The Hero’s Journey: Departure Part 5: Crossing the Threshold

"Derek J" by: Phil Watt


At this point in the Hero’s Journey, the hero is teetering on the edge between the ordinary world, and the special world. He’s crossing the threshold, and he’s about to start his adventure. He has already heard the call, and expressed all of his doubts and fears. Now, he should be ready to move on, and commit himself completely to the journey ahead.

Crossing the Threshold

This is the most critical action the hero will take in the Departure phase, where he illustrates that he’s completely committed to the journey ahead. Even that he may be willing to sacrifice himself to complete it.

Approaching the Threshold

The hero won’t usually charge head on into the adventure right after he’s done meeting with the mentor. There final commitment is usually brought on by some turning point in the story that affirms to the hero that the journey has to be fulfilled. There are a number of things that may trigger this, usually some sort of tragic event. For instance, the villain may ravage the city, or kidnap/kill someone the hero loves.

It may be an internal event that pushes them forward. The hero may ask himself “Can I go on living this way? Or can I risk everything I have for the possibility of change?”

Threshold Guardians

As the hero is attempting to cross, he may encounter beings that will attempt to stop him. These are called the Threshold Guardians. They may show up at any point in the story to try and block the hero from moving forward. Usually, they’re a testing or training point for the hero. Another part of his

The hero must figure out how to get past these figures, and continue on. Their threat is often just an illusion, and the hero must ignore them and push through. Sometimes they just need to be acknowledged, and other times, they may become allies later.

Crossing Over

This step is where the hero acknowledges that he has reached the border between two worlds. He must take the leap of faith, and go on, or the adventure may never begin. (Or it may result in tragedy, because the hero is afraid to take a deep breath and move on.) The Crossing can be symbolized by a number of things (even a gate, or a cliff), but the audience should sense a notable shift in energy.

After the hero makes his leap of faith, there is no turning back. This action is irrevocable, and he has no choice but to cross his fingers that he’ll land safely.


For more information, try reading:

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition


Joseph Campbell – The Hero’s Journey


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