Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Threshold Guardian

A Threshold Guardian seldom represents the villain. Rather, they are obstacles to thwart the entrance to a New or Special World. They may be overcome, bypassed or turned into allies. Occasionally they are secret helpers who test the Hero's willingness and skill. He warns the villain of approaching danger in some cases.

Vogler uses the example of a fox resting at the entrance to a cave where a bear is sleeping. The bear tolerates the fox. The fox warns the bear of danger. In the same way, villains use doorkeepers, bouncers, bodyguards, sentries, gunslingers or mercenaries to protect and warn the villain the Hero approaches.

They have a psychological function. We may not recognize Guardians under the above names but they play the same roles. Their titles change to the obstacles we face in everyday life - bad weather, bad luck, prejudice, oppression or hostile people. They become the inner neuroses  we carry like emotional scars, vices, dependencies, and self-limitations - those things that keep us from growing.

They dramatically test whether we are up to challenges and changes. Each time the hero faces a plot point or black moment, he either passes or fails the test. The hero chooses how to solve each problem as he comes in contact with the Guardian. He may even "get into the skin of the opponent." Indians wore the skin of a buffalo to disguise themselves in order to get close enough for a kill. When Dorothy is held captive in the Witch's castle, her friends overcome soldiers, dress in their clothing and become the enemy for a short period in order the rescue her.

When in real life you confront an obstacle which causes you to change, your friends who offer advice (good or bad) become Guardians. They put you through the tests to see if you are up to the new challenge. The same goes for your stories. Someone puts the hero through the tests.

In Japan, demon statues often decorate entrances. One hand raises like a policeman to cause you to halt. If you look closer, the other hand invites you in. Authors need to look past appearances and into the reality of the entrance. Learning to deal with Threshold Guardians is one of the major tests of the Hero's Journey.

Next we discuss the Herald.

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