. Grim Tuesday dies by falling into a pool of Nothing, while the punishment in Hell for greed (Tuesday's sin) is to be boiled alive. Finally, Drowned Wednesday is forced to eat every thing in her path and dies of Nothing contamination; the punishment for gluttony is to be force-fed rats, toads, and snakes.

A cultural reference is found in the use of the word Architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 to designate the Creator. It may signify either an association with Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

 or a simple leap of logic, in that the Freemasons use the epithet
An epithet or byname is a descriptive term accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, objects, and binomial nomenclature. It is also a descriptive title...

 "Great Architect" to signify the Supreme Being
Supreme Being
The term Supreme Being is often defined simply as "God", and it is used with this meaning by theologians of many religious faiths, including, but not limited to, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Deism. However, the term can also refer to more complex or philosophical interpretations of the...

 whereas in a history of the world wherein the Epicenter of the Universe is a house, its maker must necessarily be an architect.

Friday's actions in regard to "experiencing" the humans can be compared to those of a drug addict: She sadly remarks about the feelings "fading", and then desires more before remarking that she would "run out" and then leaves to find "another distraction". When Arthur takes the Fifth Key from her, her pleading for "one last experiencing" is similar to a drug addict. It is also comparable to some perceptions of vampire
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...


Another cultural reference is the usage of the name Seven Dials
Seven Dials
Seven Dials is a small but well-known road junction in the West End of London in Covent Garden where seven streets converge. At the centre of the roughly-circular space is a pillar bearing six sundials, a result of the pillar being commissioned before a late stage alteration of the plans from an...

 to describe the Lower House's transport into the Secondary Realms. The Seven Dials is a large conjunction of roads in the West End of London.

Arthur's name implies reference to archetypes: Arthur Penhaligon might be a play on Arthur Pendragon, who is otherwise known as King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

. A pun to this is that he is known as Lord Arthur, by some Denizens. The "Return of the Pendragon", a supposedly prophesied idea wherein King Arthur would return from the land of the dead and bring a golden age
Golden Age
The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline...

 to the Earth, may be implied here; Lord Arthur of the House represents the Pendragon, in which role he restores balance to the House and thence to the Universe. In keeping with the Christian theme of the books, he could be seen as being a counterpart to Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, further backed by the fact that he has adopted parents, paralleling Jesus' adopted father, Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph is a figure in the Gospels, the husband of the Virgin Mary and the earthly father of Jesus Christ ....


Books in the series

The title of each book refers to the antagonist that Arthur fights in the novel.

Possible film adaptation

In an interview, Garth Nix said that he was willing to sell the rights to studios and directors for an adaptation of the series, if they were "the right person".
His reason is that he does not want to sell it to any studio over concerns that the studio would ruin the film.

External links

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