THE THRESHOLD GUARDIAN
"Who would cross the Bridge of Death must first answer me these questions three. There the other side ye see."
- Bridge-keeper, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"
When the Hero reaches the THRESHOLD TO ADVENTURE he will not be permitted to pass whilly-nilly. He must earn his passage across. To help him to do that (and to turn less worthy individuals away from the path) is the THRESHOLD GUARDIAN. Some classic examples of THRESHOLD GUARDIANS are Charon the boatman of the river styx, or Cerberus that guards Hades. To get further on the adventure the hero must somehow overcome them both. Sometimes the THRESHOLD GUARDIAN is very obvious because they are actually guarding a threshold (simple as this may sound). A good example of this is the Bridge-keeper in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", the heroes must answer three questions before he will allow them to cross the bridge. Another solid example of THRESHOLD GUARDIANS are the three opponents that Wesley (as the Man in Black) must overcome to reach Princess Buttercup in the film (and book) "The Princess Bride". Does this mean that the THRESHOLD GUARDIAN is alway bad or evil? Absolutely not. But the THRESHOLD GUARDIAN's role can be said to always be adversarial to that of the hero. The job of the THRESHOLD GUARDIAN is to get the hero to rethink whether or not he wishes to proceed on this adventure. For instance, in the film "Raiders of the Lost Ark", both Marcus Brody and Sallah (who embody other roles throughout the film) act as THRESHOLD GUARDIANS when they both try to warn Indy about seeking the Ark of the Covenant. Marcus reminds Indy that it is like nothing he's ever gone after before, and Sallah tries to convince Indy that maybe the Ark is something that mankind was not meant to find. In a romantic comedy, the THRESHOLD GUARDIAN often manifests himself or herself as the hero's friend who tries to convince them that the object of their affection is beyond their reach.
THRESHOLD GUARDIANS don't just appear when the hero crosses into the adventure, they also show up when the hero is trying to get back safely. Once the hero has committed ELIXIR THEFT and is trying to escape (FLIGHT) he will often find the road back blocked by a THRESHOLD GUARDIAN (or several). A great example of this kind of THRESHOLD GUARDIAN is manifested by the two Sith Lords, Darth Vader and Darth Maul. Vader is the guardian in "Star Wars: A New Hope", here Luke and his allies have rescued the princess (SACRED MARRIAGE) and they are about to get away with the Death Star plans and all...when oh no! There is Darth Vader blocking the way and Luke's SUPERNATURAL AID must intervene in order for him to escape. A similar thing happens slightly in reverse during the end fight sequence in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace". The Gungan army has drawn off enough of the Federation's forces and Queen Amidala is able to get a commando team into the palace to challenge the Federation Viceroy. Everything is going according to plan when....oh no! There is Darth Maul, literally blocking the doorway to the rest of the palace. Another great example of the THRESHOLD GUARDIAN chasing the hero on their way out of the special world of adventure is the Balrog of Morgoth that challenges the Fellowship of the Ring as they make their escape from the Mines of Moria. Although it is Gandalf that utters the words, it is the Balrog's action that shouts, "You cannot pass!" And again in this instance SUPERNATURAL AID must intervene in order for the hero to continue. It is interesting to note, that the MENTOR character or the SUPERNATURAL AID (whether a character or device), must often perish in order to stave off these THRESHOLD GUARDIANS. Combine the previous examples and you will see that the MENTOR / SUPERNATURAL AID perished (or seemed to perish) in every account. Jumping back to our "Clash of the Titans" example, Perseus must use and lose the gifts which the Gods had given him in order to pass through the challenges before him and the guardians that would stop his way.