Archetypes: Threshold Guardians

A while ago, we went on an adventure and traced the lines of The Hero’s Journey.  We talked about the hidden pulse flowing through most of the stories we read and see.  Today we are going to hit the trail again, and test our mettle against some threshold guardians.

dragon attack.jpgHave you heard of these beasts?  If not, strap on your armor, quiff a potion, grab your sharpest quill, and let’s break it down.

The scholar Christopher Vogler penned in his dusty tome, The Writer’s Journey, that, “At each gateway to a new world there are powerful guardians at the threshold, placed to keep the unworthy from entering.  They present a menacing face to the hero, but if properly understood, they can be overcome, bypassed, or even turned into allies” (p. 63).

I have created a bestiary of sorts to catalog some of the various types to assist you in your quest.  Oh, and for you more seasoned explorers, a threshold guardian is considered by some as a type of archetype.  If archetypes are unfamiliar to you,  touch this stone, and the information will be telepathically linked into your brain.  Now let’s examine some of these garden variety beasties.

semicolon monster.jpgThe Underling.  They haven’t achieved super-villain status yet, but they are trying.  You can find them in the tavern throwing darts at pictures of unicorns, boxing unwary peasants, and ordering lesser life forms around. These are your mercenaries in the woods, giant stone golems barring entry into the mine, or the big bosses second-in-command.

The Unwitting Barrier.  These foes have no allegiances.  In fact, they may not even be foes.  It doesn’t mean they won’t test your resolve.  Sometimes the jackals feast on the leftovers of the dragon.  While the dragon is your enemy, you will still have to contend with those toothy little scavengers – be it by sword, or by cunning.

scale of justice.pngThe Scale of Judgement.  You’ve battled your way across the land leaving a trail of destruction behind you.  This has attracted the attention of great powers – curious powers.  These super-powered entities enforce balance.  Even if you slay the dragon, if you destroy the world doing it, you are no better.  These entities will appear and test both your heart and your body.  Pass their tests, and they will offer knowledge and/or powers.  Fail, and be ground into the dirt and serve as cautionary tale to those who follow.

The Switcheroo.  Sometimes the underling doesn’t want to be an underling.  They were strong armed into it.  You can cut them down or enlist them to your cause. Never forget, while sometimes smelly and verbally obtuse, these switcheroos have unique insight into their boss’s inner circle.

The Inanimate Object.  Stupid door, wall, mountain, swamp, ocean, rubik’s cube!  These may just seem like boring obstacles to overcome, but they are something more.  The door can teach you an important lesson about locks.  The mountain can offer you perspective on resolve.  Not to mention the grip strength.  Seriously.  Climb a mountain wearing full plate and you will have fingers that can crush boulders.  That might be useful for say, a stone golem!  Every barrier stopping you is a chance to become stronger, wiser, and more well-rounded.

link v link.jpg

Very cool artwork from ComicVine.  Image ‘Link’ed back to artist!

Yourself.  No, not a conjured doppelganger hell bent on your stealing your life, but your inner self.  Your own fear and hesitation can serve as powerful threshold guardian.  You must take a leap of faith, face your own fears and weaknesses, and transcend.  What use is a flaming sword if you fear fire, or the power to walk on water if you fear drowning?  Often times, the threshold guardian we conjure in our mind is greater than any perceived foe.

Are you ready?  While my bestiary may not be totally complete, (the last two heroes never returned so I didn’t get updated information) it’s a good starting point.

The beauty of examining archetypes, and sub-types, is it opens your mind to the possibilities of merging different concepts.  By understanding the sheer number of available archetypes, and blending them in a way that suits our purposes, we can move away from stereotypes and create multi-dimensional characters.

warrior.jpgWhen it comes to threshold guardians, they are the fodder that builds your characters.  Each obstacle (threshold guardian), is a chance for you to shape that character in a different way.  Think of a door.  A character can turn the doorknob, use a key, kick it down, blow it up, remove the hinges, pick the lock, or get someone else to open it up for them.  An action as simple as how they approach a door can drastically change the way we perceive them.  In this way, threshold guardians have great potential to tell volumes about your characters.

What I love about the concept of threshold guardians, is outside of fiction, we contend with them in our own lives.  If we can just be willing to accept that we have the heart of a hero, we can look at these struggles as chances to improve.  Do you have some examples you would like to add to the bestiary?  Or perhaps some instances where a threshold guardian knocked your socks off?  I’d love to hear about it.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp.

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27 responses

  1. I really love the way you write, your word choices and your flow. For that reason, I nominating you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I’m sure plenty of others have nominated you because you definitely deserve it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad my writing puts a smile on your face – that makes every word worth it. Your kind words did the same for me.

      I really appreciate you nominating me for an award – truly. I have been nominated for a couple, but with the lengthy one-a-day blogs I write, stay-at-home dadding, editing, writing my own books, and life, it’s been hard to carve out the extra time to do the extra post.

      What I will do is put a pin in this, and try to take some time on a weekend (when my wonderful wife is home to help me with the baby) and knock out the awards blogs. When I do, I will be sure to include you as my nominee (I think that’s how it works…).

      Thanks again for swinging by. I will be sure to head over to your space and see what you are writing about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you very much! And, trust me, I know the hectic schedule thing. There’s just never enough time in the day for me either – so I feel your pain. I think you’re doing a great job of managing, though. 🙂 And, even if you don’t bother with it, you should know you deserve all the nominations you receive!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It doesn’t sound cheesy at all. I wish more people would comment on my blogs because I feel the same way. I love reading and responding to people’s comments and it does motivate me to keep going. I know your pain…lol And you’re welcome! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Does a robotic Totoro that serves whiskey exist, because that’s going on my Christmas list. I was thinking Ocarina of Time from the Nintendo 64 for the picture…I couldn’t remember for sure though.

      Anyways, thanks for stopping by and reading. Glad you enjoyed my ramblings.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just wanted you to know, I love how you used Link facing off against Shadow Link as an analogy for you being your own worst enemy. HUGE ZELDA FAN! Xp

    I was just playing Ocarina Of Time On my 3DS two nights ago, the original the night before that, and Hyrule Warriors Legends yesterday. Xp

    On point though…

    I love this post. Creative, and full of so much truth and knowledge. I love how you show the different Threshold Guardian examples and explain a bit about each while also offering advice in quite the creative way to use or defeat them.

    Great post! WONDERFUL! I seriously love your posts.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for swinging in! Glad you enjoyed the read today.

      I remember playing Ocarina on N64 for the first time and thinking, “This is it Corey, video games will never get better than this.” That console came with Super Mario 64. I hooked it up to the tv, and my jaw just dropped watching Mario break the linear limit. “By God! He’s running towards me…this…this…this is AMAZING!”

      While the graphics may improved over the years, those memories, and the games that go with them, are evergreen.

      Thanks for jarring some nostalgia loose from my rust addled brain.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nostalgia is powerful. I agree, I LOVE Super Mario 64. It rivals Super Mario 3 as my favorite Mario game of all time. I first played Ocarina Of Time on the N64 and had many of the same thoughts and feelings. I spent hours playing that game. I got stupid great at archery on it too! Xp

        I wasted countless hours shooting those moving crows from stupid distances for no other reason than I loved having archery in the game. Don’t get me started on fishing.

        I have many fond memories of that game. Another surprising hidden gem on N64 of Star Wars Episode 1: Pod Racing. That is still one of the greatest racing games I’ve ever played on any console. That is saying something as I’m a HUGE gamer.

        I was just restarting Silent Hill: Downpour a few minutes ago and playing a bit of it and the feels of nostalgia and love I have for the Silent Hill series as a whole came flooding back to me. I almost cried, because I own and have beaten all the Silent Hill games several times over. I know they won’t make an HD version or remaster because Konami are idiots and really peeved us gamers, but I wish they would make a more current version of Silent Hill 4. That is my favorite SH game of all time. I think it was universally hated by most SH fans when it first came out, but to me it is easily the most disturbing one of the series and it disturbed me greatly.

        Anywho, sorry, I know this reply had nothing to do with your brilliant post but you got me started on nostalgia. Xp Other horror greats I love, Project Siren, The Fatal Frame Series, and of course Resident Evil! Also Haunting Grounds. Cheers! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fishing in Ocarina ahhahah…”You caught a lunker!”

        In the way of Silent Hill and Resident Evil two big memories stand out. Silent Hill (the first one I’m pretty sure) you are in a coffee shop or cafe or something. A window breaks behind you against the back wall. No big deal. Your eyes go back there, and BOOM, something blasts through the window right next to you. That was one ruined pair of tidy whities.

        Resident Evil (again, I think the first one) did the same thing. You are running down a hallway, oblivious, then a zombie dog busts through the window next to you. Console off. Lights on. Time to watch cartoons.

        The formula was the same for both of those scares, but man, they were effective.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Haha! Yep, fishing in Ocarina was just so much fun! Xp Link, you have a world to save! It is in peril! Nope, gone fishing. ^_^

        Yeah, I will never forget the 1st RE. That dog bursting through the window freaked me out. You are right, very effective. Xp I remember in SH3 when in the hospital, constantly getting those Happy Birthday calls. I couldn’t stop freaking out, because I refuse to play a horror game the first time without having all lights out and complete immersion (99.9% of the time alone).

        I remember my little sister back in the day watching me play SH3 late at night (many fond memories of me and the lil sis hanging out gaming), and I finished 3 after a few nights. I put in 4 and the tone and everything right from the opening movie was totally different and super disturbing (great way to set up the very disturbing nature of the story and the game itself) and my little sister immediately gets up and is like, sorry, you are on your own.

        She never came back. Xp It took me a month to finish the game the first time, simply because I kept getting super disturbed by the random hauntings and the story itself, when in reality I could’ve finished it in a night if I’d just sat through and committed to that. I was terrified and DEEPLY disturbed by I though. Xp

        The story was so good though. It was criminally underrated at the time but since has lost a ton of its original hate as people have come to realize it is much better than originally given credit for.

        Silent Hill is easily my favorite horror series of all time in terms of gaming, and may be in general. I love it! I loved how the town itself in many ways was a character.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! You make me want to create some beasts, guardians, potions then set my hero against them. Alas, this isn’t my genre! Yes, these things exist in all genres but you just can’t throw a dragon into anything.

    Link vs Link .. ah the hours wasted … wait! I get it! All those hours of Zelda, Final Fantasy and Suikoden weren’t wasted! They were research, training, learning! Story arcs, character building, cheesy dialogue. As usual I leave your post with a little bit more useful information rattling around, thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. One thing I try to so is make all my characters be threshold guardians for other characters. I’m a big fan of conflict, and seeing how people react to each other is intensified when their motivations oppose the other character. It’s a good developmental tool and leads to some fascinating subplots.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s a great way to generate extra conflict, and let’s face it, we love conflict. Characters and conflict are what drives a story for me. Archetypes seem so obvious when you break them down, but you also find so much hidden potential when they are stripped bare.

      Thanks for swinging by and reading today. I really enjoyed the book review you posted!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Hero’s Journey: For Writing & Life « Quintessential Editor

  6. Pingback: Archetypes: The Mentor « Quintessential Editor

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