Crossing the Threshold:
The Hero Enters the Unknown World

Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, the hero must leave the ordinary world and cross the threshold into the unknown, extraordinary world.

How might crossing the threshold within the monomyth help to move the plot along in a tale about a hero?

Entering the unknown

Once the hero has accepted the call, they have to cross from their old world to the new. This crossing is made at the Threshold. If there was anxiety at the Call to Adventure, the Threshold can be downright fearful. Saying goodbye to everything you know is not for the faint of heart.

"If I take one more step, it will be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been." --Samwise Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings

When Sam takes that step he leaves the familiar Shire behind him. He takes the same step that Dorothy took when she left her black and white house, that Harry took by stepping through the wall at platform nine and three quarters, and Luke took when he flew off in the Millennium Falcon.

They all take a step into the unknown – these innocent heroes-to-be. However, they are not alone. For better or worse.

Threshold guardians

At every gate there are the gatekeepers. The Threshold Guardians make sure the hero is ready for the adventure to come. The Guardian may be an adversary, a neutral bystander, or a potential ally. They may help with advice, or try to test the hero’s readiness. Their goal may be to stop the hero from entering altogether.

Samwise Gamgee first encounters the dark riders in the woods on the edge of the Shire and then he and his companions meet Strider at the Prancing Pony. The Nazgûl demonstrate the dangers of what’s to come, while the ranger reinforces this message in the role of protector.

Are you frightened? Not nearly frightened enough.

Peter Parker’s Threshold is guarded by a robber and his uncle. Peter chose to use his new powers for himself initially. He wanted money so he could buy a car and get a girlfriend (not exactly a fool-proof plan). His self-centred actions are not those of a hero. The robber highlights Peter’s self focus, as he lets him go. Ben’s last words of wisdom, “With great power comes great responsibility” point Peter in the right direction.

The Threshold Guardians, while not always adversaries, have to be dealt with. You need to pay attention to their advice, avoid their diversions, or solve their problem. Above all, acknowledge them.

Crossing the Threshold
in
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Read the excerpt and answer the prompt at the end.

In the comment stream, add your answer to the following prompt:

Discuss how the use of "crossing the threshold" helps to continue the plot for the reader in the excerpt. How might this intrigue or interest the reader? Also, what might be the "guardian" of the threshold?